There is no doubt in my mind that the better team amongst Arsenal and Manchester United won over two legs and qualified for the finals. Manchester United beat Arsenal 1-3 at the Emirates and with an aggregate of 4-1 will play in the finals in Rome. The other finalist will be decided tonight from the Barcelona and Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge.
Going into the match Arsenal needed to score 2 goals and concede none to reach the finals. The crowd was the loudest I have heard in the Emirates and the flags which were distributed in all the seats were a sight to watch. Maybe that inspired the team for the first 5-6 minutes where they fought tooth for tooth for every ball and was dominating the play. United had no clue. Then came the first killer blow. A advancing Ronaldo on the left side crossed in front of the goal and the youngest player on the field, Kieran Gibbs, who had a mammoth game in the first leg, keeping Ronaldo under control, slipped and could not recover enough to beat Park’s shot at goal. Taanng!!! So now Arsenal need to score 3 goals for a outright entry into the finals.
Within another 3 minutes, Fabregas lost the ball and in trying to recover the ball Van Persie fouled Ronaldo (though Ronaldo went down too easily)and in the resultant free-kick, Ronaldo unleashed a fierce shot which dipped and curled in and caught Almunia by surprise (he should have saved it, but I guess it was one of those things). Well this goal virtually killed the tie. Expecting this Arsenal team to score 4 goals against this United side will be asking for too much. Felt bad for the crowd who had been behind the team and was positive about a fightback from the team though we had conceded a goal. The game was buried in the 11th minute.
The rest of the match was something that just passed by. Arsenal was trying to break through the midfield-defensive wall of United and were unsuccessful.United on the other hand substituted their players who were on yellow card and also scored one more in a counter attack.
So Arsenal’s title hunt comes to an end and probably the only thing left to do for the season is to win all the remaining matches in the premier league, which include a match each against Chelsea(next weekend) and Manchester United. Finishing third looks difficult as it is not in our hands(Chelsea has to lose two matches and we have to win all our remaining matches). The differene between finishing third and fourth is an automatic qualification to the Champions League and playing a qualifier which could also be depending on the luck of the draw a 4th placed team from Italy or Spain or some Eastern European team.
Its time for Arsene to think of what is lacking in this team, a central defender (very urgent) probably. I think with Song and Denilson maturing,Rosicky hopefully back for the next season, I feel we have a good midfield back up. Not to forget Ramsey. If we do not lose Van Persie and lose Adebayor, the forward line will still look healthy with Eduardo, Bendtner, Vela acting as back up to Van Persie and Arshavin. I feel we have a good team for the next season if we can keep the flock together.