If there can be one mark on Arsenal’s record this season, it must surely be the 3-1 away defeat to Manchester United. As of the 22nd of January, it remains Arsenal only defeat in the Premier League this season – something Mikel Arteta and his players would no doubt be eager to put right.
Armed with new signing Leandro Trossard and fresh off doing the double over Tottenham Hotspur in the north London derby, Mikel Arteta’s side were ready to set the record straight.
Arsenal, typically, started ferociously. Mikel Arteta’s men were all over Manchester United in the opening exchanges and created a wide array of chances, though nothing that really tested goalkeeper, David de Gea.
It was, therefore, a very strange sight to see as Manchester United took the lead through Marcus Rashford. The in-form England international danced his way past Arsenal’s laborious midfield and rifled an excellent long-range effort into the bottom corner, beating Aaron Ramsdale, who perhaps should have done better.
United reveled in their spoiling of Arsenal’s party, but their own didn’t last long. Some questionable playing out from the back from United led to Arsenal pressing high and forcing a corner.
Arsenal’s well-worked short corner allowed Granit Xhaka acres of space to cross the ball into the back-post as the hapless Aaron Wan-Bissaka could only watch on in dismay as Eddie Nkietiah headed the hosts level.
If the first-half was a relatively even contest, the second was the very definition of one-way traffic.
Manchester United simply couldn’t get near Arsenal and the home side pressed their advantage.
Arsenal soon found themselves out in front through a truly spectacular long-range effort from Bukayo Saka, which rivalled Rashford’s first-half effort. A truly mesmeric strike that showed the quality the Hale End youth product has in his locker.
But Arsenal’s euphoria, like Manchester United’s in the first-half, was short-lived.
A poorly-defended corner was not well cleared enough and Lisandro Martínez, Arsenal’s main summer target, headed in from the edge of the penalty area, with Gabriel Magalhães helpless to keep it out.
From there, Arsenal pushed and pushed for a winner, but their chances just came to nothing. David de Gea, in particular produced a stunning save to deny Eddie Nketiah.
The introduction of Leandro Trossard for the tired Gabriel Martinelli gave Arsenal fans a glimpse of their brand new signing.
Trossard looked lively and had some very deft and controlled touches on him throughout the half.
One final throw of the dice beckoned.
Oleksandr Zinchenko burst forward, as he had done all game, and sliced the ball into the Manchester United penalty area, which was then helped on by Martin Ødegaard.
Everything, after that, seemed to happen in slow motion.
Eddie Nketiah threw a leg out and connected with the loose ball, and watched as it bobbled into the back of the Manchester United net to give Arsenal the winning goal.
A lengthy VAR check proceeded, but Arsenal were in luck as the goal was given.
Soon after, Arsenal were given the final whistle as their prize and sprinted away with all three points, with Erik ten Hag left stunned as to how his team had managed to, once again, throw points away in the dying embers of successive matches.
Sunday’s game showed, if nothing else, a glimpse into the “never say die” fighting spirit of Mikel Arteta’s squad. Liverpool and Manchester City have, in the past, been accused of never knowing when they’re beat, and Arsenal seem to be emulating that.
There were stunning performances all round, but the plaudits must surely go to Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
When Gabriel Jesus’ injury was announced, Arsenal fans seemed to wince at the thought of Eddie Nketiah taking the Brazilian’s place, but Nketiah has been nothing short of stunning since replacing the former-Manchester City man. His two goals were a show of supreme quality, impeccable self-confidence and a real poacher’s instinct.
Bukayo Saka, on the other hand, had Luke Shaw scared all night. The Arsenal youngster caused the Manchester United left-back to back-off all game, allowing Saka space to create chances and his goal was surely a bet for Goal of the Month.
However, few stood apart as much as Oleksandr Zinchenko. Zinchenko, who is often the pinnacle of passion for the side on and off the pitch, was everywhere all game and, had it not been for the goals of the aforementioned duo of Nketiah and Saka, would surely have walked away with the Man of the Match trophy. Manchester United simply couldn’t handle him in midfield and were at a complete loss as to how to track him.
Now, attention turns to other, more pressing matters. Polish defender Jakub Kiwior is due to be announced as an Arsenal player imminently, while headway continues to be made in the transfer market.
For now, Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff will turn their attentions to the trip to Manchester City in the FA Cup on Friday.
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White (Tomiyasu 45’)
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko
5.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c) (Holding 93’)
7.) Bukayo Saka
11.) Gabriel Martinelli (Trossard 82’)
14.) Eddie Nketiah
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
3.) Kieran Tierney
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
21.) Fábio Vieira
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
19.) Leandro Trossard
Manchester United team:
1.) David de Gea
29.) Aaron Wan-Bissaka
19.) Raphaël Varane (Garnacho 91’)
6.) Lisandro Martínez
23.) Luke Shaw
39.) Scott McTominay
14.) Christian Eriksen
21.) Antony (Fred 70’)
8.) Bruno Fernandes (c)
10.) Marcus Rashford
27.) Wout Weghorst
Manchester United subs:
22.) Tom Heaton
2.) Victor Lindelöf
5.) Harry Maguire
12.) Tyrell Malacia
73.) Kobbie Mainoo
36.) Anthony Elanga
28.) Facundo Pellistri
49.) Alejandro Garnacho