We never learn, do we?
A few good results, a few bad weeks for Spurs, and suddenly Arsenal fans dared to dream that their team’s days of being idiots when it mattered were behind them. After all, if we could do it in November, we could do it any time, right?
There was widespread jubilation in Arsenal land when it was announced that Lacazette had made a miraculous recovery and was fit to start. It was only a few minutes before kick-off when fans realised how optimistic they were being and remembered that never tends to end well.
It was an awful start.
One down after only a few minutes, Arsenal had once again been the architects of their own downfall as Laurent Koscielny played the stupidest pass you will see this year that was easily cut out. A driven shot through the legs of defender and keeper left Arsenal fans’ hopes frayed.
Less than 10 minutes later they were shattered.
Another defensive mistake, this time from Shkodran Mustafi, gifted the ball to United again. Of course, for most teams, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will go behind again. But Arsenal aren’t most teams.
To compound his error, Mustafi went off injured.
By the 15 minute mark, Arsenal were a mess. They had lost their shape, training all week with a back three only to revert to a back four when things got rough.
United were clinical, just as they had been against Watford, punishing every mistake to the maximum. We’ve seen this show a hundred times before, we know how it usually goes.
I didn’t even feel angry or disappointed. Both those emotions would imply that I no longer feel that Arsenal have the ability to be this stupid. That was, for me, the saddest thing of all. Here we were, losing two nil at home to a Jose Mourinho-managed Manchester United and it might as well have been 0-0 against Swansea for the depth of emotion I was feeling.
You can only allow something to hurt you for so long before you have to shut down.
But Arsenal settled and battled back, creating chances that could have got them back into the game 10 times over. That clinical edge that had took United to a two-goal lead after just 11 minutes has never been something they’ve kept in their locker, however.
This was emphasised in dramatic fashion just after half an hour when Arsenal had at least three chances in the space of 15 seconds to pull one back yet squandered all of them. Still, at least it gave Wenger the basis to claim afterwards, as he no doubt will, that we were the better team.
And we were. United were nervous and lacking most of what you would consider core components of a Mourinho team. Yet they were two up and we were two nil down. No matter how the media spin this as a Mourinho Masterclass, it was Arsenal’s generosity at both ends of the pitch that was the difference.
By the break, the Emirates was rocking. Arsenal were two down, but there was only one side trying to score and they were absolutely battering United. On Twitter, United fans were begging for the half to end.
Arsenal could have scored six in the first half with the chances they created. By halftime, they’d had all of the ball while United had all of the goals
This game is stupid when you are an Arsenal fan.
First half xG map for Arsenal – Manchester United.
the finishing pixie is drunk af pic.twitter.com/RaelnEUdH9
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) December 2, 2017
Just three minutes into the second half and the goals were going in again, but this time at the right end. A brilliant run and the most fantastic assist from Ramsey, gave Lacazette the whole goal to slam the ball into.
It was on.
And then it was very nearly off as United came close again. It was heart vomit city and you couldn’t take your eyes of it for a minute.
More chances for Arsenal, denied again by amazing saves from de Gea, not once but twice and then again and again.
United’s third would have been inevitable to us all if we hadn’t been swept up in the madness this game had become. Alexis gave the ball away, for the seven millionth time in the game, United broke and scored.
As easy as that.
To be fair, Pogba showed great strength, but Arsenal had allowed themselves to get carried away and they paid the ultimate price once again.
Then Pogba showed great stupidity by getting sent off for an absolutely horrendous challenge on Bellerin. It was a scumbag ‘tackle’ designed to do nothing more than injure an opponent. And this from the man who had said earlier in the day he hoped City picked up injuries to their key players.
Pogba stamps on Bellerin & is sent off pic.twitter.com/0Szt5RFnuq
— ArsenalUpdates (@ArsenalEdits___) December 2, 2017
With 15 minutes to play against 10 men they’d punched stupid for 75, Alexis continued to be wasteful as attacks fell apart when he got involved. But Arsenal kept coming.
A stonewall penalty when Danny Welbeck had his legs hacked from under him with two minutes to go summed up Arsenal’s luck on the day. As did the one for a similar challenge on Lacazette a minute later. By that point, the mood in the Emirates had dropped as the crowd, and the team, seemed to accept that this was a game they were never meant to get anything from.
And that was that.
Arsenal lost a game 3-1 that they could and should have won by three or four clear goals themselves and they had nobody to blame but themselves.
In the end, what we saw from Arsenal, scoreline aside, was hugely encouraging in terms of attitude.
We made mistakes. Arsenal do that. That is nothing we don’t already know.
But Arsenal didn’t let their heads drop and that’s a step forward. These are the minute improvements we can hope for and not much more.
At this point, I’ll take whatever silver linings I can find…
If you’re wondering, Arsenal finished the game with 33 shots. United had 8.