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Arsenal must make Varane statement

Arsenal
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Arsenal confidence at an all-time low following Man United defeat

"The thing about sport -- any sport -- is that swearing is very much part of it," said former Chelsea striker Jimmy Greaves. If someone told you that the children of Arsenal supporting parents had some new words added to their lexicon yesterday, you wouldn't be surprised, would you? Because it was the kind of performance that elicits that kind of language.

We know it's pointless but aiming a few choice words at a television set is as close as we get to dispelling that feeling of hopelessness when we see our team play like... well... like silly men who should know better. You may, if you so choose, substitute the words "silly men" for ones you feel more suitable.

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Arsene Wenger's team were woeful on Sunday at Old Trafford. On a day when they faced a Manchester United side ravaged by injury and forced to play a youth team prospect who'd yet to play a single minute of Premier League football, they cracked under the pressure and provided Marcus Rashford with a debut he'll never forget.

When Rashford grows old, he can tell his grandchildren of that famous day when Gabriel Paulista carelessly shanked the ball into his path eight yards from goal, before ignoring him completely to allow him to nod home his second. He can regale them with tales of how £140,000 a week England international Theo Walcott finally perfected his on-field impression of the Invisible Man while he scored twice -- and got an assist -- against an Arsenal side that were being touted as potential winners of the Premier League.

He can tell them about how the Gunners, with 21 minutes of regular time plus five minutes of injury time remaining managed just one attempt on target as they sought an equaliser. And that attempt was a header from Laurent Koscielny that was so feeble, it might not have crossed the line anyway.

All in all, he'll remember a great day for himself and for Manchester United, while for Arsenal it will go down as one of their darkest days in recent memory.

Some will say that there's never any shame being beaten by United at Old Trafford but when you look at the list of absentees and the makeshift nature of their side, it's impossible to look at it as anything other than abject failure from Wenger's men, especially in the context of this season.

And these are his men. This is the team that he has created. A team that has won two FA Cups in the last two seasons, but when the chance was there to put an old enemy to the sword, they slipped and gutted themselves in the process. Yes, there are 11 games still to go and a lot of points to play for, but the way Arsenal are performing at the moment it would need a turnaround in form of epic proportions for them to take this Premier League title.

Mesut Ozil and Arsenal lost to a poor Man United side, prompting concerns that they can turn things around.

Arsenal have won just four of their last 10 league games, drawing three and losing three. They're not scoring goals. Too many players look off the boil. Inspirational match winner Alexis Sanchez appears a shadow of himself. The midfield is dysfunctional and porous, while mistakes at the back have become all too commonplace.

Another thing you have to consider: what are these players feeling after this latest defeat? The idea that they don't want to win, or don't have the desire to lift the Premier League trophy, is preposterous. Of course they do. This is their entire raison d'etre. The worry for Wenger is that he's been unable to get anything close to a decent performance out of them; the psychology of losing a game like that, to a United team so far from its best, could sap what little confidence they have even further.

With the biggest North London derby in years looming next weekend, the visit of Swansea provides a chance to quickly get back in the saddle. Not only do these Arsenal players have to overcome their own failings at the moment, chances are they'll have to deal with another goalkeeper having a majestic time at their expense.

The fact that former teammate Lukasz Fabianski is that man surely adds another layer of hilarity to it when the previously error-prone Polish international becomes some kind of Lev Yashin/Dino Zoff/Mr Stretch hybrid, stopping anything and everything that comes his way. Perhaps he'll be so kind as to chuck one in as he often did when playing for Arsenal, and at this point Wenger gladly would accept any such gifts.

If the Arsenal players showed far too little in the way of character on Sunday at Old Trafford, they're going to have to dig deep to respond against Swansea. It just remains to be seen how deep the wounds inflicted by Marcus Rashford are, and whether the damage can be undone that quickly.

Andrew Mangan is owner and writer of the award-winning arseblog.com. You can follow him on Twitter @arseblog.

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