Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United: Late Drama, Sheer Football Ecstasy
Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference
Final Result: Arsenal 3-1 Fulham (Odegaard 27′, Rice 96′, G. Jesus 101′ | Rashford 27′)
Arsenal XI (4-3-3): Ramsdale; Zinchenko (Tomiyasu 76′), Saliba, Gabriel, White; Rice, Havertz (F. Vieira 76′), Odegaard (Jorginho 99′); Saka, Nketiah (G. Jesus 76′), Martinelli (Nelson 90′)
With the transfer deadline drama out of the way, the focus was solely football and Manchester United came to town – a feisty fixture that always gets the fans on the edge. Arsenal’s cause wasn’t helped with the fact that the Ghana FA reported that Thomas Partey had suffered an injury, but the Ghanaian’s layoff ensured that Mikel Arteta returned to his tested and trusted 4-2-3-1 setup, rather than this crappy formation we have been using in the first three games.
Ben White returned to right back, Oleksandr Zinchenko featured on the left back spot, with Gabriel finally returning to the starting XI alongside William Saliba in the heart of the defense. Declan Rice anchored a midfield that had captain, Martin Odegaard, and Kai Havertz who was heavily defended by his manager in his pre-Manchester United press conference. Eddie Nketiah led the line and was flanked by Gabriel Martinelli and PFA Young Player of the Year, Bukayo Saka.
Arsenal’s play in this 4-2-3-1 setup is very fluid, attacking and exciting, which was why I really struggled to see why the gaffer decided to change a tactical setup that almost delivered him the Premier League last season. The Gunners came out the blocks with Martinelli getting the better of Aaron Wan Bissaka and drilling a cutback from the byline, but no Arsenal player was on the same wavelength with him. His battle with the Manchester United right back was one of the major highlights of the game.
Arsenal had a chance to go ahead when Martinelli’s effort was ricocheted by Lisandro Martinez to Havertz path at point blank range, but for some inexplicable reason, the German schemer missed his shot totally, allowing Martinez to clear the ball out before Nketiah could pounce on it. That was a jaw-dropping moment for everyone at the Emirates and one wonders when he can get his confidence back. Things got from bad to worse from Havertz as his supposed lobbed pass to Odegaard was intercepted by Christian Eriksen that sent a pass into space for Marcus Rashford. White failed to close down the Manchester United forward, allowing him to blast a shot that waltzed past Ramsdale to give the visitors the lead against the run of play.
Arsenal pegged Manchester United immediately from the restart with Martinelli combining well with Nketiah before carefully threading the ball to Odegaard at the edge of the box for a one time finish that left Andre Onana with no chance in Hell to attempt a save. It was reminiscent of the Granit Xhaka passes to Odegaard in the same location last season.
Manchester United soaked in a lot of pressure from Arsenal and hit the Gunners on the break. Bruno Fernandes teed up the peripheral Anthony Martial whose near post shot was saved by Ramsdale but Saliba was on hand to block Rashford’s rebound. The next episode of the high intense drama arrived when Havertz was adjudged to have been fouled by Wan Bissaka in the box, forcing the VAR chums to do what they do best, and following further engagement with Anthony Taylor, the penalty was ruled out, much to the chagrin of the Emirates faithful.
Arsenal continued to press and almost had the lead when Saka fed Martinelli at the edge of the box. His brilliant curling effort went past Onana but it also missed the net by a lick of paint. Arteta felt it was time to freshen things up, so he made a triple substitution with Gabriel Jesus, Fabio Vieira and Takehiro Tomiyasu coming on for Nketiah, Havertz and Zinchenko. These were very inspired substitutions as they added fresh impetus to the Arsenal attacking machine.
After a couple of failed attacking attempts from Arsenal, Manchester United hit the home side on the break and within moments, Alejandro Garnacho bore down on goal and placed the ball past Ramsdale to make it 2-1. Manchester United celebrated their stolen lead, as it was clearly undeserved, but the VAR chums took center stage again as they reviewed the goal and discovered that Gabriel titled his body in such a way that put Garnacho offside. That was such elite defending for a player that had not featured in the first three games for ‘tactical reasons’. It was a monumental moment in the game due to what happened next.
The fourth official raised his board up and Arsenal had only eight minutes left to get something from the game that they had dominated and that persistence reaped its reward when Saka’s corner went all the way to Rice in the far post, that chested the ball before letting one rip. The shot looked tame but Onana made a mess of it and Arsenal were two goals to the good, sending the Emirates to raptures.
With Manchester United going for broke at the death to salvage a draw, they left a lot of gaping craters at the back, allowing the intelligent Vieira to send Jesus clean on goal for the strike that will put the game beyond doubt. With Jesus bearing down on goal, Diogo Dalot made a desperate attempt to execute a tackle that would block a potential shot but Jesus sent him back to the Iberian Peninsula with a dribble that looked better with each passing replay. After the shimmy, Jesus placed the ball past Onana with such finesse you’d expect from a Samba Boy.
The ref’s whistle was like music to the ears of everyone connected with Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s Army went to battle with the old enemy and vanquished them in the best of ways – late drama that knocks the wind off their sails, while sending Arsenal fans to delirium.
With the international break imminent, Arsenal fans will be hoping that there will be no other players joining Partey in the treatment table, while also hoping that the Ghanaian recovers in time for the clash against struggling Everton in two weeks’ time.