Going into the weekend’s game at the Old Trafford, Mikel Arteta knew he had his work cut out with his back firmly against the wall with back to back losses in the Premier League, one away against familiar conquerors and the other at home to unlikely victors. The issues were glaring, Arsenal lost both games because they were not creative enough and the few chances they created, they profligately spurned.
A match against Manchester United at Old Trafford with Mike Dean as referee was the unlikely one to expect a bounce back but the Gunners did it in style, with a dominant performance in the middle of the pack, enhanced creativity in the final third that created the penalty which was converted and an assured defensive display that kept a clean sheet. There are definitely things to note from the game and I am here to share some of my take home with you, shall we?
Arteta’s Masterclass – if buck definitely stops at his table, then the praise should start from him. He was spot on with his tactics from the blast of the whistle till the end of the game. He made a bold decision tp play both Thomas Partey and Mohammed El Neny together and that worked wonders. It totally nullified the midfield threat of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, allowing Partey to bomb forward to join the attack.
Arsenal’s victory in that game cannot be divorced from that decision, it was a tactical masterclass. Also, he prepared the perfect foil to clip Manchester United attacking play by stopping their full backs from joining the attack. The constant barrage of attacks from Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka down the left kept Aaron Wan-Bissaka busy for the better part of the game, stopping him joining Manchester United attack. The same was replicated by Hector Bellerin and Willian Borges which stopped Luke Shaw from coming forward.
It was no surprise that it was the attacking foray by Bellerin that won Arsenal the penalty. Without the availability of Manchester United’s full backs in the attack, the Red Devils were forced to play through the middle but unfortunately for them, Arsenal’s midfield duo were rampaging on the night.
Partey’s party – prior the arrival of the Ghanaian midfielder, many have been told what he can bring to the table and many have waited in anticipation to see it. The game at Old Trafford was not his debut but that was almost the biggest stage so far, a place Arsenal had not won in 13 years, huge mental block to break but he did it in style, bossed the midfield, joined defence and did not shy away from supporting the attack when the opportunity called for it. He was just everywhere and made brilliant use of space to devastating effect. Can we just say, the “Partey” has started?
Partey/El Neny Partnership – one major headache for Arteta has been the perfect midfield partnership for Arsenal. One that would not leave them exposed defensively or blunt offensively. With the performance on Sunday, he seemed to have found it with both men. The partnership was seamless and so perfect that former Gunner, Gilberto Silva had to laud it.
The Partey/El Neny partnership knew how to manage space. At no time did they leave the defence exposed, one covered for the other and they never stopped running at any time. With both men, the midfield engine kept running all game.
Calm Defence – if you must take a result from Old Trafford against Manchester United with Mike Dean in charge, you must be calm in defence because if you do not concede from open play, you could give away a penalty from a clumsy challenge. Gabriel Magahaels and Rob Holding epitomized that. Both got booked early in the game but stayed rock solid through out the game, did not get a second booking, did not give away a penalty and still kept a clean sheet. Top class defending from both men.
For the first time in a long while, Arsenal have won away at a top 6 team. This is definitely a step in the right direction but they cannot afford to stop because the journey is still far. The music is on and the “partey” has started, Arteta at the art of things.