Arteta Busts ‘Big Six’ Awayday Hoodoo: Man Utd Report & Player Ratings

A Mike Dean pen that went our way! Collector’s item

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.


Player Ratings

Leno                7

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.

Bellerin           7

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.

Holding           8

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.

Tierney            7.5

We almost take these sorts of performances for granted now from our young Scot. Tireless, excellent in defence and contributing well to attack.

Elneny             8

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.

Partey             8.5

Close call for MoTM. He and Gabriel have given us a proper spine for the first time in years. Outstanding performance.

Saka                7.5

Always a threat, always available for the ball. He has become a reliable bona fide first team mainstay.

Willian            6.5

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.

Lacazette        6.5

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.

Aubameyang  7

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.


Nketiah           6.5

Not many opportunities for Fast Eddie as we sat back to protect our lead.

Maitland-Niles   N/A

Not long enough to assess.

Mustafi   N/A

Not long enough to assess.


27 Responses to Arteta Busts ‘Big Six’ Awayday Hoodoo: Man Utd Report & Player Ratings

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    I was getting worried about you Rocky, but I can sense the positivity again. We are a work in progress under Arteta, he is breaking the bones and straightening them again. It takes time but yesterday we could see the outlines of his Mikel–Master plan. We had tactical and psychological dominance in midfield at the toilet pot and that, more than the result, is something to cherish. Keep the faith.

  2. Sue says:

    Mike Dean had the same number of interceptions as Fred and McTominay 🤣🤣 Glory, glory Man United, my arse!!! 🤣

  3. Pete the Thirst says:

    Fantastic performances from Gabriel and Partey ably supported by Elneny.

    It’s nice to have 2 signings that have made such an improvement to the team so quickly. Not something we are used to of recent times.

    That Luiz, Mustafi & Xhaka didn’t play contributed to our discipline. The further away from the team these guys are the better imo.

  4. RA says:

    Good Morning, Gentle Folk, 😁

    I struggled to give your excellent Post the credit it deserves, because Sue was glorying about Man United with a part of the anatomy not normally used for that purpose.

    A determination to lay waste to Utd steadied the ship, and I have managed to get my thoughts together.

    I heard it mentioned on the radio that it was a boring game, by someone who should know better, but leaving that aside, the whole team settled into the disciplined, play and pass tactical set up introduced to Arsenal by Mikel.

    I have been worried that the manager’s decision to play out from the goal line, when necessary, would be our undoing, but the confidence with which we do that now, even Leno, who sometimes seemed transfixed in the past, played some immaculate passes and backed up the full backs and CB’s when they were being pressed, made me purr. And he must have put a lot of effort into practising keeping the ball out with his fizzog, especially deflecting the ball off the post was magnificent.

    I am in agreement with your ratings, but if you allow me an extra half a point to adjust one mark, I would award it to Thomas ‘Avin-a’ Partey, and make him and the terrific Gabriel joint ‘Men of the Match’.

    You and I discussed our support for Elneny, and my acquaintance with his friend, who at the time was bewildered that a marvellous Egyptian talent had been unceremoniously off-loaded by Emery without reason, especially as he brought midfield energy, confidence and the ability to cover every blade of grass in support of both the defence and the attack.

    He was also in terrific form last night and together with Partey just over-powered the Manure midfield.

    Excellent – excellent.

  5. fatgingergooner says:

    Very early days, but I sense we may have signed 2 players in Gabriel and Partey who look like they could play next to anyone and still keep us solid at the back. It’s a been a long time since I’ve trusted an Arsenal defensive player, but I’d happily let these 2 babysit my kids.

    It’s also great to look at an Arsenal midfield that doesn’t just let the opposition run through the middle of it and go 4 on 4 with our defence. Remember the Emery team! 😳🤦🏼‍♂️

    I think once the trust builds between the attackers and defenders then we will really start to hit our attacking straps and we will see a better balance to the side. They won’t be so worried about leaving gaps with Partey and Gabriel in the side.

  6. gunnerpete says:

    Yes I agree with nearly all the posts especially yours Rocky. Seven years ago I got a blasting from sites like yours for calling for a new manager who would employ George Graham as our defensive coach. George was the master and when appointed, he stated, stop goals going in and you are 90% of the way to win to titles. Arsene hated that philosophy because wanted us to play pretty football all the time and that was OK whilst he still had Georges supermen at the back. Just look at our record when they retired! Arteta has proved he has the ideas we have needed for years and when he can sign his next two great players in January I expect us to roar to the top. I believe that our new super back five will be Holding, Gabriel, Saliba, Thierny, Leno and one other.

  7. RockyLives says:

    Morning all. Thank you for some fine comments.

    TA – it never takes long for my glass to be half full again 😀

    Sue – hilarious stat 😀

    Pete/FGG – you make an excellent point: seeing how two really good signings can make a difference to everything does call into question the decisions of those who were making the transfer decisions prior to Gabriel and Partey.

    Redders – like you, I suspect, I am having fewer heart palpitations these days when we play the ball around at the back between the defenders and Leno. It seems like the training my be paying off. Regarding MoTM, a quick trawl through the blogosphere shows that most people agree with you that Partey deserves to be MoTM (or at least joint MoTM with Gabriel). I’ll stick with my ratings, but overall I’m just pleased we had at least two great performances worthy of MoTM. Elneny was not far behind.

