Sunday, March 18, 2018

Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United: Five things we learned as the Gunners keep alive their top-four ambitions

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates goal

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates goal

Arsenal kept alive their faint hopes of finishing in the top-four with a 2-0 Premier League victory over Manchester United at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.

Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho stated that he would make alterations to his team due to their Europa League commitments, and the boss stayed true to his word with eight changes from their last match against Celta Vigo on Thursday.

After an open first-half with chances for both sides, Arsenal broke the deadlock in the 54th minute through midfielder Granit Xhaka who unleased a shot from 30-yards that took a wicked deflection off Ander Herrera, looping over keeper Petr Cech.

Just two minutes later, striker Danny Welbeck ensured a vital three points for the Gunners with a thumping header to give Arsene Wenger his first competitive win over Jose Mourinho.

Here are five things we learned from today’s game.

United’s unbeaten record comes to an end

Manchester United came into the game on the back of a 25-game unbeaten run that stretched back to October. Jose Mourinho has made his side especially hard to beat, and even though it doesn’t quite match up to Arsenal’s invincible season back in 2003-04, it is still quite some achievement given the quality of the Premier League. It was much of the same story as a lot of away games for United this year in terms of shutting up shop and attempting to win the match through counter-attacking football, and quite often they were almost playing with a back-six as wide players Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata were playing so deep. However, United have still only lost three times away from Old Trafford this season, and if they can turn some home wins into draws then they could be a force to reckoned with next season.

Arsenal still face a massive task to finish top-four

Today’s game against United was absolutely huge for the Gunners top-four ambitions, although there is still a lot of work to be done, despite the victory. Wenger’s men are six points behind Manchester City, but they do have a game in hand on their rivals. A more realistic approach may be in ousting Liverpool, who sit in third place, as the Reds are only seven points ahead of Arsenal having played two games more. The North London team’s hopes are out of their hands but their fixture list is slightly favourable with the likes of Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland and Everton all to play.

Promising debut for United’s Axel Tuanzebe

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said he would ring the changes, but no one could expect a call-up for 19-year-old defender Axel Tuanzebe. The Englishman made his debut for the Red Devils in a massive Premier League game against Arsenal but he didn’t once look out of place. Even though his team lost 2-0 there was nothing he could do about any of the goals. Tuanzebe usually plays centre-back but today was asked to do a job at right-back and the youngster was fast, strong and solid whilst up against the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, and it looks like he could have a great future in the game.

Welbeck loves playing against his old club

Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck would have been delighted to score against his former employees. He hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons for the Gunners but he has now scored in his last three matches against Manchester United, and his goal today was the decisive moment in the game. Just two minutes after Xhaka’s wonderstrike, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s persistence down the right-hand flank allowed a cross to be met by the powerful presence of Welbeck who converted it past the hapless Cech from close range.

Wenger finally gets one over on Mourinho

Until today, Wenger had never beaten Mourinho in 12 Premier League meetings in a time period stretching back over 13 years. Most of their battles occurred when the Portuguese boss was manager of Chelsea but the victory would have felt even sweeter than usual for the Gunners boss this afternoon. Mourinho once described Wenger as a ‘specialist in failure’ but the United manager claimed pre-match that their long-lasting feud was over. However, there was a brief moment in the first-half when the pair were exchanging heated words and it threatened to boil over. If this season does appear to be Wenger’s final one in charge, he may have had the last laugh.

Arsenal: Cech 7, Holding 7, Koscielny 7, Monreal 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Bellerin 6), Xhaka 6 (Coquelin), Ramsey 8, Gibbs 7, Ozil 7, Sanchez 7, Welbeck 7 (Giroud 6)

Subs not used:  Gabriel, Ospina, Walcott, Iwobi

Manchester United: De Gea 6, Tuanzebe 7, Jones 6, Smalling 5, Darmian 6, Herrera 6 (Rashford 6), Carrick 6, Mkhitaryan 6 (Lingard 6), Mata 6 (McTominay 6), Martial 6, Rooney 6

Subs not used: Bailly, Pogba, Blind, Romero

Referee: Andre Marriner


Ashley Randall

Ash is a freelance football writer who lives, breathes and dreams the beautiful game. A lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers season ticket holder, if he isn't at Molineux then he will be watching any game on television that he can set his eyes on. Producing work for various football websites and publications, Ash has also written for regional newspapers and global magazines.



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