Arsenal traveled to Old Trafford knowing Manchester United would be far from 100 percent. Even with a medical room full of Red Devils, Arsenal supporters had to know deep down it was not going to be as easy as one may have expected.
While United have yet again struggled to get things going, a fixture at OT is far from a walk in the park.
Having said that, on paper, Arsenal were absolutely expected to grab all three points. Player for player, Arsene Wenger’s choices were clearly better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Especially in a Manchester Utd – Arsenal fixture.
Just to give today’s result some context, the last time Arsenal won at OT in a Premier League match was just over 10 years ago. To be more precise, September 17, 2006. An 86th minute goal from Adebayor gave Arsenal all three points.
Apart from that, dating all the way back to 1999, Arsenal has defeated United at OT two times from 19 PL meetings. So, as you can see, regardless of the starting XI or current form, every match at OT is going to be a battle.
Like most Gooners, I feared for Alexis’ form.
Even after putting in a brilliant shift against Uruguay mid-week, I feared he would make one stretch for the ball and go down in pain. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but the fact that he has that elastic brace says there’s clearly something there.
Interesting enough, he played nearly 90 minutes on Tuesday, yet he was still more active than Ozil today.
Mesut was not included in Germany’s international matches in order to give him a rest, but he still looked sluggish as hell today.
Thinking back on it now, the play that really stands out was when he sent Carrick straight into retirement with that beautiful nutmeg. Apart from that, I can replay in my head a number of times when he lost the ball cheaply.
He’s been in fine form so I’m not concerned, it was just disappointing to see considering he had some time to rest.
If we’re being honest, on a scale from 1-10, Arsenal’s first half performance was maybe a 4.5.
They possessed the ball, kept it in United’s half, but weren’t able to do anything with it. And apart from Mata’s shot that forced Cech into a tight save, their other shots were fairly comfortable for the Arsenal keeper.
Passion and grit was never in question, but they couldn’t get anything going. It was obvious United was growing in confidence, and more evident was Elneny’s fatigue.
As I watched Herrera run by him time after time, I just felt eventually they’d break through.
Once it happened, that feeling of losing to Mourinho AGAIN was settling in. WTF is it about this guy that makes it so difficult for Arsene Wenger to figure out?!
The goal forced Arsenal out of the back, and United were content with sitting deep. Counter attack football was going to be on display, but could the Gunners avoid conceding a second?
My phone was blowing up. I guess that’s what happens when you have a group text with your buddies, and a few of them are United fans. The abuse was relentless.
From, when was the last time Arsenal scored against Mourinho? To, De Gea must be doing the mannequin challenge the entire game since he hasn’t had anything to do.
Well my friends, karma is a beautiful thing!
I hoped for the chance to have my say, but to be honest, I wasn’t entirely confident they’d score.
Arsene Wenger took far too long to make changes, but all three changes were positive. Taking off Jenkinson to bring on Ox caught me off guard, but it paid off.
That direct play is something Theo doesn’t have. He’s not great at taking guys on, but although Ox can do that, he’s not capable of consistently putting a cross into the box.
Today, with one opportunity, he absolutely nailed it. That goal should go down as half for Giroud and half for Ox.
The cross he played in was on a gold platter. It makes me think that if he could do that somewhat consistently, he shouldn’t have an issue getting into the team. That is of course if Alexis starts as the striker, but, that’s a conversation for a different day.
Giroud’s goal brought a smile to my face. It was time to pick up the phone and send not so friendly text messages. I poured it on, but I still had this concerning feeling that Arsenal would somehow blow it in stoppage time.
For my sake, they came away with a draw, but had Arsenal conceded in the final minutes, I would have certainly had to light my phone on fire.
What Did We Learn
If anything, one lesson learned is to be careful what you text your friends while there’s still time on the clock.
In regards to the match, again, Arsenal proved they won’t give up.
Previous versions of Arsenal, more specifically in the last 5-6 years, would have crumbled after conceding. Instead, they kept going, and snatched it late.
These guys have some ice in their veins, but I ultimately hope they have some gas left in the fuel tank ahead of their match with PSG mid-week.
Lastly, an additional note is how much the team misses Santi.
Cazorla may be small and he certainly will not boss the midfield on his own, but his vision is a very big asset.
Elneny and Coquelin together are a conservative approach, which doesn’t offer much creativity going forward. They will both go to war on the pitch, but neither can really pick a pass. That’s where they need Santi.
Granted they had to chase the game, but as soon as Elneny came off, you could see a different offensive dynamic. We can only hope Santi is back soon!
On a final note, for all those United fans moaning about the penalty claim, don’t forget Darmian should have been sent off well before that. So, shut it!