Wednesday 22 November 2017

Awful Arsenal utter disgrace

United's total football masterclass exposes the chaos threatening shambolic Gunners' future
Manchester Utd 8 Arsenal 2

Rooney makes it 7-2
Wayne Rooney makes it 7-2

Henry Winter

After their most humiliating result since the days when the Queen Vic was a monarch not a pub, Arsenal stand at a crossroads, and their greatest fear must be that Arsene Wenger will blindly lead them up another cul de sac.

Arsenal's manager, patently in denial at his squad's deficiencies, must change direction. He must start buying experience to protect and educate his youngsters.

Arsenal were unbelievably embarrassing, a disgrace to the shirt, with players like Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin so poor it was astonishing to think they were internationals.

So wretched was Arsenal's display that the club's top brass vacated their directors' box seats before a final whistle that must have sounded like the Last Post.

The only people with Arsenal connections who emerged with any credit were the away supporters who kept singing, kept backing the team even as Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, a boyhood Gunners fan, mercilessly shredded their defence.

Manchester United were so good, deservedly going top of the Premier League on goals scored with a breath-taking, chance-taking display of football. United versus Arsenal yesterday was total football versus total chaos.

Where Alex Ferguson's men used to bully Wenger's physically, now they bullied them with the ball, utterly destroying them with their speed of mind and feet.

The worst tackles came from Arsenal and Arshavin in particular. With Carl Jenkinson dismissed, Arsenal have three times as many red cards as points this season.

Even as the scoreline resembled a tennis score and then worse, bringing Arsenal's heaviest defeat since 1896 and Loughborough Town, the away fans kept up their chant about "we love you Arsenal, we do".

If only the players had shown such defiance. Adding insult to ignominy, Rosicky, Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh loped straight to the tunnel at the end. Arsenal's captain, Robin van Persie, commendably shouted at them to return to acknowledge the fans' support.

So riven with problems anyway, Arsenal cannot risk a gulf growing between dressing-room and terrace.

The problems are so obvious, so frequently stated: Wenger's transfer policy is patently wrong.

He needs a centre-half like Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka, yet announced last night that he was closing in on the South Korean striker Park Chu-Young. Hardly the Cavalry.

Wenger also needs a club official to nudge him into action in the transfer market, moving early on targets, even moving if the Frenchman feels the fee is £2m or £3m too dear.

By prevaricating, and now with £60m-plus from the Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, they may have to pay a premium.

How Arsenal miss David Dein.

Wenger pointed out that he lacked eight players yesterday but ambitious clubs have deep squads. United were also without absentees like Nemanja Vidic and Antonio Valencia.

Arsenal started with Francis Coquelin and Armand Traore and had players like the Dutch U-17 midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup and the French U-20 Gillies Sunu on the bench. United had Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs in reserve.

The team-sheet indicated this was the unchanged versus the unknown.

United were swiftly into their stride, ruthlessly exploiting Arsenal's myriad flaws, Phil Jones showing his class with a strong run from the back.

And so the red waves began rolling, relentlessly, drowning the visitors.

It was not simply that United were sharper. Arsenal were so lethargic.

Rosicky wimped out of a 50-50 with Danny Welbeck. And, when they did contest the ball, Arshavin left his foot in on Jones. Arsenal couldn't keep up with the Jones. The life began draining from their body, barring the odd spasm such as when Rosicky's shot deflected off Anderson for a corner.

But the script was written, the drama just needed playing out.

When Anderson scooped the ball over Arsenal's defence, Johan Djourou froze, allowing Welbeck the time and space to loop a header over Wojciech Szczesny: 1-0.

Hope briefly sprung up for Arsenal when Howard Webb rather shredded the conspiracy theory that he favours United by giving a penalty against them.

When Jonny Evans pulled and tripped Theo Walcott, Van Persie took responsibility for the penalty but his low kick was well saved by David de Gea. Typically, United responded strongly to this potential setback.

Young curled in a brilliant goal, the ball flying over the outstretched left hand of Szczesny: 2-0.

After De Gea saved from Arshavin and Van Persie, the noises off intensified. The Stretford End serenaded Wenger with "you're getting sacked in the morning".

Arshavin could quite easily have joined the spectators after a filthy challenge on Young. Welbeck did go off, his hamstring tweaked.

United enjoy such strength in depth. Javier Hernandez simply came on to assist Rooney.

The England striker, in imperious form, then began his hat-trick with his 150th United goal, a marvellous free-kick: 3-0.

It was a surprise when Arsenal then scored. A lapse of concentration by Evra and Evans allowed Walcott a glimpse of goal, although De Gea should have stopped the shot: 3-1.

The memory of De Gea's mistake hardly lasted through the break.

United tore into Arsenal. Chris Smalling, excellent throughout, slid a perfect first-time pass behind Traore for Nani.

Arsenal's cadaver twitched with life occasionally, and De Gea saved well from Van Persie, but the burial continued. Rooney swept in another magnificent free-kick: 4-1.

There was more, devastatingly so for Arsenal. Smalling and Rooney combined to release Nani, who calmly dinked the ball over the exposed Szczesny: 5-1.

And the pain intensified for Arsenal. With 20 minutes remaining, Ji-sung Park played a one-two with Young before sending a left-footed strike flying between Djourou's legs and past Szczesny: 6-1.

Arsenal's corpse twitched once more. Jenkinson had refused to give up the fight, raiding down the right when opportunity arose.

From his cross after 74 minutes, Jones headed back but the young full-back simply nodded back across for Van Persie to thump the ball in left-footed: 6-2.

Jenkinson lasted only three minutes longer. Already cautioned for a foul on the speeding Young, a defender playing non-League a year ago was then caught out by the pace of Hernandez.

Walcott dropped to right-back, and his inevitable lack of experience in the position saw him concede a penalty when tripping Evra. Rooney drilled in the penalty: 7-2.

As the Stretford End again questioned Wenger's job prospects, there was still enough time for Young to score again, curling a shot around Djourou and past Szczesny: 8-2.

The last rites were read. Hold the obituary page. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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