Was Arsenal’s loss to Man United just down to a bad day, or just familiar weaknesses?

Was it just personal mistakes letting us down against Man United? by AndersS

Nobody wants a failure. Against Man United we failed, there is no other way to put it. We lost at home by 2 goals, and in truth, that is really bad. But in failure, there often lies the opportunity to learn and become stronger.

If we put the defeat down to Koscielny and Mustafi having a very rare off-day combined with bad luck in front of goal, we learn nothing. Of course, in theory, it could be the right explanation, and there is nothing more to it. I don’t buy that. Mainly because we have seen the same happening so many times before that it really is very unlikely it was just a bad day. There is more to it.

True, Koscielny had a really bad day. A horrible pass from him and a bad judgement from Kolasinac led to the first goal. On the third goal Koscielny should never have tried to get at the ball, he should just have prevented a cross. Mustafi also made a huge mistake costing us the second goal. All this can’t be denied. But those mistakes didn’t come “out of nothing”.

In the last 10-15 years football has changed quite a bit, in the way that many teams now use more or less their whole team to defend, when the opponents have the ball. And as an additional, some teams use the attackers and the midfielders in quick, organized and intensive pressing high up on the field right after losing the ball.

Most noticeably, teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich have used this formula for many years with great success. In fact it would be hard to find winning teams in any big national league or in European competitions that don’t use this formula, or at least use the whole team to defend.

Unfortunately, neither has ever really been applied by Arsenal under Wenger. At least not as an integrated part of the teams tactics on a regular basis. Many of our attacking players have been allowed not to work hard after losing the ball and pressing has always been just an individual activity by hard working players like Sanchez, resulting in no real press at all. It requires more than that.

But how can this have anything to do, with Koscielny’s and Mustafi’s mistakes? The answer is; it could have everything to do with it.

The first 2 goals came from Man United’s pressing. It was clearly Mourinho’s tactics, that when Man U lost the ball everybody on the team should press quickly and intensively, also the 2 front men. And they did, and they forced the mistakes on Koscielny and Mustafi. Why? Because our defenders have never been good at playing against high and intensive pressing.

The reason for this could very well lie in the reality, that they never experience it in training. When our offensive player aren’t taught to press in training, our defenders aren’t experiencing how to deal with it. So when our defenders occasionally are exposed to it from strong teams, they are more likely to make mistakes. That is why it happens.

To complete the picture, Man U’s third goal also could be put down to an old weakness in our defence. We have so often been exposed by teams sitting back and waiting for the opportunity, that their quick attackers could hit us on the break. Making us look like dominating the game, but ending up losing.

If you look closely at the game again, you can notice, Mourinho’s high, intensive press, right after losing the ball, was combined with a different approach. When we managed to get past their press and into Man U’s half, Mourinho allowed his 2 front men to stay up near the halfway line, while the rest of the team sat deep. When we lost the ball, their tactic was to get the ball very quickly up to the front men allowing them to run with our defenders alone. Something Liverpool and others have done to us many times. This is where the third goal came from.

So there are 2 ways to look at it:
1) Our loss to Man U was due to a bad day, mostly from our defenders, and next time it will automatically get better….. or

2) Our loss to Man U was in fact the old story of familiar weaknesses, and it will happen again, if we don’t learn and adapt to modern football

What do you think?


  1. Ian Smart says:

    We were clearly the better side but for the two individual errors. We need to learn that if you cannot pass to anyone then get the ball as far up the pitch as possible not fart around as Mustafi did and not pass without looking as Kos did.
    If Steve bold had more input and Wenger listened more this would not happen. Also we were better without the three at the back. Still think we can make top four. Wenger will go after next season and with the new people in position on transfers we can move forward.

  2. Eyo says:

    I disagree with this article. I believe it was much of having a bad day than any tactical deficiency. On a good day, we could have conceded 3 and scored 6. There were times we pressed United in their own half of the pitch for a long spell. If De Gea could be the man of the match, it tells you we played very well.

  3. Muff diver says:

    Don’t see the fuss
    It’s not even Xmas and we’re only 15 tiny points behind man city

    Call me sentimental.
    call me crazy
    Call me Caitlyn Jenner

    But the league is ours !!!!

    Disclaimer: no akbs were harmed in the production of this sarcasm

    1. Vlad says:

      Not funny. Not funny at all.

      1. Muff diver says:

        I agree
        15 points behind this early is not funny
        …not funny at all

        1. Break-on-through says:

          It’s a little bit funny.

