Arsenal knew the huge importance of this game against Manchester United and may have been aware that Chelsea were beating Swansea in the earlier kick off. The players had to suffer the indignity of having to clap the former captain and turncoat Robin van Persie and his team mates on to the pitch. Wenger will have told them to use that feeling to their advantage in the game, and it could not have started much better.
The Arsenal fans behaved well through the guard of honour, but were given something to cheer about after just two minutes. Lukas Podolski was given the job of replacing Giroud in the middle, but it was Theo Walcott who opened the scoring after van Persie had given the ball away. The Dutchman’s contribution made it extra sweet for the Gunners.
Arsenal were fired up and were snapping into challenges and looking sharp on the ball. United nearly got back on level terms after 17 minutes but Jones put his header wide from van Persie’s cross. Whether the early goal had given him a boost or he was just hitting form again, but Walcott was playing much better than he had recently and Ramsey continued his recent good form and seemed to be everywhere.
Public enemy number one was the third United player to get booked after a bad tackle on Mertesacker before half an hour had gone, which was an indicator of their frustration. An indication of how fired up the Gunners were came when Walcott went head to head with Evans after being clipped by the defender. He was booked soon after for scything down Evra.
United nearly got a goal from nothing but Szczesny kept van Persie out with his face. It would have been really harsh on Arsenal, as United were lucky not to be further behind. That seemed to rattle Arsenal, though, and Sagna ruined all the good work by giving the ball away and then tripping van Persie for a penalty that the Dutchman scored. Yet another stupid defensive error that has been the story of the season. He may have got a slight touch on the ball but it was a reckless tackle and looked a penalty in real time.
Rosicky nearly gave us back the lead at the start of the second half as Arsenal started well again. United were also looking better, though, and were creating more chances. Podolski was having little effect and Sagna had just escaped a second yellow, but Wenger kept him on and replaced Rosicky with Wilshere when the Czech player had been doing well.
The German striker did finally make way with 20 minutes left, and it was Gervinho who came on and the Ivorian nearly made an instant impact. Arsenal needed all three points, which was why Wenger made the attacking change of Oxlade-Chamberlain for Ramsey. Gibbs had a good penalty claim turned down, which shows why United have not conceded a penalty all season. I think they have to use a blunt weapon for it to be given.
Cazorla had a good shot tipped round the post before Giggs came close from a breakaway. Despite some pressure, Arsenal could not produce a winner, so Sagna’s mistake was really costly. Hopefully it will not see us in the Europa League next season.