Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a young player very much on the up. His £12 million capture last summer was another feather in Arsene Wenger’s cap and cemented his accepted held belief that Arsenal invest in youth and give their young talent the chance to flourish. Oxlade-Chamberlain has seen Theo Walcott become a first team regular, and his own ambition to break into Wenger’s side has been something that the forward has relentlessly pursued. His first Arsenal Premiership start against the reigning champions Manchester United, and the world got to see the talent on display. Too bad then, with the scores level at 1-1, Wenger chose to remove his teenage prodigy a move that not only confused the 63,093 at the Emirates, but also cost Arsenal the game. The worst decision Wenger has ever made in 15 years at Arsenal ? Absolutely!

Exposed

With howls of astonishment at bringing on Andrey Arshavin for Oxlade-Chamberlain, the mood of the Emirates crowd was to deteriorate when the Russian was culpable in United’s winner. Antonio Valencia had given the visitors the lead in first half time added on. Johan Djourou has been doing a sterling job when asked to fill out at right back, but against United, the weakest link was exposed all too often, from which United took full advantage. Ryan Giggs got past the Swiss defender, and his cross was met perfectly by Valencia. Thomas Vermaelen was unable to get any kind of block in, but the source of the goal had been exposed quite a while earlier.

Thierry Henry had been ruled out with a calf strain, as was Mikel Arteta, but Wenger had been boosted with the inclusion of Vermaelen

Determination

Oxlade-Chamberlain was in the mood that suggested he was eager to make up for what he perceives to be wasted time. Wenger has always protected his young charges, but having a player who has netted in the Champions League just proves that here, the forward has not only potential, but the determination not to be fazed on the big stage. Walcott should be at that level, but all too often this season, has shown inconstancy in front of goal. With only two minutes on the clock, Oxlade-Chamberlain created an opening after combining with Aaron Ramsey, that fell agonisingly away from Van Persie. The Arsenal captain then set up Ramsey, but his shot was always rising.

Rooney Dive

United had already replaced the injured Phil Jones with Fabio, as the away side enjoyed a succession of corners. Patrice Evra got past Djourou, but Wojciech Szczesny made a low save from Nani. Wayne Rooney showed the dark side of his game, in trying to con referee Mike Dean with a dive, which the official didn’t even brandish a card for. Arsenal were enjoying a good deal of possession, with Ramsey in particular trying to instigate attacks. The Wales captain however needs to spend less time on the ball – he lacks both the pace and the power – and must make early passes when clear. Having made a decent run, Vermaelen showed clear frustration after Ramsey’s inability in releasing the ball after he had darted forwards.

Dominate

Van Persie was having a more of a disciplined first half, but that was to change. Wenger replaced Djourou with Nico Yennaris after the break, and six minutes later, Arsenal had a gilt edged chance to level. Chris Smalling’s slip let in Tomas Rosicky. His square ball to Van Persie was perfect. But on his left foot, the Gunners’ captain hit just wide of Anders Lindegaard’s upright. It was to prove to be a huge let off for United. Oxlade-Chamberlain continued to dominate, and elicited an excited roar of expectation every time he got on the ball. He set up Ramsey, but the shot went high, and the Gunners’ 16 then nudged Rosicky’s pass to Van Persie, who saw his shot blocked by Evra, with Lindegaard beaten. There was more than a hint of hand ball by Evra.

Sublime beauty

It was Laurent Koscielny’s turn to surge forwards, and his menace allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to shoot low and with venom, but again just off target. United were still a threat and only a last gasp Per Mertersacker clearance off the line denied Danny Welbeck. Eighteen minutes before time, the Gunners drew level. Koscileny out muscled Fabio, and picked out Rosicky in the middle of the pitch. The Czech Republic captain fed Oxlade-Chamberlain, who put in Van Persie on his favoured left foot for a goal of sublime beauty. The Gunners were in the ascendency and went in search of the winner. Wenger was to later say that Oxlade-Chamberlain was tiring, and that was why he took him off, however his performance suggested anything but tiredness. Even Van Persie voiced a “No” when he saw Oxlade-Chamberlain’s number go up.

Instincts

On came Arshavin, who doesn’t possess a defensive bone in his body, and Valencia knew that as he ran at the Russian. With Arshavin back peddling, Valencia fed Welbeck who shot past the exposed Szczesny to score what was to prove to be the killer blow. Eight minutes still remained however, but the attacking instincts that Oxlade-Chamberlain helped inspire were gone. Arshavin showed us very little. Again the fans let Wenger know what they thought of his crucial substitution and having seen a below par Arsenal slump to their third consecutive Premiership defeat, urged the Gunners’ manager to ” Spend some ****ing money!”

Witness

Wenger rightly pointed to ten players out injured which has been a massive blow in his selection process. But as we continue to witness over the past recent seasons, this Arsenal side continue to produce promise and show the potential to do well, but all too often come up short when it really mattered. They did that here.