Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United
- We scored so very early and that was of course a bonus. What was really good is that Arsenal did not put the foot off the gas after Tavares’ tap in. Yet being a goal up in a tense fixture can take a toll on our concentration levels and we gave Manchester United just too much space between the lines. This gave them a chance to get into the game. Elneny and Xhaka played well again but the connection between midfield and defence was missing, allowing the Mancs to get the ball around our box far too easily and leading to too many half decent chances for them.
- Yet Arsenal produced the better football and chances with Eddie being in the right place twice in short succession. The Ode produced his magic between a sea of Manc defenders and he and Saka were the real difference between the two teams. Saka’s pen was convincing and one of the four shots that made the difference on the day.
- Our left side in attack was almost none existent. You could tell that Xhaka was reluctant to play the ball to the left with both ESR and especially Tavares lacking the confidence and ball tightness so needed to be effective. Bruno is such a raw Eboue-esque talent. His running is beautiful to watch and his desire is a joy too, but Tavares has a lot too learn in all aspects of the game. His fellow players are still getting used to him and they lack confidence in him, so for now a different left back solution seems necessary (Soares?). Yet we’ll done Arteta for not sacrificing him to the crowd.
- Understandbly, after the game at the Bridge we lacked the energy to close our opponent down and from such a situation we allowed Ronaldo to score. It was poor play by us all round and it allowed the Mancs to regain their belief that they could get something from this game. On our left side we gave away too much space for shots and runs into the box and only by luck did we not concede more goals from that area.
- The start of the second half was for the Mancs. They had us in a spell it seemed. It was only a matter of time for them to get equal and they had the greatest opportunity to do so when we conceded a very poor penalty. The second key shot of the game was Fernandes’ frivolous attempt to convert the penalty. The jester hit the outside of the post and the home of football erupted with relief and collective schadenfreude. Saka’s pen was so much better and this was one of the difference makers in the game.
- Yet the Mancs kept coming and we just couldn’t control the game. Although Elneny played a tidy game, we were now missing Partey’s ability to enforce our midfield badly. Arteta put on Martinelli for ESR but that did not help much. Then comes the third key shot of the game, one that I did not understand straight away. Soares conceded a foul and Granit kicks the ball high into the stands. “Stupid!” the reporter said and I agreed. Xhaka gets carded and we all say typical Granit. Yet after I watched the game again I noticed how this was the moment from which the game changed for Arsenal again. We started to keep and pass the ball much better and for the first time in a while started to create chances again. Xhaka’s crazy kick seemed to have signalled something to the team; his card seemed to have taken a bit of pressure out of the game. Maybe it wasn’t such a stupid thing to do after all?! Maybe it even was done deliberately: one for the team so to speak?
- Five minutes after his yellow card, Xhaka produced the fourth key shot of the game. It was a howitzer reminiscent of Arteta’s screamer many years ago v Man City. It was just what the team and supporters needed: nothing is more enjoyable than a long distance, decisive goal late on in the game in a pivotal match. Granit delivered and the crowd showed him their love. For once he was our undisputed hero (how he was not picked as MotM by that airhead McManaman is beyond me).
- Arteta used his insurance policy to see out the game by bringing on Holding, who is just perfect for the role of shoring up our defence late on. All, in, all, we rode our luck and it could have finished differently but there is no doubt the team gave their all. And what more could you wish for? We need to remain focused on OGAAT. Don’t look back or around us, don’t predict how many points we and others will win or drop: the only goal is getting three points from the Hammers this weekend. The rest is out of our hands and distracting. Focus, focus, focus; OGAAT, OGAAT, OGAAT!!!!