Manchester United vs. Arsenal: Talking Points For Arsene Wenger's Team After Their 2-1 Defeat At Old Trafford

Arsenal were brushed aside by Manchester United at Old Trafford, more comfortably than the 2-1 score line would suggest.  The main talking points from the defeat for Arsenal, involve the implications for their top four status and the jaded psychology of the current squad.

Arsenal's Top Four Hopes In Serious Doubt

Arsenal's place as a perennial resident in the English Premier League's top four, is now under serious threat. The lucrative entry into the UEFA Champions League that a top four finish guarantees, has been vital for Arsenal, both financially and in terms of prestige.

Regular participation in Europe's premier competition, at least maintains Arsenal's status as a top club. However illusory that status actually is, it is important in helping Arsenal attract top-tier players to help rebuild a squad still in need of additional quality.

Arsenal now have just 15 points from 10 league matches. Worse still, just two points separate the Gunners from 11th place. Everton and North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur arguably possess strength and depth on a par with Arsene Wenger's men and are looking better prospects for fourth place.

Arsenal No Longer Legitimate Competitors For Chelsea And The Manchester Clubs

Speaking of Everton and Tottenham, they along with Newcastle United, are now Arsenal's closest competitors. Today's defeat to United, along with September's reverse against Chelsea, shows that Arsenal can no longer be taken seriously as legitimate contenders at the top of the Premier League.

It's a disappointing and alarming drop in status, but Arsenal are now in that bracket just outside the league's elite. Still a top-tier team, Arsenal are simply competing to be the best of the rest, while Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs likely scoop the major honours.

Today's drab and rather tame encounter with the Red Devils at Old Trafford, perfectly illustrates the point. In years past, clashes against United and Chelsea were the games that defined Arsenal's season and their chances for trophies.

This season it will be games against Spurs, Everton and Newcastle that decide the Gunners' fate.

This Arsenal Squad Is Playing Scared

Arsenal's sluggish passing against United, showed that the squad is still badly jaded after recent defeats to Norwich City and Schalke 04. It was uncharacteristic of a Wenger-coached team to lack ideas and confidence as much as they did at Old Trafford.

Arsenal have lost the bold swagger and flair that epitomizes their trademark creativity and verve in attack. As disturbing as it was to see, Wenger's men played more not to lose against United, rather than being daring enough to push for openings and force goals.

Wenger must encourage some confidence in misfiring strikers Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. He must also ensure that his midfielders, led by Santi Cazorla's obvious quality, are brave enough to use their technical proficiency to dominate games.

Wenger can't ignore the issues further emphasized by the defeat to United. He now faces a major challenge to salvage Arsenal's campaign.