There were United fans crying about the first Arsenal goal last night, bleating on about injustice, fair play and all of that nonsense. I’ll tell you what injustice is; going to Old Trafford, being the better team for most of the match, then coming away with nothing.
That’s how I am feeling this morning and I didn’t get a very good nights sleep last night because of the result. Once again we go to Manchester United and once again we come away with nothing. Once again the media narrative will be set about Arsenal and how we’ve failed but last night I thought I – like Mikel Arteta – saw some positive signs. We went to Old Trafford and were the better team. We had better structure, our set up was more impressive than theirs, we looked a better team with a clear direction. But we have ended up with nothing because of our own stupidity unfortunately. And that is quite maddening.
Arteta thought he’d replicate the formula from the 1-0 win at Old Trafford last season and named a midfield duo of Elneny and Partey. Last season it worked a treat and both of them bossed the midfield. Unfortunately this season it was our weakest area of the pitch in my opinion. Elneny will continue to be the main talking point but I didn’t think he did much wrong. It is Thomas Partey who I was disappointed with. Poor touches, some poor passing and aside from the very good ball in the build up for our equaliser to make it 2-2, I thought he let us down in the middle of the park. United were no great shakes at all but when you have a midfield that isn’t really functioning and gave the ball away so cheaply, it is going to cost you.
But Partey wasn’t the only senior player who let us down last night, because I thought Aubameyang was equally terrible and he missed a few chances on the evening. We all know what he is: a penalty box striker who needs service. Well, he’s been given opportunities and he isn’t taking them. After we were 3-2 down last night he drifted in at the back post and just needed to flick the ball beyond DeGea to score. He failed. It would have eventually been flagged offside but he has to score those and then let the officials do the talking. He’s not delivering at the moment and last night was another example of why we need something new in attack I think. I’ve loved him in the side, have always preferred him, but he isn’t getting goals and he contributes little else to the team, so I do wonder how long it is before Arteta has to hook him.
As for the rest of the team, there were some decent performances and I thought we controlled the patterns of play and possession well, especially in the first half, when that freak goal was allowed. But what was anyone supposed to do? The whistle wasn’t blown, Smith Rowe wasn’t in the wrong, and the commentary on Amazon Prime last night was laughable talking about how some teams just give the goal away just to level it. Do we think United would do that if it happened to us? Of course they wouldn’t. So move on.
Except it felt like we were a little shell shocked after that and went in to containment mode in the first half. That’s what Arteta needs to shake out of these players, because sitting back after we go ahead is going to get us nowhere. United were there for the taking last night; they look like a poor team with a hotch-potch of talented players who should have been put to the sword. But not for the first time we saw Arsenal fail to capitalise. Aubameyang with a tame shot, Martinelli with a tame shot, even Saka in the second half with a tame shot. Why aren’t these players putting their laces through these chances? I know I’m probably just seeing it through my red and white tinted spectacles, but it feels like we have some of the limpest shooters in the league sometimes!
At the back we were good until we were not. We should have done more on the first goal and made it too easy for them to walk through our defence in the box. The second goal was a decent United move, but the space left behind from Tavares was poor. He did alright overall last night, but we need to see Tierney on Monday night away to Everton now. You can’t concede three goals like that and not make at least one change and KT coming in feels like an obvious one.
If Sambi had a few more years experience under his belt at Premier League level I’d be wondering if Partey is another change that should be considered for Monday, but that won’t happen, so I suspect it’ll be Elneny out and Sambi in. I’m no Elneny fan by any stretch of the imagination, but as I said above he wasn’t part of the problem last night, which is a worry for me. This is a young team and those senior pros are not stepping up.
And so to the man in which the game swung on last night: Martin Odegaard. He was decent for most of the evening, kept possession well, then his equalising goal after a super ball from Martinelli was welcome. I did a proper shout and fist pump when that went in. But then at the other end his moment of madness has ultimately cost us the game. It was clearly a penalty, we can have no complaints about that, but my frustration is more that a clear penalty by Maguire on Tomiyasu in the first half was missed, then ignored by VAR. If the referee hasn’t seen it, why is the VAR not whispering in his ear? He was more than happy to for United, but not for us? You don’t get those decisions at Old Trafford, obviously.
Overall this was a really disappointing night because we could – and should – have laid down a marker. Instead we’ve got to pick ourselves up from another defeat. What this means for Everton on Monday night is that anything else other than a win is unacceptable.
I hope we see an angry Arsenal then.
Catch you all tomorrow.