I'm going to be honest - I did not watch this entire farce. I started leaning on the fast-forward once it got to 3-0, and my DVR cut out at 6-2. I would posit however that this is not a match where careful analysis of tactics or the play of one individual or another can adequately explain this disaster.
So, let's look at the big picture. I do not even begin to know where to assign blame here. Is it mainly on Arsene? Is it (as Amy Lawrence's piece on the Guardian speculated) a failure of our scouting team and this Dick Law guy, whoever he may be (and why is it that only now, we're hearing this guy's name for the first time)? I mean, a club like Arsenal should never have a starting XI show up to Old Trafford like the one we had today. Look, I'm no genius. I couldn't run a football club, but even I ended up envisioning this nightmare in my season preview:
Let's say we're away to United or Chelsea and we have to play with Jenkinson and, say, Armand Traore. Does that fill you with confidence? Traore is actually one that I don't think is good enough for the club, but that is absolutely a plausible scenario. Sorry, but that's the stuff of nightmares for me.
Bloody hell - why do I have to be right on THAT, and not on predictions like "I will win the lottery this year"?
Anyway, look again at this starting XI:
Szczesny, Traore, Djourou, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Arshavin, Ramsey, Coquelin, Rosicky, Walcott, van Persie.
Honestly? At an overall squad level this wouldn't be so bad if you only accounted for the attacking players and the goalkeeper. Put Song in the middle and account for Vermaelen and Sagna being in the side, and that's a starting lineup that I would feel comfortable competing against the champions with. I'd still have us as underdogs, but it's a scenario where a draw especially would look possible.
But, fuck's sake, look at that defense. Carl Jenkinson, with all of 8 games for a third-tier side. Armand Traore, who anyone with a functioning brain stem can pick out as not being a Premier League player. Johan Djourou, who is capable 30% of the time, a liability 60% of the time, and worse than Helen Keller 10% of the time. If you include the holding midfielder, Francis Coquelin, making his first-team debut and largely considered to be not good enough as well. This is who we went to battle with. This is who we asked to march into Old Trafford and take on the champions.
Are you bloody kidding me?
Even worse, look at this bench. Just LOOK at it (besides Fabianski, who I'm totally fine with as the backup keeper): Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Marouane Chamakh, Henri Lansbury, Ignasi Miquel, Oguzhan Ozyakup, Gilles Sunu.
That is disgraceful. For a team with pretensions towards greatness, that perhaps (Chamakh aside) would be the bench for the reserve team. Look again at United - waiting in the wings they had names like Berbatov, Chicharito, Ferdinand, Park and Da Silva - quality players all. Take another long stare at the gulf in quality between the lineups and the benches. I would not pick the team put out today to beat QPR, who are easily the worst team on show in the Premiership so far. I really mean that.
Again, I don't know who let the squad deteriorate this far. As big and important a win as Thursday in Udine was, this was as big and important a loss. Everyone gets tonked every now and again, everyone has bad losses...and there is no shame in losing at Old Trafford. But, this was the first time Arsenal have shipped 8 in the league since 1896. Arguably, this is the worst loss in Arsenal's history...any sort of big-club mystique left over from the Henry/Bergkamp days is irrevocably lost.
It is worth noting that the main common denominator here is that Wojciech Szczesny was absolutely blameless on the six goals I saw. Jenkinson and Traore were astronomical units out of their depth, allowing Ashley Young and Nani to run riot. Djourou had one of his 10% games, and Coquelin wasn't providing any help in midfield. So, what you had was the largely blameless Laurent Koscielny and the completely blameless keeper frantically trying to repel attacks with only four flailing, bumbling Keystone Kops for assistance. I should say that I don't blame the players themselves. They played as hard as their limited ability allowed, up until they completely lost any shred of confidence or fight that they may have had (that part is inexcusable). I blame the people who put them out there in the first place...who let it get to this point.
