Miserable March continues for Wenger and his Gunners

Arsenal need no reminder of their six-year trophy drought and, with a 2-0 loss to United, three of their four hopes this season have slipped in a fortnight.

Javier Hernandez of Manchester United looks on as Manuel Almunia of Arsenal saves his header but the ball rolled into the path of Fabio Da Silva to score the opening goal.  Clive Mason / Getty Images
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The latest addition to the scenery at Old Trafford has been unfurled at the Stretford End, separating the upper and lower tier of the stands, sitting fittingly where a banner saluting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer long did.

"Giggs, tearing you apart since 1991", reads the latest tribute. Almost alongside the acclaim is the ticking taunt, the reminder to Manchester City that it is 35 years since their last piece of meaningful silverware.

In a similar vein, a week ago, there was a chorus of "21 years" at Anfield: Liverpool, as any self-respecting Manchester United fan knows, have not won the title since 1990.



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For Arsenal, the unwanted reminders are neither visual nor aural. The number is equally obvious though. It is six years since a trophy was captured, six years in which Arsenal have moved to the Emirates Stadium, a ground they have adorned with a chronological list of trophies they have secured. It has remained undisturbed since they moved in.

Now, after a ruinous two weeks, the chances are that the drought will be extended into a seventh season. Four has become one, a Carling Cup final defeat and elimination from the Champions League followed by an FA Cup exit at Old Trafford.

Only the Premier League remains and the chants by United fans suggested that, too, will elude them.

Arsenal's inability to end their wait can be attributed to a mental frailty, the lack of a top-class goalkeeper or a reluctance to spend heavily on defenders and defensive midfielders.

Just as significant, however, is the bad spell that is almost an annual event. If April is supposed to be the cruellest month, it is the preceding weeks that tend to damage Arsene Wenger's team most.

Demanding fixtures and depleted teams are a toxic combination, one with a tendency to finish off Arsenal. United can cite similar problems, but this constituted renewed proof of their capacity to extricate themselves from a sticky situation; there was no hat-trick of defeats for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, and they may yet capture a fourth double of the Scot's reign.

Their age-old resilience and resourcefulness were in evidence again. Arsenal can reflect upon the misfortune of a draw that handed them the most unenviable tie going, yet this was an opportunity.

An injury at the Emirates Stadium? United saw that and raised with two of their own. And then Ferguson kept Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov in reserve.

So, on paper, Arsenal's was the stronger side: Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri are proven match-winners, the Da Silva brothers fledging full-backs employed out of position; Abou Diaby and Denilson are specialists in the centre of midfield, and Jack Wilshere a precocious talent, whereas United fielded the unconvincing Darron Gibson and the odd-job man John O'Shea.

Yet they emerged triumphant. United lacked Rio Ferdinand, Nani and anyone who remotely resembles a top-class central midfielder, but they had the adventurous, attack-minded Da Silvas, the buccaneering Wayne Rooney and the ageless acrobat Edwin van der Sar.

Arsenal had more shots on goal and a recuperative neatness on the ball after Barcelona limited them to an unprecedented 24 percent of possession.

Yet the telling statistics favoured United; the scorers of two goals to none find a way to win games. The accusation levelled at Arsenal is familiar; too often, they do not.

The suggestions that tend to be proffered are hackneyed, too: spend, spend, spend. Wenger has a level of obstinacy that is familiar among top managers; part strength, part weakness, it is wholly typical.

Yet ignoring sweeping generalisations about the restorative effect of money - had Wenger become a shopaholic last summer, would a roadblock have been erected in front of Wilshere's path to the first team? - obvious scope for improvement exists.

Denilson's youthful promise is going unfulfilled, and he is no substitute for Alex Song. The chant "We've only got one Song" is both amusing and sadly apt. The defence, too, can lack a leader, its modern-day Tony Adams, especially in the extended absence of Thomas Vermaelen.

Tomas Rosicky, who illuminated Old Trafford five years ago with a virtuoso display, has turned ineffectuality into an art form.

Criticisms can be levelled, too, at the United squad, but the prospect of lifting a trophy can deflect from failings. And success is as much of a constant as the 37-year-old on the left flank. Because, in Giggs' two decades of service, United have never gone two successive seasons without winning something. How Arsenal wish they could say that.