Date: 22nd November 2014 at 10:29pm
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Well that didn’t go well did it! Though strictly speaking some parts of it did indeed go well. We created chances, looked fluent and creative and controlled the game for the most part. The bits that didn’t go well are what cost us the game though.

It has become almost another footballing cliché but ‘the first goal matters’ often features in match pre-views in what is expected to be a tight contest. Sadly we didn’t score it though we did threaten to from the start. Not that the chances we created were chances that should have guaranteed a goal. Welbeck had a couple of sightings but never really in a position where he could be fairly be criticised for not scoring. We had 23 goal attempts in this game but 6 of them were blocked, 8 were off target, 8 were saved and the one that Giroud managed to put away too late to really matter. Of the 8 that were saved most were low shots into the centre of the goal. De Gea won some plaudits for the saves he made but in all honesty few were great tests of his agility.

So one of the things that didn’t go well, and probably most significantly, is that we didn’t really create enough good enough chances and didn’t take those few chances that were good enough. The popular view would be that our travails this season are due to a lack of defensive cover and the absence of a proper defensive midfielder. Even the inclusion of Wilshere currently feted as England’s defensive midfield future wasn’t enough to ensure the points went our way. That they didn’t had more than a bit to do with misfortune. ManU hadn’t had a single attempt on target when they scored and even that didn’t require one. A miss hit shot, going wide of the target was deflected off a prostrate Gibbs into the net. Fellaini might well have been given offside in the move that led to the miss hit attempt but those decisions just aren’t going for us at present. The first goal matters and so it proved in this game. That it owed much to good fortune doesn’t help. As we pressed for an equaliser we had to take greater risks and ManU still have players good enough to take advantage. Rooney succeeded in doing so as Di Maria failed soon after.

Earlier in the week Sanchez gave an interview while in Chile in which he reflected on the need to be a little more considered in his own play but I think that’s advice that could be shared throughout our attack. The decision making is still hesitant and poorer choices made as fleeting opportunities disappear. Had Wilshere, when though on goal but in reality too close to De Gea, had the presence of mind to shift the ball a couple of yards to his left to an unmarked Sanchez, the first goal, the one that matters, would have been ours. Those are the sorts of marginal decisions that are costing us right now.

Most of the popular concerns we might have had about individuals proved unfounded Arteta played well, intelligently anchoring midfield throughout the game and still managed to claim the only assist of the game. Monreal again acquitted himself well as stand in centre back and Chambers had a more comfortable game than his last outing. Sanchez’s pass completion rate was again sub 70% and he failed in 5 of his 7 take ons. Yet he’s still the player we find ourselves looking to for the one moment of inspiration that might turn things our way. Welbeck led the line well enough making himself available and trying to set up attempts for those around him but our stand out player was Ox. He hasn’t always played as effectively but in this game he created more attempts in open play than Sanchez passed quickly and accurately, succeeded in 4 of his 8 take ons, got to the byline frequently enough and created as much threat as anyone.

For all that the end result is that we dropped more points in a game in which our overall play warranted more. Things just aren’t going our way at the moment and in this game they went for ManU. We’ve had periods like this before despite the statisticians attempts to paint this as our worst run for 30 plus years as though it’s more significant in a run of 12 games at the start of the season than a sequence of 12 games at any other point in the season. In fact there have been at least 8 other seasons, including runs in Wenger’s so called ‘glory days’ in which we’ve collected fewer points in 12 game sequences than we have now. They can and do come at different times of the season start, middle and end. We’ve usually picked ourselves up after them and put good runs together whenever they’ve occurred. If we can do so now it clearly won’t be enough to win the title this season but we were never favourites to do so and there’s still something left to earn from this season even if it’s just respect.

That’s probably not a sentiment that would find much favour when the mood among some sections of support is more likely to be one of flagellation and anyone pointing out that we’ve been in poor positions before risks being denounced as an apologist for whoever they feel is to blame for our present position. Understandably the calls for change without really knowing what or how the change will change things will resonate for a while yet. Nonetheless though the past is no guarantee of the future it’s still worth remembering that we do have some quality and that we’ve recovered before. Poor runs come to an end eventually even if the prospect of a good run looks some way ahead at present. They always do until we hit one.