Against a clearly half-speed Manchester United, Arsenal were kept off the board over the match’s last 88 minutes, left to hope a controversial Theo Walcott opener would hold up. But two 43rd minute mistakes from Bacary Sagna – a giveaway and then a foul in the penalty area – allowed Robin Van Persie to secure a celebration-less equalizer, leaving the match destined to finish 1-1.
That may be a just result, given the nature of Arsenal’s goal. Manchester United’s line was beaten in the second minute when a Tomas Rosicky pass into the right of the area allowed Theo Walcott, who had blown by Patrice Evra, to beat David de Gea far post. Replays, however, showed Walcott to be clearly offside when Rosicky played the ball; however, since the flag stayed down, the Arsenal winger was merely in an offside position (not offside, strictly) before scoring his 12th goal of the season.
Though Arsenal looked the more dangerous team for much of the first half, at one point they went nearly 20 minutes without a shot, let alone a shot on goal. Manchester United were able to stabilize after a flat-footed start and eventually got back into the match through Sagna’s generosity. Had the Arsenal right back not stepped in, United may have never emerged from the celebratory slumber they carried in into today’s game, having clinched their 20th league title on Monday.
By the second half’s kickoff, United were back, embarking on a controlling run that forced out any air left in Arsenal’s challenge. Fifteen minutes before time, the Gunners seemed to perk up and realize they needed three points, but by then they were second best. While 1-1 was a fair result, if one team were more likely to snatch a goal late, it would have been United.
Given how poorly the Red Devils played in the first half, it was a sorry turn of events for Arsenal – a home side that needed the points more than their guests. With the draw, Arsenal lose ground on Chelsea and stay only two upon Spurs, with top-four rivals carrying a match in hand. Against a United team with little motivation, Arsenal should have expected full points.
There are, however, two things working in Arsenal’s favor:
(a) Their run-in is ridiculously easy, particularly particularly compared to Chelsea’s. The Gunners are “at” QPR, host Wigan, then finish at Newcastle.
(b) Chelsea and Tottenham still play each other.
Arsenal are still on track for a top-four finish, but Sunday’s showing against an ambivalent United will stunt the building notion the Gunners were moving forward. They may be good enough to get back into Champions League, but against a team that didn’t seem to care that much about the result, Arsenal were only good enough for a draw.