Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and Arsenal’s annual capitulation at Old Trafford. Ever since that infamous 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford on the 28th of August, Arsenal have visited OT 12 times including twice in the FA Cup. United have won 6 and Arsenal twice including that Danny Welbeck led FA Cup win. 1 win in 10 years at Old Trafford in the Premier League is not anything to be proud of. Today was no different in terms of scoreline at least.
3-1 looked a good value for the Red Devils, who now make it 4 wins on the bounce ending Arsenal’s 5.
From Arsenal’s perspective, this was a lost opportunity to amend the usual struggles. However, this felt a little different than past years losses or even wins. When Arsenal won at old Trafford via an Aubameyang penalty it felt like Arsenal got out of the cage. Today though, despite the defeat, Arsenal were better on paper. Had 61% possession and created more chances and looked threatening all afternoon.
Sometimes, goals change games, other times, the goals that get disallowed. That superb Martinelli strike would have completely changed the game. Would have made United up the ante and move away from their familiar counter attacking football. Arsenal still showed resilience coming back from a goal down but a few mistakes costed the gunners. Arteta has plenty to take back to the Emirates despite the defeat. Still top of the table and a cushion for that 4th place, their primary goal. Expectations have soared in recent weeks but lets not forget this is still a team in progress and will have
As for United, what a turn around from where they were 3 weeks back. 4 game winning streak, climbing up the table, ahead of arch rivals and title contenders Liverpool and most importantly buying into Ten Hag’s philosophy & look like they have a clear system. United fans have gone through a lot last few years so this will have made their contingent a lot more optimistic for what’s to follow.
Here are a few talking points from the game.
- Resurgence of Marcus Rashford?
Marcus Rashford scoring a brace against Arsenal isn’t an unfamiliar sight. Question is, is this a major resurgence or a one off? Time will tell but this is a much needed confidence booster for a man in desperate need of goals not just for the ticket to Qatar but also his future at his boyhood club. His current deal expires at the end of this season with a team option for the following season. United will probably take the option just to protect his value.
Personally, this is a make or break year as he’s about to be 25 soon with ’supposed’ peak years ahead of him. Performances like this will definitely boost his cause. Last season, he had 6 goal contributions, with 4 goals. This year, he has 5 already with 3 goals. Sometimes he might wonder if he can play Arsenal every week.
As for his chances for a ticket to Qatar, chances are slim but he isn’t out of running yet. Southgate will probably take 3 strikers with Kane being the only one that’s assured of a place. Rashford will be contending with Ivan Toney, who scored a terrific hat trick this week. Callum Wilson is another probable who is injured right now. Rashford has that pace and energy that others don’t so he might be a wildcard pick come November.
2. Buying into Ten Hag’s system & a balanced XI
Usually the rebuild process is slow and frustrating at times. Ask Arteta.
Ten Hag is making this rebuild process very easy on the eye, though. Obviously new signings have made a difference but where were all these players last season. Guys like Bruno Fernandes, Diego Dalot etc. These players have definitely bought into ETH’s philosophy and they seem to give their best for the gaffer, something we have not seen in the recent past.
Also another thing that stands out this early in the rebuild is Ten Hag’s courage to change the team and experiment. He has not been afraid to make changes and gotten results. When I looked at the lineup, I was worried about United’s threat on the counter, they got pace and tenacity in that attacking third.
Problem with United recent has been the lack of balance in the XI. The midfield was bang average last year but more than anything they couldn’t find the combination that would work in the middle of the park. That seemed to have changed. I think the vital piece has been Christian Eriksen. He allows Bruno to be himself, a runner from midfield, having the freedom to take the risks. Eriksen needs a robust midfielder next to him. McTominay isn’t exactly that. Hence Casemiro. I like the fact that Ten Hag’s has not thrusted the Brazilian into the XI. He is slowly easing him in.
Positives, lots of positives for the Red half of Manchester.
3. Arteta’s substitutions
Plenty of praises for ETH but not so much for Mikel Arteta when it comes to ringing the changes. This is not based on today only. Yeah he does not have as good of a depth as other big teams but as a fan, you’d expect some sort of excitement when a substitution is about to happen. I have not had that with this Arsenal team in a while. Arteta’s subs, or the timing of it does not get you out of your seat. He’s more reactive than proactive. Would love to see him be more aggressive.
Other than that, the gameplan was decent, execution was not. He has earned the rights to be given a pass due to his start to the season.
4. Antony & Purchasing Power
Antony, United’s latest mega money signing would have gone to bed last night dreaming about scoring on his debut and he obliged, becoming the youngest Brazilian debutant to score in the PL. He is also the 100th Brazilian player in the PL. At this rate, 2nd hundred will take way less than 30 years.
Antony, Ten Hag and United’s recruitment team will go to bed happy. However, there are going to be games physically tougher than this, trips to the likes of Stoke on a cold rainy day. That will determine how Antony fits in. As for now, job done.
Purchasing power of United is much much more than Arsenal as seen during the window. Arsenal cannot afford failures when it comes to the market(check Pepe). United meanwhile can take risks and if any of their signings doesn’t hit, they can and will go back to the market with that purchasing power. Problem in recent years, the hit rate has been low. Looks like its about to change.
5. Losers: Cristiano Benchnaldo & Gabriel
Cristiano Ronaldo was on the bench for the 4th game running, with United winning all of them. With he world cup coming up, Europa League might be Ronaldo’s chance of staying match fit. He has kind of come to terms with being benched, showing positive body language and his social media posting the right things. But for how long? This is a tough time for the all time great. We have discounted him before, haven’t we?
As for Arsenal, I cannot stress enough about Gabriel’s ineptitude. He seems very un Brazilian like when he’s on the ball. Always has an error on him. Great guy and a player but you don’t know when he’s gonna make a mistake. While he has scored 8 goals in 64 PL games, great return for a center half, his tackle success rate is 61%. He has had quite a few errors leading to goal as well. Either Arteta has to pair Saliba with White or be in Gabriel’s ear.
VAR took center stage this weekend with plenty of embarrassing decisions. The Premier League quality in terms of players and financial muscle is Mount Everest whereas the refereeing level is your local man made mountain capable of tumbling down anytime.
While the technology is great, the implementation in so called best league in the world could be a lot lot better.