Moyes' tactical nous holds firm against 'clueless' Wenger
In the end the margin of victory was only one goal. But a great many Ferguson title winning campaigns have been based on such slender, hard fought victories. While it is early to talk about Manchester United's chances of holding on to the title of EPL champions, the match against Arsenal did provide important insight into how United might line up in the David Moyes era.
A team which has historically played wide narrowed itself down, like an elephant squeezing into a tux. Jones was introduced in midfield to counter Ozil- his work rate and over all fitness levels helping him edge out Fellaini who still looks rusty every time he makes a sprint- with Kagawa, Carrick and Valencia all packed together like a highly energetic proton. With Rooney always ready to drop deep and making those trademark workhorse-like runs all over the pitch, it was a ploy that worked.
But very often matches involving such high calibre teams comes down to who does the little things right. Moyes won it with his plan B, Wenger, on the other hand, didn't even have one. When Vidic was taken off at the half time break due to a jaw-crunching collision with De Gea, that left him with a bloody nose, Moyes was forced into a substitution he might not have wanted.
Forced to drop Jones into defence, the Glaswegian brought on Cleverly instead of Fellaini. Although Fellaini would have added some muscle and one would be tempted to put him against the likes of Ramsey, Ozil and Cazorla, Moyes realised that he lacked the athleticism to cope up with Arsenal's midfield.
With United playing narrow, Bacary Sagna started making his runs and consistently fired crosses in. Moyes realising Kagawa was unable to cope with the threat got on Giggs.
And right at the end he replaced, rather apologetically, Robin van Persie with Fellaini. With Arsenal looking for a final push it was time to close the gates and put up guards who could physically resist any possible gate-crashers.
Wenger meanwhile, got Wilshere for Flamini. Hoping to add more guile and pace down the middle as Ozil started to run down the right. But Wilshere barely threatened. With Giroud firing blanks, the Frenchman brought on Bendtner for Cazorla and later Gnabry. Nothing worked.
Arsenal is still top of the table, but as the fixtures pile up, their bench strength will be tested more and more. Arsenal fans must pray that Wenger is able to see the season through on his plan A, because there is nothing for the Frenchman to fall back on.
More about Raghav Chopra
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