Well, after all the huffing and puffing, no one could blow the door down, and each team is left with one more point than it deserved and two less than it needed. We had a chance to slam the door shut on Man U’s season and, well, I’m kind of out of door-related metaphors at the moment. The gloom-and-doom crowd will whinge about we just had to defeat Man U, both for points and symbolism, but it was not to be. Contrary to their all-out crossing display against Fulham, Man U defended deep and well, looking only for the occasional counter, and so we muddled through with a consolation point that, if nothing else, keeps us on Chelsea’s heels, although Man City now have a game in hand after their match with Sunderland was postponed due high winds.
We’ll take a longer look at the match and its ramifications later. For now, a smaller-bore look at player-ratings, with stats courtesy of whoscored.com…
- Laurent Koscielny—8.1: Another fearless performance from the with eleven clearances to lead the team to go along with 95% pass-accuracy, also best among field-players despite attempting six long balls (connecting on six). A vital last-man tackle helped to preserve the clean-sheet, and he very nearly headed home a brilliant header only for Valencia to clear. MotM-type stuff from Kos at both ends.
- Santi Cazorla—7.95: He may not have scored, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Two strong shots forced de Gea to make crucial saves, and his 101 touches (second in the side) showed that he was about as involved as anyone can be in a match. Four tackles and two interceptions suggest that his defensive contribution is getting stronger as well. Four key passes include that well-struck corner that Koscielny nearly nodded home.
- Kieran Gibbs—7.94: Seven clearances, 2nd behind Koscielny, and a stunning 105 touches to lead the team, showed how involved, vital, and important Gibbs is. Not to slight Monreal, but Gibbs showed us a lot of what we’ve missed. His passing was a bit off, and he has a ways to go before his crossing poses a threat, but he went endline to endline in a strong return from injury.
- Bacary Sagna—7.83: Only a silly yellow card late in the match for a clumsy challenge on Rooney (who was a bit divey to boot) marred Sagna’s performance on the evening. he won seven aerial duels to lead the team, adding four tackles and six clearances as well, Had his nearly perfect cross glanced off at Giroud’s stud in the 77th minute, well, that might have capped off the night in fitting style.
- Mesut Özil—7.76: It was the kind of night that will not satisfy his critics as he failed to register an assist or a goal; however, it wasn’t for trying. Seven key passes and four successful dribbles showed a revitalized, more-confident Özil, one willing his teammates to score, but it was not to be as our finishing was, as ever, off. He did find time to add in a couple of tackles and an interception, if only to prove that he’s more than a one-trick pony.
- Mikel Arteta—7.68: Very nearly a horror-start saw Arteta cough it up to van Persie, who squandered the chance. From there, though, he performed tolerably well, neutralizing Rooney for long stretches while tallying five tackles and five interceptions (both led the team). Still, questions are arising about his age, pace, and ability to shield the back four against the top clubs. Then again, we did keep a clean-sheet.
- Wojciech Szczesny—7.26: The man made a couple of vital saves, none more crucial than that 79th minute save of van Persie’s driven header. Truth be told, though, Man U didn’t muster very much pressure on him, but he was there to save the day. I feel bad giving him such short shrift, but, to be honest, there’s not much more to say
- Per Mertesacker—7.00: A quiet but solid night for Per, especially with the performances of Arteta and Koscielny ahead of him. Managed to claim six clearances and three interceptions, but he was very nearly caught out when van Persie was played onside but decided to cut back to his right, allowing Per to get back in position. His lack of pace is alarming at times like that…
- Tomáš Rosický—6.82: Despite my dream of his bagging a brace, it was a quiet affair for Tom as he didn’t stand out in any dramatic way. Yes, he buzzed about the pitch as he always does, but he seemed to lack that final bit of flair that so frequently leads to good things happening. Subbed off at the 74th minute for the Ox as we sought a more-direct attack and burst of energy from fresh, youthful legs…
- Jack Wilshere—6.42: Very nearly split the game wide-open in the fourth minute with a deft series of touches to get in on goal, but a deflection sent his shot out for a corner. Beyond that, sad to say, a very quiet performance with literally zero tackles or interceptions. He was almost guilty of inexcusable lack of effort after getting dispossessed and failing to get back on the sequence that led to van Persie’s fierce header. He may want to play centrally and feel more comfortable there, but he’s not defensive enough. He fouls rather than tackles, and he might have done more from the CAM role, with Rosický playing the DM.
- Olivier Giroud—6.1: Well, whoscored.com starts players at a 6.0, so to get to 6.1 means that Giroud barely had an impact on this match. He made about as much impact on the match as his cleat did on Sagna’s cross, the one that he almost nudged home. All evening, he seemed a half-yard or full-second late in ways that will lead to sharpened pitchforks and lit torches among the Gooner faithful. Then again, he did have Nemanja Vidic draped over his shoulder or cold-cocking him with a forearm between the shoulder-blades, and this just might have slowed Giroud a bit.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (on for Rosický at 74′) —6.3: he did well enough with the time he had, roughly twenty minutes including stoppage-time, but he wasn’t the gamebreaker we might have hoped for. Rosický may have tired and needed the substitution, and that’s that.
- After him, of course, it’s a sign of the times when our only other available players are Fabianski Monreal, Jenkinson, Podolksi, Bendtner, and Sanogo, none of whom come across as the types who could strike a late winner.
So there it stands. Strategically, the draw is perhaps a relief in that it allowed us to right ourselves a bit after the Annihilation at Anfield™.