Arsenal vs Manchester United Tactical Dissection

Ronnie Macdonald -Flickr Creative Commons
Ronnie Macdonald -Flickr Creative Commons /

Normally, tuning into a match 5 minutes late, you don’t miss much. Imagine my surprise and immediate joy when I turn on the television and see that Arsenal are up 1-0. Then we go up another 30 seconds after. I even had to think to myself, ‘what is gong on, am I watching a FIFA match?’

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Everything was going right, and my fellow Arsenal supporters and I realized, you can’t predict how our matches are going to go based off of who we are playing. It all depends on how our players show up… and we were untouchable.

Arsenal burst out of the gate, showcasing our blistering pace and movement going forward. All three goals came as a result of direct movement with our stars driving at the United defense. While I am tempted to rip on their defense as it is quite atrocious, today was all about Arsenal and what we could do.

Starting with Theo Walcott, I think that’s the best overall performance he’s had at striker for Arsenal. His movement is becoming essential to our every attack. The way he slips off the back shoulder of the center halfs when we are beginning to break spreads the entire back line and has the potential to create great 1 v 1 opportunities.

Furthermore, he showed a sense of composure and great decision-making on his assist to Mesut Ozil. He seemed as if he knew exactly what to do and knew where Ozil was going to be. Arguably the most interesting part of the day for Walcott was when he legitimately tracked back and won the ball for us, something he usually doesn’t take part in.

Someone who does take part in this and had a smashing day was our most focused and motivated player, Alexis. What goals, truly truly remarkable. The first, a piece of incredible intelligence and superb athleticism. The second, an absolute thunderbolt lashed into the top corner. His overall movement was key to Arsenal’s whole attack as he really stayed out wide and let the ball get worked in his direction. Contrary to the matches where we aren’t playing very well and he goes in search of the ball and attempts to force things. Everything was natural for him today.

For me however, this game wasn’t really about who won the tactics battle, it was all down to player performances and the stars doing their job. Boy, did two Arsenal players do this: Santi Cazorla and Ozil.

It’s easy to forget when Ozil signed that everyone assumed Santi would lose his place at Arsenal. This was even more true after Alexis came. What did Santi do to stay in the team? He transformed himself into a Xavi-like holding midfielder. He is so positive in possession and rarely, rarely, looses the ball. His first touch to create space and move out of pressure was top draw today. He danced around United players with both feet. He is the heartbeat of our midfield, but he also wins the ball back for us and is savvy in his defense positioning. A player with world-class ability and a true joy to watch.

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When looking for a player who is a joy to watch one can also look at the man who shut up many critics today with his goal and assist performance: Mesut Ozil. Confident, clean and controlled, Ozil was mesmerizing today, gliding around the pitch being the catalyst for many attacks. His goal showed great instinct and precision and his overall play was extremely encouraging.

Finally however, I feel it is absolutely necessary that I touch on two other Arsenal players: Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal. These two have arguably been our most consistent players this season as well as the tail end of last year. Not only do they work like savages defensively, being astute positionally, but they are so solid going forward. I don’t know another left back in the world besides Marcelo who has the technical ability that Monreal has, and I don’t think there is a right back with the pace of Bellerin either.

We’ve been blessed with a brilliant Sunday and I hope all you Gunners enjoy it because that match is why we watch football in the first place, for magic like that.

Next: The Player Ratings

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