The Arteta-train is gaining momentum: Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United
Eight observations from a thoroughly deserved win at the veritable home of football:
- We have now played two rivals for a top four position this season in succession, and in both cases we have controlled the game for large parts. Gone are the days of presenting our defence as a shooting range and stretching ourselves like a curly-wurly all over the pitch; we now play like a snickers bar: compact, solid with togetherness and commitment. Oh how we have longed for this and how Arteta is already delivering it! The Mancs had no way through at all; their triangles were disturbed constantly and our wings were sealed hermetically: they were denied space and thus looked very ordinary. Well done Arteta and team!
- The pairing of Torreira and Xhaka was key: they were tidy as the most dedicated house husbands. Torreira was in his elements with his aspiradora sucking up every bit of space and any ‘ball crumbs’ and, next to him, Xhaka mobbed up everything and sprayed round passes as he pleased. Together they were awesome – perfectly suited to do all the dirty work with smiles on their faces!
- As a result of this extreme tidiness, our defence were able to stay calm and organised throughout the game. Rather than relying too much on Xhaka to make the forward passes, it was David Luiz aka our new Ronald Koeman who made a number of fine ‘libero’ diagonal passes to our wings, with especially the Kola-Auba partnership profiting from this. Luiz was in his element in this team set-up and played his best game for Arsenal so far.
- But David was not the only defender worthy of the highest praise. I also saw a fab performance by Big Sok, possibly his best in an Arsenal shirt, and my MOTM. Sokratis read the game well and made some fine and decisive interceptions in the game, and then there was his goal. The most ‘outwardly calm’ player on the pitch was the first to respond to Lacazette’s fast flick-on ball from Pepe’s corner; the ball pinballed in the box and Big Sok’s boot was first to make a decisive connection… and the net took the full blow!! To get that second goal before half time was priceless and vital for our victory.
- A good team starts with eleven hard workers, especially in the Premier League – and we indeed had 11 hard ‘slaving’ Gunners against those ‘black devils’ on the pitch yesterday. But cunning and guile are also required and for that we need players like Auba, Laca, Ozil and Pepe. Don’t get me wrong: they worked very hard to support the midfield and deny the Mancs’ midfielders any space, but they also added the extra dimension: Ozil glided over the pitch with close ball control and sharp link-up passes; Laca was a thorn in Macquire’s site and created space for others all game long, and; Auba gave us a very strong left wing (together with the rejuvenated Kola).
- But extra praise has to go to Pepe who imposed himself on the game with a strong and determined performance, much benefiting from the support of both Ozil and the quietly impressive AMN on the right wing. I would like him to burst through the defensive line along a the flank a bit more, but Sexy Super Nic was a constant threat for us and added that much needed extra dimension to our attacking play. He was at the right place at the right time for his first goal – and he seemed to anticipate this – and he was very close to a second with only the post denying his very well placed shot from outside the ‘D’. I also like his energetic self-pumping-up exercise before he takes corners.
- We came under a bit more pressure in the second half but the boys worked hard for that clean sheet and deserved it. I think it was also important to keep Ozil on the pitch and add two other players who can keep hold of the ball in tight areas: Saka and Nelson. Kola and Pepe had done very well for us but got tired in the second half, so bringing on our finest youngsters made sense: they both helped with releasing the pressure and see out the game with relative calm.
- My final observation is for our Bernd. Leno denied the Mancs any space behind our defenders and made some vital interceptions, but I also liked his fist-clearances from set-pieces; after his painful mistake against the Chavs it was important to overcome his fears and that is just what he did. Leno’s ball-distributions are a work in progress but his in and around box-presence was very impressive.