Arsenal could not breakdown a stubborn Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night but the point they gained keeps them on the shoulder of leaders Chelsea.
Robin van Persie had a chance at either end of the game. He shot tamely at Wojciech Szczesny in the opening seconds while the Pole made a superb save 10 minutes from time.
Aside from that Arsenal enjoyed measured control throughout yet never truly dominated. They pressed the visitors and created chances to win the game – Laurent Koscielny’s header, Olivier Giroud’s near-post flick and two Santi Cazorla drives – but could not convert.
Manchester United will argue their resilience was worth a point; Arsenal will counter that their determination deserved all three.
Still this was a spirited response to the disappointment at the weekend.
Arsenal are in second place a point off top spot. They remain in the thick of the title race.
SETTING THE SCENE
Arsène Wenger made two changes from the side beaten 5-1 at Liverpool on Saturday.
Tomas Rosicky and Kieran Gibbs replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nacho Monreal in midfield and defence respectively.
Chelsea’s draw at West Brom on Tuesday, plus the postponement of Manchester City’s game with Sunderland, had opened up an opportunity for Wenger’s men.
Manchester United had struggled for form all season yet they still represented a huge hurdle.
Arsenal had trailed within a minute on Saturday at Liverpool and they were nearly caught cold again this evening.
Van Persie robbed Mikel Arteta as he collected Szczesny’s throw out and went clear. Fortunately for Arsenal, the Dutchman shot meekly at the keeper.
This time Arsenal’s response was swift. Mesut Ozil sent Jack Wilshere through but his shot deflected wide.
From the corner an unmarked Giroud nodded inches past the far post.
After 10 minutes, Rosicky’s deflected shot caused David De Gea into a rapid readjustment before saving low to his left.
It seemed that Arsenal had settled into the game and they began to exert their superiority. However it did not produce a clear effort and, midway through the half, Van Persie timed his run perfectly to go clear on the left. However his pacy cross pierced the area without intervention.
Arsenal continued to have a persistence about them with Rosicky and Ozil catching the eye. The energy and appetite was significantly higher than at Anfield on Saturday. Giroud was the most likely outlet, firing wide with his head and his foot.
Gibbs had a header saved and, just before the whistle, Cazorla’s shot was blocked.
Manchester United came out with renewed energy after the restart. It evened up the game.
But chances were minimal until the hour-mark when Koscielny met Cazorla’s corner with a powerful header and Antonio Valencia nodded the ball away from under his own bar.
It was so the nearly the breakthrough the home side deserved and it invigorated the crowd.
They began to believe once more.
Giroud slid a header wide shortly afterwards but, at the other end, Szczesny came out of his area to nod the ball away as Van Persie threatened.
As we entered the latter stages, this was a game on a knife-edge. Arsenal had enjoyed a measure of control but Manchester United always looked capable of breaking through.
With so much riding on the game, tensions were high.
Wenger swapped Oxalde-Chamberlain for Rosicky with 14 minutes left.
Arsenal should have taken the lead shortly afterwards when Giroud darted in front of Nemanja Vidic to meet Bacary Sagna’s low cross at the near post. But his touch was inconclusive when he should have scored.
You sensed Manchester United still had a trick or two up their sleeve. They nearly played their hand 10 minutes from time when Wayne Rooney floated a cross on to the head of Van Persie at the far post. He met it firmly from point-blank range but Szczesny reacted superbly to tip the ball onto the bar.
Five minutes later Ozil set up Cazorla to drive at goal but De Gea made a fine low save.
In injury time, the Spaniard again forced his compatriot into action.
But it ended goalless.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
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