The pundits have loved beating Arsenal with the stick of not having won away at a ‘big six’ team since a win over Man City in 2015.
Well, yesterday Mikel Arteta took that stick, snapped it across his knee and shoved it up their collective Arsenal are the best club in the world. Ahem.
The nice thing about our win at Old Trafford was that the three points were fully deserved. We dominated the first half, coped well in the first 15 minutes of the second half when a reorganised United tried to get into the match, reasserted control and then saw the game out comfortably after scoring our goal.
There were encouraging performances in all positions.
The players who most caught my eye were Gabriel, Partey, Elneny, Tierney and Saka. In the first half I was complaining about Willian losing possession too easily, but on the plus side he was heavily involved and his work off the ball was excellent.
Lacazette is not in the best of form, but he was better against United than he was against Leicester last weekend.
I’m not going to go into a blow-by-blow account of the game. My big picture takeaway is that throughout the entire 94 minutes we looked like a team in which every player knew his job and worked his socks off to do that job to the best of his ability.
We had shape, organisation and discipline – three characteristics that are becoming a hallmark of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.
And it’s El Patron on whom I most want to focus.
In his eight months in charge, Arteta has won a major trophy (FA Cup) and a minor one (Community Shield); he got us into Europe against the odds; he has brought us long-sought-after victories over all our major rivals: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United; and now he has ended the ‘can’t win away at the big six’ hoodoo.
He has given a real sense of “laying foundations” at Asrenal.
Right now we have the best defensive record in the EPL (our seven goals conceded is the best in the division) and if that comes at the cost of us not carrying enough of a goal threat, I’ll take that for now.
Under Emery and the later Wenger years we had the defensive resilience of a blancmange and it cost us time and time and time again.
So it is absolutely right that El Patron has made securing our defence his first priority. Get that right and we can build on the other things.
In fact, it reminds me of the early days of George Graham at Arsenal. The Scot arrived from Millwall at a time when Arsenal had been drifting for years and his first job was to make us hard to beat. He put his faith in a very young centre half – Tony Adams – and added players who would become defensive legends: Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, David Seaman, Steve Bould and Martin Keown.
Are we seeing the early stages of that with Arteta’s Arsenal? Despite the disappointment of the results against Leicester and Man City, we restricted both those very good teams to hardly any clear chances. We did the same to Man Utd.
This is encouraging. Very encouraging.
These are the sort of foundations from which we can build something very special.
Very little to do but made one good stop with his legs early on and, late on, improvised brilliantly to deflect a goal-bound ricochet onto the post with his face.
Much to like about Hector’ shift. Unspectacular but his tracking runs when United wide players were breaking were top class and saved us on a couple of occasions. And of course it was his run into the Man Utd box that led to our penalty.
A surprise start given his recent injury. Big Rob was solid all game and looked assured when we were playing out from the back.
Gabriel 9 (MoTM)
There were a few contenders for MoTM but Gabriel shades it for me. He looks like the sort of CB we have been needing for years. A very exciting addition to our side.
We almost take these sorts of performances for granted now from our young Scot. Tireless, excellent in defence and contributing well to attack.
Who would have guessed that mop-top Mo would turn into one of the sensations of our season so far? Always a tidy player, he seems to have added an extra layer of confidence. His short passing is as good as ever but he has added surging runs to his game too. Arteta the master of rehabilitation strikes again.
Close call for MoTM. He and Gabriel have given us a proper spine for the first time in years. Outstanding performance.
Always a threat, always available for the ball. He has become a reliable bona fide first team mainstay.
A busy outing. Was brushed off the ball too easily for my liking several times in the first half, but his work when we were not in possession was good and he was unlucky not to be on the scoresheet with a shot that hit the top of the crossbar.
Laca gets some unfair stick at times. He has a hard job to do trying to be an outlet in the CF position, usually receiving the ball with two or three players on him. But he was more effective yesterday than against Leicester and stopped Fred from fulfilling his usual role as a deep lying playmaker.
Unlucky not to get on the end of a Bellerin cross in the first half. Did not have many opportunities but took his penalty with aplomb.
Not many opportunities for Fast Eddie as we sat back to protect our lead.
Not long enough to assess.
Not long enough to assess.