I'm saying this right now - as of this moment, we are a punchline to the rest of the league. We are an object to be pitied...a museum piece after the fall of the empire. I don't think I'm engaging in hyperbole when I say that we may have to seriously adjust our expectations and hope for an UEFA Cup place at the end of the season. Liverpool have drastically improved, as has Manchester City. United and Chelsea will of course be there as well, meaning 5th place may be the best we can achieve...and we may only get there because our Auld Enemy is nearly as bad as we are at the moment.
You may have noticed that I've barely sworn at all in this report. I had said at the end of last season that I had no anger left, and this summer did nothing to regenerate it. I'm just...numb.
Still, I cannot help but wonder what might have been had two early events gone differently. Danny Welbeck opened the scoring with a lovely looping header over the stranded Szczesny. The killer though was that there were three defenders around Welbeck, none of whom could prevent the goal. Most culpable was Djourou, who fell over and allowed Welbeck the space he needed. The other two ball-watching didn't help, of course. Right after, Jonny Evans fouled Walcott in the area, and up stepped RVP. It's funny - normally I am somewhat of an optimist about this team, but I looked over at my roommate and said: "He's going to miss." Sure enough, he hit the worst penalty I've seen since the Women's World Cup Final, and De Gea had the easiest of saves.
That was the game. What easily could have been 1-0 to Arsenal was 1-0 to United, with the psychological balance entirely in the champions' favor. That was a spot where a captain and a leader should have scored, and he was found wanting. I don't suppose it would have mattered much in the end, but then again, it may have. It just might have.
Anyway, we know what happened from there...I'll try and sum up as best as I can for the sake of completeness, though:
United 2-0: Traore stupidly heads the ball away into the center of the park instead of up the side, Coquelin gets roasted by Young, who curls an unstoppable shot into the top corner. Shambolic defending.
United 3-0: Before this, Arshavin should have been sent off for the challenge that injured Welbeck. Anyway, Jenkinson commits a stupid foul in free kick distance. Rooney obliges with a brilliant set piece over the midgets in the wall (none of whom jumped).
United 3-1: United kind of fell asleep a bit, as Arsenal overloaded the left side of the field. The defense badly ball-watched while Rosicky hit a nice diagonal ball to Walcott. The angle was kind of bad and Theo scuffed his shot, but De Gea made another error in allowing it to slip through his legs. Terrible goalkeeping, but if you're going to do it, you may as well do it when you're 3-0 up.
Brief period of Arsenal pressure - De Gea makes one good save, Arshavin misses a chance as well. Szczesny makes a few decent stops as well.
United 4-1: Djourou commits a stupid foul, Rooney scores a free kick where the wall doesn't jump. I feel an odd sense of deja vu...
United 5-1: An offside trap straight out of rec-league football is torn apart by United. Nani has all the time and space in the world, and he disdainfully chips over Szczesny and in. There's only one team in this now.
United 6-1: Three goals in six minutes, as Arsenal have completely retreated to the fetal position. Rooney hits the post, Park comes on as a sub and benefits from the Carl and Johan Comedy Hour again. Jenkinson was way too far off of Young, allowing him to find Park. Djourou (who missed badly on a tackle earlier in the move) can't prevent the shot, which nestles into the far corner.
United 6-2: United's defense had pretty much stopped playing. Jenkinson's cross is cleared, but it comes back to him. He pings a header out wide to RVP, who is unmarked at the back post. He finishes well, and has the dignity to not celebrate.
Jenkinson completes his afternoon by getting sent off. This is what happens when you take someone from a kiddie pool and put them in the Mariana Trench.
United 7-2: The home side get a penalty this time, and Rooney completes his hat trick.
United 8-2: Young scores another curling effort.
So yeah, that happened.
I don't know what we do or where we go from here. I don't know who we buy to improve our situation. I don't know...I just fucking don't know. See you next week...it can't be worse.
The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:
Szczesny 7 (MOTM), Traore 4, Djourou 2, Koscielny 6, Jenkinson 1, Arshavin 5, Coquelin 4 (Oxlade-Chamberlain N/A), Rosicky 6, Ramsey 6, Walcott 6 (Lansbury N/A), van Persie 5 (Chamakh N/A)