Arsenal Man Utd stalemate means trouble for both clubs
Windy conditions don't help at the Emirates, as Liverpool and Spurs close the gap at the top
Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0. The wind was as high as the expectations before kick-off at the Emirates on Wednesday night but, despite all their huffing and puffing, Arsenal and United could only manage a goalless draw that did neither club much good.
Conditions were never going to be conducive to a game of high quality but nonetheless for 75 minutes of the encounter the number of stray passes and missed chances were proof that Arsenal and United are suffering a crisis in confidence.
And events elsewhere on Wednesday night will do little to boost their self-belief. Though the matches at Manchester City and Everton were victims of the devastating storm that ravaged the British Isles on 'Wild Wednesday', fifth-placed Tottenham thrashed Newcastle 4-0 , while a late Steven Gerrard penalty helped Liverpool see off Fulham 3-2 and climb to fourth, just four points behind leaders Chelsea.
Arsenal's draw against United means they remain second, a point behind their London rivals, but the Gunners will need to show a lot more gumption in the weeks ahead if they're to stand any chance of winning the title.
"If you look at the domination we had then yes [we should have won] but Man United restricted us to very few chances and the few we had we couldn't take," reflected Arsene Wenger, who believed that his side hadn't quite recovered psychologically from their 5-1 mauling at Liverpool on Saturday. "[I] felt our team was highly focused not to concede, and that maybe restricted our game going forward a little bit because we were certainly hit by the five goals we conceded on Saturday. You could feel that here... I felt we were nervous."
No one appeared more nervous than Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, who missed a couple of good chances in each half to break the stalemate. The first was a free header on the edge of the six-yard box that he sent wide, the second a glorious cross from Bacary Sagna that he failed to convert with the goal at his mercy.
But Giroud wasn't alone in his profligacy. United's Robin van Persie should have put United ahead after a minute when a dreadful error from Mikel Arteta presented the Dutchman with the sort of chance he normally buries in his sleep. This time, however, his underhit shot was saved by Wojciech Szczesny, who later pulled off what could be a contender for 'Save of the Season' when he tipped van Persie's point-blank header onto the bar.
Moments later David De Gea made a fine stop at the other end as Santi Cazorla drilled a low shot towards the corner of the goal but a draw was probably a fair result on a night when Arsenal once again failed to break down United. The Gunners have won just one of their last 14 matches against the Old Trafford side, but Wenger was doing his best to sound bullish. "No," he replied when asked if he was disappointed with the outcome. "We lost two points and we missed an opportunity to go top of the league again but a point keeps us in the race. We had difficult games just now, Liverpool and Man United, and from now on it is important we come back and win our games again."
As for United, they now jet off to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp knowing that they have a real fight on their hands if they're to finish fourth and qualify for next season's Champions League. Currently they lie seventh, 11 points behind Liverpool and not even assured of the Europa League. But manager David Moyes was as optimistic as Wenger about his side's chances for the rest of the season.
"If there is one club who have been great at winning games in the second half of the season, and putting pressure on the teams above, it is Manchester United," he declared. "We will continue to do that and try to make it work. We can only do our job the best we can. We want to make it better and we can't bother about other teams. All we can do is try to win our next game."