Draw fair, but equaliser will frustrate Gunners

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Theo Walcott goal Arsenal Manchester UnitedPA PhotosTheo Walcott handed Arsenal the lead against United in the second minute

Arsenal will feel a touch disappointed with just a point from their 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday, but on the balance of play, it was a fair result.

After taking an early lead through Theo Walcott, the Gunners first-half performance was gutsy, energetic and committed with Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky setting the tone in midfield. They put United under pressure, pressed them high up the pitch, and if there was a tackle to be made, they made it.

It was something that was mirrored by the rest of the team: 50-50s were contested fully, bodies were thrown in front of shots, and it was clear that Arsenal were really fired up for the game and everything that went with it.

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That said, the visitors had chances to equalise before Arsenal gifted them the goal. Robin van Persie had a point-blank header saved by Wojciech Szczesny, while twice Phil Jones had the goal at his mercy, heading wide, and over, from close range when he really should have scored.

But the goal, while an acceptable statistic on the balance of play, is one that will have Arsenal fans frustrated this evening. Bacary Sagna under-hit a pass to Per Mertesacker, giving van Persie a run on goal. The right back chased back then rashly scythed down his former teammate in an effort to recover from his mistake. There's no question it was a penalty, and the former Arsenal man emphatically blasted home from the spot.

The frustration will be made more acute by the fact United looked like a side that had switched off a little bit following their title win. Often they worked themselves into good positions, but the final ball was lacking the kind of quality that has won them so many games this season. I suspect had they really needed to win the game, they probably would have.

Arsenal's second-half performance lacked the intensity of the first. While the midfield, Ramsey in particular, toiled to try to get some kind of grip on the game, the lack of quality up front meant the Gunners couldn't trouble United anywhere near as often as they should.

Lukas Podolski showed why he hasn't started a Premier League game in three months, and although the least-worst option for the central striking position, he found it tough going. Theo Walcott scored but did little else for 90 minutes, while Santi Cazorla's free role meant the team seemed lopsided at times.

To be fair to the Spaniard, he, more than anyone else, troubled David de Gea with shots from distance, but on the day, Arsenal's best player was Laurent Koscielny, and that tells its own story. The centre half was exceptional, keeping van Persie quiet, and he more than deserves his place in the team at this moment in time.

Before kickoff I suspect many Arsenal fans would have taken a draw if it were offered, it's the manner of United's goal that puts a downer on what could be a very important point.

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