Patrice Evra might have acted like a tw@t in calling Arsenal a “training centre”, but in the context of his full statement, and Man Utd’s 1-0 win over them last night, he was ultimately proved right.
Most media outlets preferred to focus on the goading “training centre” bit of Evra’s interview, but the Frenchman also went on to praise Arsene Wenger’s team and their style of play, adding that they were a “great team” who could beat “anyone”.
His choice of words did betray a confidence bordering on arrogance, but his point was valid, that most people remember teams who win trophies, not so much those who play pretty football.
Though that may not be completely true, because I will certainly remember this Arsenal side and their super silky football, but everything else Evra said was spot on – Arsenal need to toughen up, quit the pretty stuff and start winning.
They look like they’re getting there. Players like Andrei Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Samir Nasri are tough cookies, but somehow the team as a whole still tends to crumble when the going gets tough.
So far this season, they’ve lost to Chelsea, Tottenham and drew against a Liverpool side down to ten men. The only “Top 5” team they’ve beaten is Manchester City, who were reduced to ten men from the 5th minute.
Against United last night, they came up against a brick wall. Once United scored their opening goal, they completely shut out Arsenal in the second half. Their defenders were calm and resolute, while the midfield worked out of their socks, Nani included, to snuff out Arsenal’s midfield engine.
It was exactly what Evra was talking about. He said: “Sometimes they don’t kill matches off while we are more efficient.”
Efficiency is the key word here. United have that competitive streak to do what it takes for a result – something obviously imbued by their no-nonsense manager Alex Ferguson – whether it be by defending in numbers or attacking all-out when necessary. Arsenal, on the other hand, are the romantics, the idealists. Win or lose, they play their beautiful football.
But as I said, Wenger seems to be working towards changing that. The period when he was buying all those tiny attackers – Walcott, Ramsey, Rosicky, Eduardo, Nasri, Vela – seems to be over. This season, he’s gotten the powerful, bustling Chamakh and made him a first team regular, and also brought in the experienced, uncompromising Sebastian Squilacci.
Still, I think Evra should learn to keep the trash talk away from the media. He took quite a few heavy challenges in last night’s game, and who could blame Arsenal? If an Arsenal player had said something similar, I’d like Darren Fletcher to give him a nice whack in the jewels too. Trash talk makes the game more interesting, but it can get annoying, and maybe even out of hand.
But who knows? Maybe Evra’s words were what affected Arsenal to the point they couldn’t break United down. What he said on their lack of killer instinct could have been playing on their minds and affecting their style of play.
Arsenal’s style of play is extremely intricate and patient, and revolves around very precise passing rhythms involving the whole team. Throw a spannar in the works, like say a few over-eager players impatiently trying to prove someone wrong, then the whole system could fall apart.
Perhaps Evra himself is learning a thing or two from Ferguson, and was just doing whatever he felt was necessary to secure a result for his team, which in this case, were a few incendiary words to knock Arsenal off their stride.
Anyway, here’s exactly what he said:
Arsenal is a training centre. I watch them play and enjoy it but will they win the title? That’s what people remember.
Arsenal are a great club but it has been five years since they won anything and that for me is a crisis.
We could lose to them on the 13th but then what? There is nothing (for them), there will be no trophy, nothing.
Our real enemy is Chelsea. We are more concerned with Chelsea’s results than Arsenal’s, even if we know Arsenal are a great team who can beat Chelsea, us or anyone.
When you play against Arsenal it is a lot of fun. They are a team that play football. They won’t come to Old Trafford and put 11 men behind the ball.
The difference is we play football but also have power. Sometimes they don’t kill matches off while we are more efficient.
Tell us what you think!