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Evergreen Giggs highlights lack of Arsenal firepower

How can a club with such resources be so short on good players?

This was the fear and the fury of Arsenal fans at the Emirates yesterday as they saw their threadbare team over-run again by Manchester United.

While United have mastered mental resilience, they also have a depth of playing options that Arsenal do not.

Despite recovering well from their traumatic August, there is a sense that Arsene Wenger's side have been running on empty for a while.

Aaron Ramsey, their creative inspiration, looked weary, and was outplayed in the middle by Ryan Giggs -- who was playing against Arsenal for the 48th time.

Johan Djourou had to step in at right-back, where he struggled, costing Arsenal a goal before he was hauled off and replaced by Nico Yennaris at half-time.

Andrey Arshavin, introduced in the second half for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to the bafflement of the fans, was pushed off the ball in the build-up to United's winner.

After a quick start, it was soon made apparent to Ramsey that there is room for only one wily Welsh midfielder at the top end of the Premier League, and that Ryan Giggs is rather keen that the role should continue to be his -- for this season at least.

Ramsey did cheekily steal the ball from Giggs after five minutes but, while the 21-year-old is clearly tiring from over-use, Giggs' managed workload is keeping him fresh for best use.

After half an hour, Ramsey was left static as Giggs drifted past him, before winning United a free-kick.

When, nine minutes later, Giggs tried the same move again, Ramsey could only hold him back and was booked.

Ramsey was born three weeks after Giggs signed his first professional contract at United, but did not obviously look like a player with the gift of youth on his side.

When Giggs was in a dangerous space in the first half, he delivered perfectly onto the forehead of Antonio Valencia for United's first goal. Ramsey's final ball, from similar positions, was never as precise.

The shallowness of Arsenal's squad, and the compromises it demands of its players, was even better revealed by Djourou's 45 horrible minutes at right-back.

Patrice Evra and Nani took it in turns to torment him and Danny Welbeck nearly spun in behind him with a delightful piece of skill.

When Djourou negligently allowed a ball to fly over his head, Nani raced on to it, but he shot wide rather than squaring to Wayne Rooney.

But United, whose hunting instinct has been honed over 25 years under Alex Ferguson, did not need telling that the Swiss defender was vulnerable.

Giggs moved in for the kill in first-half stoppage time and Djourou, unsure of himself, left the veteran enough space to deliver his perfect cross.

A title challenge requires the ability to improve the team from the bench.

Park Ji-sung, brought on for Rafael da Silva, was the pivot in an exchange of passes with Valencia which set up Welbeck's winner. When, two minutes before, Arsenal had brought on a wide forward, the move was less positive.

The Arsenal fans were furious to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who to them represents youth, pace, promise, energy and commitment, replaced by Arshavin, who represents the opposite. Few decisions in Wenger's reign at Arsenal can have been met with as much disdain as this substitution.

Those supporters felt the bitter taste of vindication seven minutes later.

Arshavin's lack of commitment and discipline have been antagonising the Emirates supporters for nearly three seasons now, and the Russian gave them full justification for their position when he was shrugged off by Valencia as he rolled the ball to Welbeck to slot home the winner. Oxlade-Chamberlain, given his build and his commitment, would surely not have stood for it.

To the furious thousands, this was the perfect validation for their fury -- the perfect punishment for Wenger's folly.

One supporter told Wenger that the defeat was his fault. Many more made the now-standard demand for more investment.

For a club that considers itself elite, plays in the Champions League and wants the Premier League, to be this thin in playing resources is quite wrong. (©Independent News Service)

Irish Independent