Manchester United and Arsenal played out a 1-1 draw in a Premier League clash at Old Trafford on Sunday, a result which means the Gunners are all but guaranteed third place in the division.
Arsenal have two matches left as opposed to United's one and lead the Red Devils by two points. Combined with their superior goal difference, a draw in one of their final two matches hands the Gunners a guaranteed spot in next year's Champions League, while Louis van Gaal's side will in all likelihood have to come through a qualifier.
Some of the most memorable matches in the history of the Premier League included these two sides, but Sunday's clash was far from a classic and was bereft of much quality.
Nevertheless, some interesting inferences can be drawn…
1. Arsenal are in desperate need for a pacey, yet skillful, front man. Olivier Giroud does a fine job when asked to lead the line and hold up play, which in turn allows runners from deep to drift into the opposing penalty box unmarked, but lacks in mobility. When Arsenal have the ball, which to be fair is the case more often than not, Giroud's relative lack of mobility is not really an issue. When Arsenal don't have the majority of the ball, like in some tough away matches, Arsene Wenger likes to set up his team to play on the counter, taking advantage of the abilities of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez to turn into space. What that attacking trio needs in these situations is a front man that can break away with them and run at the retreating defenders. Giroud is just not that man.
2. Man United, too, are in need of a striker but for different reasons. Robin van Persie seems way passed his best and the on-loan Radamel Falcao came to England with a strong reputation but has been largely ineffective. Wayne Rooney still features as often in midfield as he does up front. While Arsenal are in need of a specific kind of frontman – anyone of real quality will do for Van Gaal's team – largely because United is yet to really find their identity under the Dutchman.
3. That doesn't mean Van Gaal's influence isn't prevalent. One feature of their play throughout the season has been the ability to dominate possession, slow down the pace of the game and then quickly switch play to the other flank, often with a deep cross to the back post for the on-rushing Marouane Fellaini or Ander Herrara. As such it came as no surprise when the opening goal was carved out with exactly such a move, as the Belgian and the Spaniard both broke forward in search of a deep cross and the latter side-footed a one-touch finish past David Ospina in the Arsenal goal.
4. Walcott adds some venom to Arsenal's bite. Walcott may not be the striker Arsenal need, irrespective of what the former Southampton man thinks, but he still makes a significant contribution to the squad, if not the first XI. How exactly Walcott fits into Wenger's long-term plans remains to be seen, but it is undeniable that his ability to cut in from the right, at extreme pace, and ask questions of defenders is unmatched in the Arsenal squad. Predictably, the Arsenal equaliser came about from exactly such a move, albeit via the outstretched leg of Tyler Blackett.
5. Victor Valdes in goal a vision of United's future? Louis van Gaal was applauded for roping in former Barcelona 'keeper Victor Valdes on a free transfer as an able understudy to David de Gea, but perhaps that notion was misguided. De Gea's substitution and round of applause from the Old Trafford crowd gave one the impression that the young Spaniard is on his way out of Manchester, with Madrid's Bernebeu said to be his destination. Should De Gea leave, and who could begrudge him the chance to replace Iker Casillas in a return to the City of his birth, Valdes would be an experienced replacement but something of a downgrade who is yet to prove his fitness after spending 13 months on the sidelines with injury.