  4. Nothing changed says:

    I think people should be careful to judge the game after we went down 2-0. Most of us, if we had been told we would be 2-0 down inside 14 minutes against a Mourinho team would have said: “yip, that’s old Arsenal and we won’t win that game because you can not give a Mourinho team a 2-0 lead”. And surprise surprise that’s how it panned out.

    This was old Arsenal, decent effort once it was too late but not mentally prepared to start the game and as a result, we give up 2 sloppy goals inside 14 minutes. If that is not typical of Wenger’s Arsenal teams I don’t know what is.

  5. Ddog says:

    The persistent fight and attacking class shown was not typical of arsenal i haven’t seen them do that for a while, not in the manor they did against united. Usually they would capitulate, or just play sidewards until the last 5-10 minutes. This was different. Our attack is the most deadly it’s been for while.

  6. Vlad says:

    Steve Bould is a joke. I’m not sure what he even does at the club. Wenger’s job is to put out the best XI, and to motivate the players among other things. But our so-called defensive guru should teach the guys how to NOT make stupid mistakes like that. People can blame Wenger all they want for yesterday’s loss but truth of a matter is it’s on Mustafi, and Kosc. Take those two (make it three) STUPID individual mistakes, and we win the game, simple as that.

  7. ks-gunner says:

    Cant win *** if we have to many players who are not up for the job

    Ks-gunner basic advice;

    Bench Sanchez till he is off the club
    Try to persue Mesut to stay, give him also the nr10
    Rotate Xhaka who needs to warm the bench a bit
    Use Wilshere
    Mustafi should be sold off asap, faking an injurie want help him avoid blame

    Try to get Zonzi in january, dm
    Try to get Shaqiri in january, lw, rw
    Try to get Evans in january, captain, lol

    Reach Cl football, and in the summer transfer window re group and aim for bigger players and with luck maybe a new manager will come around to say hi

  8. Audioscope says:

    Lets not forget we were denied 2 clear cut penalties!

  9. Isah says:

    I blame the loss to our technical team. You don’t play against Manure and expect to attack straight away. Our game plan would have been not to concede early goals as you study and grow into the game. Morinho being tactical, he sat back and waited for us to attack like headless chicken. There is need to overhaul the technical team

  10. Mikee19 says:

    Now that’s a great angle to look at all this from… If we are coached on pressing techniques, we’ll be better equipped to deal with teams that press! That’s obviously not the case! It has cost us, but it’ll yet cost us more, as it definitely WON’T be addressed!

  11. Break-on-through says:

    Mustafi is the one that really pissed me off and Monreal on the first goal was very poor. Kos played a stupid ball, it happens, but Monreal got attracted to the ball when there was another three players doing the same before the ball gets played to where Monreal should have been paying attention. That happened and it wasn’t a total disaster because it was early. But to make another mistake that wasn’t forced, that one is a little unforgivable and I think Mustafi made it worse by going off because I don’t believe he was injured. He looked ok but soon as the goal looked inevitable he starts to get worse. I think he feared a slaughter and he feared being a large cause to it, or else he just wanted an excuse for giving the game to utd.

  12. Yossarian says:

    It’s 100% the same old weakness. Everybody knew how Moureen would play it, because it’s what he always does. We’ve been hit with this tactic so many times and never learn. Not just by Mourinho either.

    It’s true that our attack was wonderful during much of the game, and De Gea pulled-off some excellent saves. But that was all after we went 0-2 down in the first 15 minutes, so what’s the point in celebrating how many shots we had to only get one goal and zero points?

  13. Andcliff says:

    Wenger has not adapted his defence to cope with modern football so I was not surprised at the result. I find this staggering considering his only successes in the PL came with having inherited a superb defensive unit. Can you compare Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Martin Keown with our current bunch? Not to mention David Seaman and Jens Lehman. Petr Cech WAS a world class keeper but has now become inconsistent and has lost some of his agility. If we had De Gea and they had Cech we would have won comfortably. Point made!!!

    To have any chance we need a new keeper (Jack Butland?), two quality CB’s and will someone please tell me why he persists with Bellerin who has pace but nothing else, he can’t defend or cross a ball. Teacher’s pet perhaps?

    Tony Adams is right we won’t win the PL under AW but he will see his contract out to the detriment of AFC. Sad!!!

  14. Ozziegunner@Newcastle upon Hunter says:

    I can well imagine the reception our defenders would have received from George Graham when they reached the dressing room at half time. Then again a well drilled George Graham defence (check on Google how he trained and regimented defenders) would not have made such errors.
    We must ask again what is Steve Bould contributing to earn his salary?

  15. Sukhjot Gunner says:

    We just didn’t perform on the day while manure were as focused,concentrated,determined and doggy as they’ve ever been…

Comments are closed