It’s a particularly bitter pill to swallow this morning, when thinking about the events that unfolded at Old Trafford yesterday. once again we went up there, once again we were the better team, once again we come back with nothing. The Old Trafford league hoodoo continues and when we next get the chance to go up there and break that league curse, it’ll be at least 15 years since we won in their ground with their fans in the stadium.
The game itself unfolded as so many have done up there and as I’ve said before: we got skanked. United had the first 10 minutes and asserted pressure on a confident Arsenal team going in to the game, but after we had our goal disallowed, it was essentially all us for the remainder of the match. Arteta was able to bring back Zinchenko, Odegaard and Ramsdale were passed fit, so we had as stronger first XI out there as we could hope for. And on 11 minutes we were ahead with a lovely pass from Odegaard and great clipped finish from Martinelli. It was a swift counter attacking goal that I foolishly allowed myself a fist pump of the air when it went in.
But come on now guys, this is Old Trafford, so how can we find a way to rule it out, eh? Oh yeah, let’s go back to a collision between Odegaard and Erikson in the middle of the park as a reason as to why this goal cannot stand. Paul Tierney saw it in real time and saw that there wasn’t really enough contact to warrant a foul. The edict from this season is ‘let it flow’ and yuesterday that was the case for Tielemans ‘challenge’ on March in the Brighton v Leicester game. When Aston Villa scored their corner in midweek there were arms around Ramsdale, but we’re ‘Letting it flow’ now guys, remember?
Was there a clear and obvious error in the disallowed Martinelli goal? Nope. Was it obvious to the referee even with VAR? Nope. I mean he took a very long time looking at it. So why has it intervened?
After that it was Arsenal who wanted to impose itself, it was the Arsenal players who had the ball, it was the Arsenal players who looked in control and as I said on the post match show on The Same Old Arsenal pod last night, it felt like a team that was closer to looking like Man City or Liverpool going up there, than a side scrapping for Europa League or maybe Champions League spots. We looked good. We were good on the ball, we had some very composed football and we looked in control for most of the match. So of course it was United who sucker-punched us.
I think Gabriel and Sambi will probably want to have another look at their positioning for that first goal and perhaps the naivety of youth got the better of Sambi, because United countered swiftly and Antony’s finish was decent to be fair, but we need to recognise that it’s one thing to be ball dominant and playing most of the game in their half, it is quite another to ensure that you don’t leave your back doors open for robbers to come in and steal from you.
And that’s what yesterday felt like to me – a steal job. United got their second against the run of play and with some questionable Arsenal defending again, then their third when we had gone for it by chucking as many attacking options on the pitch as possible. As much as Arteta said yesterday that he didn’t think the subs made that much of a difference, I suspect he’ll look at the way we lost our shape as a reason on why that third goal was conceded.
We had played some really good football at times too and it really is a wrench to once again be talking about defeat to what I thought was a pretty average United side who got fortunate in key moments of the game. We controlled the football match, we look like a team in the ascendency and if I’m going to take any positives from what I saw yesterday, it is that if we continue to play with that level of dominance, we aren’t getting shafted every week.
I was pleased to see Saka on the score sheet, I have to say. I thought he had another game in which he was decent, but not spectacular, but getting that goal will do him the world of good and hopefully it injects more confidence in to him.
I also hope the overall performance of the team gives them all confidence too, because they should be coming out of Manchester knowing that whilst a good opportunity has passed them by yesterday, there will be plenty of people who will have watched that and thought “yeah, those first five games from that Arsenal team weren’t a fluke and because of rubbish opponents, this Arsenal team is good”. And we are good. I want us to react to this defeat like every good team does; with positive results in the next week. We go to Zurich on Thursday evening and I hope Arteta does a little bit of rotation for that game, but I still want to see the same swagger as we showed in Manchester yesterday afternoon. I want us to go to Switzerland and come back with three points. Then, on Sunday, we play Everton and I want to see the same kind of performance as we had last night, because if we do, we will beat them, that’s for sure.
This game was frustrating, we didn’t deserve to lose, we were the better team. But we need to take the positives from the performances and continue to transmit that on to the pitch. Lessons must be learned about being done on the counter, but we need to be able to react to a different type of opponent in the next couple of games. I think – and hope – that we will.
Let’s finish off today’s blog with an acknowledgement that we are still top of the league. If we beat Everton next weekend we will remain top of the league. If we can get three points against Brentford the following weekend, we’ll STILL be top of the league. They say the table starts to take shape after 10 games, because you’re over a quarter of the way through the season. If we continue to play like we did yesterday, then after 10 games the hope is that we’ll be in a very favourable position.
Chin up Gooners. Plenty of football still to play.
Catch you all tomorrow.