MANCHESTER UNITED VS ARSENAL: Ws AND Ls
It wasn’t a classic but Arsenal managed to pull off a sturdy 0-1 away win at Old Trafford, courtesy of a Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang penalty. This was Arsenal’s first away win against a team from the ‘Big 6’ since 2015 and you can’t say it wasn’t deserved. While Manchester United looked polar opposites of the side that annihilated RB Leipzig in the Champions League midweek, Mikel Arteta’s troops put in the kind of display that reinforces the belief that one must trust the process.
Here’s our Ws and Ls from an intense 90 mins of football.
Partey and Elneny might just be the answer
Thomas Partey’s biggest game yet in Arsenal colors and boy did he fare well. Breaking up the play in the center of the pitch and strong going forward, the Ghanaian already seems like a force to be reckoned with. Ever-present in the midfield, Partey put on a masterclass.
His partner in crime, Mohamed Elneny put in a shift too. A disciplined outing combined with an insatiable work-rate ensured that the Gunners had the 3 points in the bag on the trip away to Old Trafford. With Granit Xhaka missing out, the duo’s performance today may give Mikel Arteta some food for thought. Only positive of course.
Arsenal bossed it at the back
The best defensive away performance by the Gunners in a long time. There was much talk about the prospect of starting Shkodran Mustafi but a collective sigh of relief could be heard amongst the Arsenal fanbase when the teamsheet came out. Mikel Arteta has managed to convincingly stabilize the defence since he took over and it didn’t seem like they were playing against the same team that ravaged Leipzig a few days ago.
Barring a few hiccups initially when Marcus Rashford was troubling the defence, Arsenal were brilliant at the back. Rob Holding and Gabriel managed to keep the forwards at bay and were absolutely unplayable. You couldn’t complain about Kieran Tierney and Héctor Bellerín as well and a bonus to their displays was that they were combining excellently and their marauding runs down the flank with the pinpoint deliveries is exactly what the team needs. If all goes well, this defensive combination can do Arsenal absolute wonders.
Mikel Arteta: The man with a plan
Arsenal’s problems going forward aren’t a secret. With the absence of a figures like Santi Cazorla or in recent times, Mesut Özil running the show, the Gunners have struggled to create this season. However, this time around, there was a completely different approach with the wings being utilized effectively for a continuous supply of balls. If Arteta plans to use this gameplan further down the line, it can reap dividends as shown today, provided the finishing is effective and at least until an actual No.10 comes into the picture. The likes of Saka and Tierney thrived on the left, utilizing this as their go-to-weapon.
Playing out of the back with Xhaka or Elneny as the third centre-back and Partey moving forward is looking better and better with each passing game as well, at least from a defensive point of view. Arteta seems to be heading in the right direction with what he expects out of his team. Balance is key and the boss knows that.
Error 404: Manchester United’s Midfield Not Found
Manchester United’s talisman had a stinker and there’s no subtle way of putting it. The Red Devils have relied rather heavily on Bruno Fernandes’ payload ever since the Portuguese was signed in January. With 2 strikers up top and visibly no wing play, Fernandes was caught time and again.
Fred was definitely one of the bigger misses for United. Probably one of the first names on the teamsheet for Ole’s side, backed up by his stellar performances against Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in the Champions League, the Brazilian had a night to forget. An early yellow card, a series of missed passes along with a judgmental error that put Aubameyang through on goal was enough for Ole Gunnar Solskjær to replace him with Nemanja Matić at the hour mark. And forgetting Pogba’s schoolboy error of a challenge to foul the Gabonese international was beyond poor, especially in a contest of such huge proportions.
As it stands, Solskjær will be wary of playing a diamond formation anytime soon.
Donny van de Beek. Edinson Cavani. Juan Mata. Nemanja Matić.
This was Manchester United’s bench tonight. 1-0 down at home, thanks to a cheap foul given away by United’s record signing in Paul Pogba, Ole had to go all out. And if you look at Manchester United’s win over RB Leipzig earlier this week, Solskjaer would’ve been confident that his substitutes would leave a dent in Arsenal’s defense. That wasn’t the case to be.
United’s big arrivals, Cavani and Donny van de Beek were nowhere to be seen for the 20 odd minutes they were on the field. For the investment made, time and time again, the shocking recruitment comes back to become a talking point and here we are again.
The United-Arsenal rivalry is a thing of the past
“Maybe I was a bit out of breath from running before and it made me make the mistake.”
Not to be the typical football fan but if this statement from Paul Pogba doesn’t sum up the state of this age-old rivalry in 2020, what else does? The one thing that fans from both teams can agree on is that the rivalry and intensity of this game is lacking and this fixture has become like any other in the league. Going back to the Fergie-Wenger or Keane-Viera rivalries time and again doesn’t change things. And it isn’t just about the bust-ups that were frequent during the early 2000s but just the way the two teams approach the game in its essence. The days of fighting tooth and nail for the title has been reduced to a manual scavenge for goals between the two teams. Whichever way it is seen, statistically or in terms of the on0field antics of the players, the intensity has been at absolutely minimal and one can only hope that the good old days return.