As followers of the Premier League this weekend with have been privileged to view an undeniably entertaining, high-quality and fascinating weekend of football. We had numerous fantastic goals, sweeping attacks and astonishing plays, and that is before we even begin to mention the misses of Torres and Ramires to name but a few. So what have we learned from this weekend? What is indisputable is the gap that has been produced between Manchester United and Arsenal.
The early pace setters have maintained their 100% record in the Premier League, leading the chasing pack with 15 points from 15. Sir Alex has assembled a team that while containing players of youth still have the class to put away teams. To have beaten teams such as Chelsea and Arsenal comfortably in the first few games, scoring freely and looking secure despite a new and relatively inexperienced defence, portrays the quality that has been assembled at Old Trafford. An attacking quartet of Rooney, Hernandez, Nani and Young with pace, skill and technique aplenty have torn Premier League defences apart. Both Nani and Anderson, despite previous criticism with regards to their Premier League pedigree, have developed into crucial members of this United side. Anderson looks secured and solid, while also providing a creative flair. Nani was unplayable, attacking with pace and fluidity as well as scoring a contender for goal of the season. However it is not just United’s attacking prowess that is terrifying for their title rivals, but their immense defence. Evans seems to have become a player re-born and Evra is his usual self. But the major development is the acquisition and growth of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. If we examine the two individuals start to the season it would be hard to belief that one is just 19 and the other playing non-league football just 2 seasons ago. They play we a security that far surpasses their years and experience, as well as both providing an attacking threat; Smalling scoring against Chelsea and Jones scything run and commitment leading to Rooney’s 9th of the season. On this form it seems difficult to look further than United.
Another trip to the North-West, another defensive horror story. Throughout the history of the Premier League only 2 teams have conceded more goals after 5 games than Arsenal this season and they are now sitting perilously close to the relegation zone following their worst start since 1953. Mertesacker and Santos, judging by their first appearances, do not look to have filled the gapping void that is Arsenal’s defence. Koscielny and Djourou do not possess the quality that must be demanded of an Arsenal player and are Arteta and Benayoun able replacements for Fabregas and Nasri? Wenger must now look long and hard at both his much criticised transfer policy and, crucially in the short term, the measures that must be taken to secure a defence that conceded 4 against a pressurised Blackburn side. While the Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis has ruled out sacking Wenger, stating;
“”Arsene Wenger is not broken. To see him portrayed as an idiot is damaging – not to him or the club but to the game.”
“[Sacking him] is a route we are not going to go down.”
He continued saying, “He didn’t suddenly become a bad manager or out of touch. That’s nonsense,” and while this is undeniably true, it is possible to claim that this has happened gradually over the past 5 years. Arsenal still have not one a trophy since their FA Cup success of 2005, and look further from correcting this failing now than ever. Not only does Wenger’s team portray intrinsic failings, but the development of Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham has made competition much tougher. What Wenger and perhaps crucially the Arsenal board do over the next days and weeks are vital to saving the Gunners season, a season in which any aims of title contention have collapsed.