This ones stings. It’s going to sting for a while. Suffering their fifth defeat of the season, of all the losses so far, this one cuts deepest. Arsenal leave Old Trafford wondering about the great ‘what if’.
At this point of the campaign, despite all the talk about taking it one game at a time, the fixtures are often looked at in clusters. Consecutive away trips to Manchester United and Everton over the course of five days was such an instance.
Would anyone have taken four points? Most probably, yes. Sadly, those aspirations can quickly be put to bed as Arsenal fell to a 3-2 defeat on Thursday night. A loss all of their own doing.
Emile Smith Rowe smartly gave the Gunners the lead with a well-taken volley, one that David de Gea couldn’t get anywhere near as he was busy feigning injury after his own player trod on his foot. It was a remarkable goal, one that will feature on all the highlight reels.
Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal: 4 positives from Premier League defeat at Old Trafford for Mikel Arteta’s side as Ronaldo scores double
The infuriating inferiority complex that cripples this football team reared its ugly head once again as Arsenal dropped off as many yards as they could, with United’s possession dominance paying dividends as some slack marking saw Bruno Fernandes sweep home.
There was some more of that after the break for Cristiano Ronaldo’s first, even if it was only briefly a lead as Martin Odegaard smartly tucked home less than two minutes later.
Fancying the role of pantomime villain, the Norwegian clumsily felled Fred to allow Ronaldo to score his brace from the penalty spot. An avoidable defeat against an average team. That’s what hurts the most.
But we’re here to find light in the darkness. After all, Arsenal are still fifth and just a point off the top four (which can be mostly forgotten about based on such performances), and if it’s all about the negatives then it’s going to be a tough weekend to get through. Always look on the bright side of life, eh?
Here are the positives from Old Trafford.
1. Team Preparation & Structure Off the Ball
How a team prepares for a match says a lot about the manager’s eye for detail and the group’s mentality. Judging Arsenal off that alone, they’ve come a long way.
Not knowing what approach Manchester United would adopt as they dance between styles and were preparing for a new coach to come in and inject his own ideas, the way Arsenal set up for the game was excellent. The structure of the 4-4-2 out of possession was superb, the triggers for the press cleverly pre-meditated and United could not build in the way they wanted.
It was vital that Arsenal got stuck in from the first whistle, frustrated their opponents and quietened the crowd. They did just that. Harry Maguire was left throwing his hands up in the air begging for options on the ball, and every pass into a forward was met with a defender right up behind them.
Everyone knew their roles and carried them out brilliantly, with the wide areas, particularly on the right where Takehiro Tomiyasu was brilliant, offering United no joy. For large spells in the first half they were limited to pot shots from distance.
That is, of course, until the 20th minute came around and Arsenal reverted to form with the inexplicable decision to sit off and abandon all adventure on the ball.
Looking at it strictly from a preparation standpoint though, in terms of how the team set up, it was impressive.
Continued on next page…