I felt a little nervous but more relaxed than usual heading into this game. After Saha had put us ahead and starting out on top, things only looked to get better. We enforced our game on Arsenal before allowing them to settle and play their own game. I was happy but a little disappointed to see we were sitting off and looking to counter. We can break incredibly quick, but I also felt we should've looked to put Arsenal on the back foot for longer than the first 10 minutes.
I was happy although a little surprised to see us start 4-4-2. Then again, each player deserved their spot after the drubbing of Newcastle. With this formation, I was hoping we'd stick to the shape. Provide good width with Niko and Bale whilst allowing Adebayor to play as the second forward behind Saha. We successfully exploited Arsenal's frailties in defence and went two ahead. I'll throw my neck out on the line and say Bale's standing foot was clipped by the centre back for the penalty although maybe I'm being a little bias. Watch it again, see what you think.
What I did find disappointing was Bale's contribution. The free role needs to go. One success against Norwich is not enough to maintain it. He often found himself looking a little lost at times and failed to help out in defence and cover up. On numerous occasions Ekotto and Walker were left exposed. Bale's defending at set pieces was also unusually poor. Having allowed Rosicky a free header moments before he let Sagna beat him to pull one back. Bale's greatest moments have come from wide positions. He needs to start playing for the team more than himself and back out on the left hand side.
I always felt Arsenal would have the upper hand mentally coming into the second half and understood the substitutions that Harry made, although, they may have come to soon. On paper it made sense for Sandro to play alongside Parker in a bid to crowd out Arsenal and stop them playing. The problem was no player in particular knew their role. The midfield, at times, looked more lost than a nun in a brothel as we were carved up like a Christmas Turkey (apologies). Arsenal exploited our frailties in midfield and made our defence look like something from an Under-10's Saturday league fixture.
A complete lack of respect towards Arsenal and the evident loss of focus at 2-0 cost the boys today. They were far to relaxed and allowed Arsenal too much space in which to play their game. It was embarrassing to watch us dismantled with such ease and against a side starved of confidence. We should've looked to continue going forward, keeping them on the back foot and getting in the space behind their back four. But fair play to Arsenal, they came out with real belief and fully deserved their win.
Bale and Lennon back out wide against United. Lennon brings another wide threat, he covers well and it would add more balance. His partnership with Walker has been fantastic this year, as has Bale's with BAE. It's a tough call whether to start Saha or Vdv but whatever the team we play needs to ensure they use the Arsenal game as a kick up the arse that they've probably needed. Lose the arrogance, the jobs not finished. With United at home and Chelsea, Everton and Sunderland all to go away to, any gap could easily be wiped. Keep a level-head. Stay focused. Play our game and get the job done.
In every defeat is a victory, somewhere.