Arsenal have moved within one point of Tottenham for 3rd in the Premier League table with their emphatic win over Manchester United. It was an important match coming into today as both Chelsea and Tottenham dropped points this weekend. Following Arsenal’s disappointing defeat in France to Stade Rennais, which could see the Gunners crash out of the Europa League, the race to finish in the top four has become all the more paramount. Unai Emery laid out his intentions with a very attacking front three, which was highlighted by the inclusion of Mesut Ozil.
The first few minutes of the match were wide open as Arsenal looked to take advantage of the available space in the middle of the pitch. The Gunners also exhibited incredible commitment to closing down the ball and were defensively organized. Arsenal also utilized the left side of the pitch with runs by Kolasinac on the counter, who was constantly a danger with his crossing ability.
The first goal of the match came in the 12th minute with a masterful strike by Granit Xhaka from outside the box. De Gea could do little as the ball’s movement caught the Manchester United goalkeeper off-guard. It was a crucial confidence builder for Arsenal that only served to push their energy level beyond that of Manchester United.
Ole Gunna Solskjaer’s men did have chances to level the score, but were unable to take advantage. Romelu Lukaku was unable to convert off of a pass from Marcus Rashford that saw Leno dive to get a hand on a low shot. Fred had nice look at goal very early in the match but the ball just went wide of Leno’s net. The German international continued to make crucial deflections and saves to keep Arsenal ahead going into halftime.
Aaron Ramsey, who will be leaving for free to Juventus this summer, had control over Manchester United’s midfield. His tireless runs to track back as well as committing strategic tackles that would lead to Arsenal counter attacks. There were many times on counter attacks where Ozil had a great deal of space to push the ball forward in the middle of the park. Many of these situations were the result of Xhaka and Ramsey.
Arsenal cemented their victory with a penalty by Aubameyang that took the lead to a 2-0. It could be considered a soft penalty committed by Fred on Lacazette, but Arsenal took advantage of the situation nonetheless.
Maitland-Niles showcased his defensive capabilities throughout the game. He consistently closed down defenders near the box with well timed tackles to quell the United threat. He was a menace on the counter attack as well as he presented problems for Luke Shaw and moved the ball into United’s penalty area. Lacazette had a vital performance with his hold up play, which allowed the Arsenal attackers to find open space.
Arsenal’s victory today was a show of unity and commitment. There were a couple of sloppy passes and moments of nervousness by Arsenal, but they were resolute in their commitment to pressure Manchester United and create attacking opportunities. Arsenal will look ahead to their remaining schedule with optimism. After today’s match, Arsenal will not face another top six side. There will be tough away challenges from Everton and Watford, but should they take advantage of their situation a spot in the top four is likely.
Arsenal will now turn their attention to an important home match against Rennes. They will need to turn around a 3-1 deficit to advance to the next round in the Europa League, which will be the only way for Arsenal to get into the Champions League should they come up short of top 4.