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  • By Alessandro Schiavone at OId Trafford

Arsenal aren't flat-track bullies despite 3-1 loss at Man United. Here, five things we learned


By Alessandro Schiavone at OId Trafford, Manchester


What have we learned about Arsenal in their 3-1 reversal at Manchester United which ruined their 100 per cent start to the season?


Flat-track bullies? No


One defeat won’t blemish the Gunners’ immaculate five-game winning run. Pacesetters they were before the 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford. And they are still at the summit of the table heading into the new week, albeit three points at Old Trafford would have seen Mikel Arteta’s side extend their lead to four points.


Despite their best efforts, one can only wonder how this game would have panned out had Gabriel Martinelli’s goal stood with the scores still level. It clearly had a detrimental effect on the way Arsenal wanted to play and their morale. Going 1-0 up is one thing. Having to play catch-up on away soil is yet another as caution suddenly sets in and their initial game plan has to be rethought and tweaked.


But it’s worth noting that after dispatching teams with lower ambitions and that are likely to be fighting for survival come April such as Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth, Fulham and Aston Villa, the Gunners have failed their first major exam against a direct Champions League rival. And unsurprisingly so, having picked up only 9 points from a possible 30 against top-six rivals a season ago which resulted in them missing out on this year’s Champions League. It was clear that United would always provide tougher examination than their previous opponents. But despite being beaten, they can take a lot of positives from yesterday’s encouraging performance. They created a lot of chances and two of the goals they conceded came through individual errors. Rectifiable. Arteta can be proud because his young men have created more than the hosts. and ‘looked’ Ten Hag’s side in the ‘eyes’ for large parts of the game. But football is defined by small margins and they didn't get them right. Man United struck first, at their technical nadir, when Arsenal were on top. That was the defining moment from which they recovered once. But not a second time. And the game looked over even before Rashford doubled his tally. Yet if Arsenal play like in the closing stages of the first half and beginning of the second, they will rack up more than nine from their next 27 against the English elite.


More than 196 miles between Manchester and North London


Old Trafford and Emirates Stadium may only be 196 miles apart but in terms of taking their chances Man United and Arsenal were worlds apart today.


Arsenal really let their manager down royally in front of goal as a flurry of scorable chances went begging. First through William Saliba who sliced his effort. Then Martinelli was TWICE denied by David De Gea who pulled off a trademark save with his boot at the near post minutes after shutting up shop with a textbook reflex save from the Brazilian’s header. Old Watford foe Troy Deener would probably let rip at Arsenal and accuse the players of lacking ‘cojones’. There was no doubt that in pure footballing terms the Gunners were a bunch of Mister Nice Guys. Later in the game, Martin Odegaard scuffed a good chance after an excellent cutback by Jesus before Saka blasted an effort across the face of goal, despite having time and space to guide it goalwards.


Arsenal scored once, from a total of 16 attempts. In contrast, Man United buried half of their six shots on targets. All of a sudden Holloway Road and Sir Matt Busby Way look as remotely as China and Argentina. So close, yet so far.


It won’t always be this easy for Antony


Zinchenko must have felt the tension more than anyone, barring of course fellow ex-Man City star Gabriel Jesus. Not that the Ukraine international looked unsettled. But he wasn’t his usual confident and rampaging self once Arsenal trailed because of his poor positioning.


A good start to the game, in which he limited Man United’s £82.2 signing Antony to long-range efforts and back passes down the right flank, was marred by some wayward defending which resulted in the ex-Ajax star’s opening goal. Why doubling up on Marcus Rashford, with William Saliba already marking him, instead of closing down Antony at the far post?


If anyone wondered whether Antony was overpriced, overpaid or even overrated, Zinchenko played an instrumental role in removing these doubts. For now . In fact the Ukrainian eased a lot of pressure on the new Brazil arrival’s 22-year-old shoulders. Scoring on your debut often shows what direction your career at a club is taking. But not always of course. Because Romelu Lukaku also opened his account for Chelsea against the Red Devils. And we all know now that that moment of glory was a flash in the pan.



Key duels went United’s way


Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen clearly outplayed their Gunners counterparts Granit Xhaka, Odegaard and Sambi Lokonga. The Scotsman, in particular, is doing all he can do keep Casemiro on the bench. Overrun in midfield, second-best in winning second balls and outshone in transition with Man United exploiting the huge gaps and space in behind, Arsenal floundered. But one question arises: with Rashford in the form of his life after a tough season, why did Arteta instruct his defence to move so high up the pitch? Sancho and Rashford are fleet-footed players who had shown at Leicester that hurting on the break was their new weapon of choice. Add Antony to that and Man United's quick way of breaking and think were tools Arsenal couldn't cope with on the break. Fernandes slipped a wonderful ball into space for Rashford to latch on to before he got the better of Ramsdale. The Portuguese repeated the feat for United’s third when he picked out Eriksen into space. And the Dane gave the ball to Rashford to round off a perfect afternoon. The way Arsenal defended is unacceptable at this level. High risks doesn't always yield high rewards. And this was always going to end in tears.




Resignation


Arsenal controlled tempo and territory in the opening exchanges of the second period. But after falling behind in the 66th minute, the writing was on the wall. Pendulum and momentum had swung in Man United’s way. But there was still a quarter of the game to go, though. Yet it looked like there was a resignation, almost an acceptance that the game was over. This leads us to think that despite sitting on top of the league, the gap with City is still palpable. Guardiola’s men love nothing more than coming from behind with the odds stacked against them and time ticking away. That’s a challenge they embrace, not run away from. In the end it’s all in the mind. And despite having come a long way in the last three years, Arsenal still don’t have the spirit of a big English gun, despite their name. And there’s a reason why Gabriel Jesus, for all the talent he has, was sold to make way for Erling Haaland. Arsenal aren’t City and the Brazilian, quiet yesterday, isn’t the Norwegian who has already hit double figures in the league. Six games in.

1 comentario


Christopher Loum
Christopher Loum
05 sept 2022

Arsenal played really well but some individual players take long to decide on to release the ball, there was too much individual playing time in the pitch yesterday compared to team play. We pick up the piece and move

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