Across the entire Arsenal team, from playing staff to the coaching department, only a very small handful can leave Old Trafford feeling inculpable for the defeat. Mikel Arteta is not one of them.
Six games against the Red Devils without defeat in the Premier League had been like unexpected Russian dolls. Winning one here and drawing another one there against a side who’ve inflicted so much misery on Arsenal for a number of years, the eventual final doll was due at some stage.
It shouldn’t have been on Thursday night. There was definitely room to pop another doll out of the set. Instead it felt like the team left one in the cupboard and forgot to pack them all in. This was all of their own doing.
Which is where the manager comes into it.
4 tactical errors Mikel Arteta made as Arsenal lost 3-2 to Manchester United in the Premier League
He isn’t solely to blame, though. Far from it. Unforgivable individual errors and a collectively poor defensive showing played their part. So too this King Kong sized monkey on the team’s back that sees them retreat into their shells as soon as they score a goal like they’ve got no balls left in a game of dodgeball.
With the table looking favourably down on Arsenal ahead of the Old Trafford trip, to come away feeling this frustrated indicates how much the game was there for the taking.
It was Arsenal’s to lose even before a ball was kicked.
Now left to stew over the remnants of another failed venture to the north west, next up for Arsenal is, well, another venture to the north west. As the team reflects on what went wrong, the manager has to look at himself and think likewise. He made tactical errors on the night that contributed to defeat.
1. Starting Mohamed Elneny Over Sambi Lokonga
It’s one of those hero decisions. If it goes in your favour you’re heralded as some tactical genius, but see it fail before your eyes and the knives will be out.
Worth noting first of all is that Mohamed Elneny did fine against United. He was, quite simply, Mohamed Elneny. You know exactly what you’re going to get with him and as far as judging him on that alone, he did a decent enough job.
There was energy, commitment and ball retention. While he recorded the second best passing accuracy of the Arsenal players, in classic Elneny style only one of those was deemed progressive. He is vanilla. Boring and entirely ineffective outside of his own half.
The issue isn’t that he was Arsenal’s problem, it was that he wasn’t the solution.
Sambi Lokonga had just come off the back of a superb outing against Newcastle, a game he was given the chance to play in to react from his Anfield woes. He, like Nuno Tavares who still got the nod, did so brilliantly.
Where is the invention, the positivity, the conviction? Manchester United are world class panoply of players combining to form an average team. They were there to be got at and seeing Arsenal control the match for large spells as they did was crying out for someone of Sambi’s progressive nature. His passing is braver and he can carry towards the opposition goal as opposed to his own.
It was a decision that screamed of negativity. Doing all the preparation ahead of the game, at some point it must have stood out that United’s midfield is woeful and they’re easy to play through. Basic analysis.
Fielding someone who will never play through and only around was a decision shrouded in fear.
Continued on next page…