Broken, beaten, bitter… The post from another die-hard Arsenal supporter on my Facebook wall read: “Welcome to a new shambolic Arsenal. Grand mauling. Perhaps the last Arsenal game I watched this season.” This aptly sums up what happened this Sunday at the “Theatre of Dreams”. Arsenal were brutally crushed, mauled by a sea of Red that swarmed over the pristine grass at the Old Trafford Stadium. The final scoreline read 8-2 in favour of Manchester United. I do not recollect such a huge margin of defeat for the Gunners in the last 15-20 years.
It was a nightmare at the Theatre of Dreams.
In my last week’s post I had expressed my premonition of such a possibility in store for us. Little could I imagine the magnitude of the mauling. Perhaps the most ardent United fan would not have guessed such a tennis-like scoreline. As I switched on the TV just before the match started, I was shocked to compare the benches of the two teams. While Manchester United as usual had players who could walk into any of the top four clubs, Arsenal had never fielded such an inexperienced line-up. The signs were ominous.
Frankly, I felt having made it to the Champions League proper, Arsenal had nothing to lose. With a crippled side due to injuries and suspensions, the team should have got out with a free mind to give their best against the reigning champions. There was, however, a different script written for the match.
The match started in a whirlwind fashion with the Red Devils all over the ground. Danny Welbeck was a constant thorn in the Arsenal defence, poking and prodding with his sudden bursts and silken touches. It was just a matter of time before he headed one in, taking advantage of the laggard communication between the defence and the goalie. Immediately after that, Arsenal had a penalty and I had another apprehension that it would be wasted. And it did! Van Persie’s feeble attempt was blocked by De Gea. On hindsight, had that goal been scored, it could have been a different game altogether but it was certainly not the Gunners’ day. As time ticked on, United reigned supreme. Wenger’s furrowed brows were getting even more furrowed by the minute. They added another two before Walcott pulled one back at the strike of half time to give a glimpse of hope.
I expected Arsenal to adopt a different strategy in the second half, particularly the back four were visibly in a state of disarray thwarting off the waves of attacks of the United forwards. None of back four were Arsenal class really. They struggled to survive and looked disjointed.
The Arsenal team bus must have started revving up its engine at half-time to get out as fast as possible!
The supremely athletic United players were in a mission to tear apart the Gunners. The thrust, vitality and speed had Arsenal rocking. Within minutes of the start of the second half, I knew more humiliation was in store. Ashley Young, Rooney, Cleverley, Anderson were all over. It wasn’t long before the third time in three matches Arsenal had a player sent off, Jenkinson being the offender this time.
Arsenal players looked as if they were desperate to get into the team bus as they realised more misery was in store. United players toyed with the Gunners scoring goals at will, eclipsing the previous best scoreline of 6-1 against Arsenal on this ground 10 years back.
Today’s final scoreline read 8-2, with Van Persie getting a consolation goal. Rooney scored a hat-trick and Ashley Young netted two picture perfect ones.
It is obvious that a section of the hawkish British media would be rooting for Wenger’s ouster with headlines like “Your time is up”. It is evident that the stubbornness of the coach had cost Arsenal dearly over the last couple of seasons. His apathy to buy players worth the class, especially quality defenders, and instead sticking with “talented” but inexperienced youngsters has been the main reason for not winning trophies. At the end of the day, fans count the silverware and not the beautiful football dished out. As Patrice Evra, the United defended once said: “Arsenal’s boys will remain boys, they would never graduate to men.”
With barely 72 hours remaining before the closure of the transfer window, I do not know what Wenger would procure from the market. He has reportedly said he would make at least three signings. I wonder who the replacements would be. I do not know for sure whoever they are; all I know that they would never be in the same league of Fabregas or Nasri. It looks like a season of disaster looming ahead. Arsenal’s ship is sinking. Morale of the players is at an all-time low. Supporters are shell-shocked. The team now 17th in the table after the first three matches. And there is a 8-point lead between Arsenal and the leaders.
Will the Gunners boom again? I wish I knew the answer. All I know is that I have to find some pillars at my office to hide behind so as not to witness the sarcastic smiles of the Red Devil supporters who are a majority there.
nightmare at the theatre of dreams