    Gunnerpete – I can definitely see shades of what GG brought to us happening under Mikel. You’re right about Arsene’s early success owing a huge amount to the GG defence. I would add, in Arsene’s favour, that he did build another entire defence that was just as good (Cole – Toure – Campbell – Lauren). But after the Invincibles he never seemed able to do it again, despite some good individual signings like the BFG and Koscielny.

  8. RC78 says:

    I think Edu and Arteta identied the lack of “spine”, “physicality” and “defensive awareness” as the priority to be tackled and rightly so.

    1. Gabriel has impressed me quite a lot in terms of his ability to transition so quickly from the French league to the EPL. I thought he d need more time but thankfully, he didn’t 🙂

    2. Partey is already becoming a fan’s favourite and people are already comparing him to Vieira and Essien. If he can reach either of these players’ heights, I d be more than delighted.

    3. El Neny is having a fantastic resurgence. He is full of energy and is ready to go for a fight. Where was this El Neny all along?

    As I was saying in the previous post, players are making harder for Arteta to choose his starting XI but this is a good problem.

    In any case as many of you mentioned, it was a disciplined and controlled performance. I thought we played well vs Leicester and City too but we let some points go. We ll have to grab them in other games.

    El Neny – Partey, our dynamic double pivot. Who would have thought a few weeks back that they would our best pair in midfield?

  9. LBG says:

    Thanks Rocky, no complaints from me. Glad you referenced the Invincibles back four and even Koscielny and the BFG were less “effective” because the solidity in midfield in front of them was “blancmange”- like, to plaigerise.
    And on top of all that solidity, I still believe Saliba will become our VVD ( without the arrogance). The future’s surely bright…..and even the sun has come out down here in the soufff.

  10. RC78 says:

    LBG – I think Saliba is more like a Varane type of player and Fofana (now at Leicester) is more of a VVD type of defender. But we already have our VVD in Gabriel so we are all good 🙂

    I think Arteta now has to decide on his back line

    Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney or
    Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Saka or
    Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Mari, Tierney or
    Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Mari, Tierney or…

    For sure: Bellerin, Gabriel and Tierney will feature in our best back line but who joins them?

  11. RockyLives says:

    I think our current strongest starting XI is:


    Bellerin – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

    Elneny – Partey – Saka

    Willian – Lacazette – Aubameyang

    I have reservations about Willian and Laca, but El Patron obviously appreciates what they are doing for the team.

    I would be relaxed about Pepe for Willian and Fast Eddie for Laca.

    And when Martinelli gets back to full fitness, all bets are off…

  12. fred1266 says:

  13. Sue says:

    We have more league wins (1) at Old Trafford than United this season (0) 😂😂 Dontcha just love it?!!

  14. RockyLives says:

    Sue – you’re coming up with great stats today 😀

  15. RockyLives says:


    He’s no Slow-Mo… definitely a Go-Go-Mo

  16. RC78 says:

    Saka valued at 95 Mln EUR. Can you imagine?

  17. RC78 says:

    Leno – Gabriel – Partey – Laca

    Strong enough spine?

  18. Rasp says:

    Thanks Rocky, great celebration of a brilliant performance and yet more proof that despite the odd hiccup we are moving solidly in the right direction. Apparently we have the best defensive record in the league. We were better in every department yesterday, tactically, physically and mentally … love it!

    I wouldn’t put Laca in the best 11. He works incredibly hard but doesn’t possess the attributes of a number 9 who can hold the ball up. I’m not sure Auba would score more goals centrally. Maybe Martinelli is the No. 9 we are waiting for? He would also provide greater physical presence in the box. Having said all that, I wouldn’t dare to disagree with anything Mikel decides, he’s the driving force behind everything good thats going on.

  19. Red Arnie says:

    Brilliant. what a tub-thumper, Rocky. 🙂

    Agree with much, except for minor bolleaux-details. I think Auba is good in centre, slightly left of centre position.The right wing is more potent at the mo, but when Tierney can join up, left flank is good as well.

    We astruggled against Leics because right flank was weak. Just an idle observation.

  20. RA says:

    Hi Arnie,

    Long time no sea, as the haddock said to the kipper, 😁

    I agree with you regarding the result of the Leics game. We played well in my opinion, but were caught like an overexcited salmon in the crafty counter-attacking net of the foxes.

    In fact, you were correct that the right wing of Arsenal, comprising either Ceballos and Bellerin or Ceballos and Cedric were/are weaker than many other top teams.

    [That is just my opinion, of course, and many better bloggers than me, seem to think the world of Bellibutton and Ceb. 😜

  21. RA says:

    Great to see you, too, Rasper, and I believe you are right that Arteta is moving the team along in the right direction.

  22. Red Arnie says:

    Thank you Redders. 🙂 Yes, long time no sea indeed, all at sea times, hard … Hope you are doing well, my friend.

    Onwards and upwards!

  23. Sue says:

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the first Arsenal player to score a penalty at Old Trafford in the Premier League, with neither of the previous two attempts being converted (Robin Van Persie in 2011 and Gilberto Silva in 2006). Confidence 👌

  24. LBG says:

    Didnt notice much in our game, but Fofana tonight, as middle of a back three, calm, skilful, talent way beyond his years.

  25. 1979Gunner says:

    Interesting penalty stat Sue.

    Jib well done and credit to Arteta and the players. It has been a long time coming against Man U, but worth the wait.

    Delighted for Elneny. Let’s hope for consistency in performance now.

  26. fred1266 says:

  27. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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