Arteta delivers big 6 away day masterclass. Feels good, right?

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via Arsenal Instagram

We did it. Arsenal finally broke their 5-year ‘WE CAN’T WIN AWAY AT A BIG 6 CLUB’ hoodoo (29 games). The last time we won away at United in the league was 14 years ago, I was like, 8 years old or something?! Make no mistake, that wasn’t a lucky win, that was the performance we’ve been waiting for in a big game. Arteta is the first Arsenal manager to win his first two games against United since Herbert Chapman. A super day for Gooners all over the world.

The starting 11 saw quite the reaction on the cyber terraces.

‘HE NEEDS TO GET OUT’

‘TOO NEGATIVE’

‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS MUST BE ASKED’

It’s quite a stretch to suggest that taking a pragmatic approach to United away was ever an incorrect way to think about this game. They absolutely destroyed RB Leipzig in the week. 5 goals against last seasons Champions League semi-finalists who have the best young manager in the world was a warning sign that things could go awry if we weren’t at our best… and at our best defensively we were.

I am rubbish at blow by blow football reports, but I’ll give you a list of things I really liked.

I thought Gabriel and Rob holding were absolutely excellent. Our new Brazilian centre back shaded it for me, he was unbelievable. He’s such a monster defender. He didn’t give anyone an inch all day. The performances of both were made all the more monumental by the fact they both picked up bookings around the 25-minute mark, Catnip for a ref like Mike Dean. Gabriel made 5 tackles, 4 clearances, combined with a 92% pass completion rate. Stunning numbers. It’s early days, but my word does he look like an incredible signing. Rob Holding also went a long way to justifying the faith Arteta has shown in him, rocking 91% pass completion in an assured return to action (after 1 training session). Also, side note, a massive shout out to the medical staff for getting him back ahead of schedule!

You need more than a good defensive pairing to win in games like that. Thomas Partey started his first big one for us and boy oh boy was he fucking unbelievable. The man is the coldest, crispest beer after running a marathon in the Sudan desert. How have we not addressed our midfield with someone this classy? He is such a difference-maker. If he loses the ball, he gets it back. If he breaks a press, he controls the ball out the other side. His passing is elite and he is so, so efficient. Most importantly, he gives us power in a place we’ve been weak. Watching him slug it out against Paul Pogba and win was special. Seeing him do it with 92% pass completion, with 12 of his 53 attempted passed heading into the final third was joyous. He had the most take-ons, he had the most ball recoveries, he made 4 tackles, 2 interceptions, and he had a shot on target. A superb game. What is even more amusing for me is there was actually a debate about his arrival because the Twitter spreadsheet merchants didn’t like his radar. It just goes to show you that data without good analysis is just a shit opinion.

My man of the match though? It was Mo Elneny. I give him the award mostly because he gets so much shit. People are having to face up to the reality that he’s actually a very tidy player. He’s been good all season. He was immense yesterday. His engine is outrageous, watching him lead the press in the 91st minute like Maradona after a bathroom break in the 94 World Cup was nuts. His passing has added some much-needed verticality, and it’s always fast and positive. He reads danger really well, he fouls when he has to, he plays with a smile on his face so he gets away with more. It already looks like he’s the bag man for Thomas Partey. Arteta says that the players love him and he transmits special energy in the dressing room. Good for him, that was his best performance in an Arsenal shirt, let’s see that consistently.

The game was won via a Mike Dean awarded penalty, which was super odd. Not sure many had that on their ‘how it happened’ bingo card. Auba buried the kick, he said after they practice a lot, which is nice to know. I think the biggest critique of our performance is that the players you need to be the difference makers aren’t firing on all cylinders yet. Auba isn’t taking his chances or gambling on balls like he was last year. Willian looks out of sorts, his composure is a little off, though he did show some nice moments. Saka was a bit overwhelmed by Wan-Bissaka. Lacazette had a better day, creating two chances, but he is still very easily overpowered by fridge like defenders. He had to drop really deep to involve himself and I wasn’t always sure that was part of the plan. It’ll come, but the fact we still won with that going against us made it more special

Still, you can’t argue we didn’t have the better chances. We tried harder to make things happen in the final third. The game was more Dundalk than Leicester. That part is important as well… Arteta used the Europa League as a live test run for what he did versus United. Mo was brilliant in that game as well. Our manager is young, he will make mistakes, but if he learns quickly from them, the fans will always forgive. He set out to make us competitive in big games, and we are exactly that.

Arsenal fans do need to accept that we’re more Simeone than Pep G. That game was fine margins like Liverpool, City, and Leicester. All those occasions were battles of chess and we didn’t win out in the decisive moments. The United game was the first one that rolled our way. It was hopefully a watershed moment. The Halloween ghouls can go back in the cupboard for a few more games.

We need an Aouar like talent to really unlock those moments. In the meantime, we need to hope that Gabriel M can give us a focal point through the middle… and we need to cross our fingers that maybe ESR can be more than a star in the Europa League… but a good start would be to show he can start in the Europa this Thursday against Molde.

Last weekend people were calling time on the Arteta project, today, we’re 2 points off 2nd place, with Villa up next before the international break. We’ve also played 4 teams that’ll be in the top 6 this season. We have the BEST defence in the league after 7 games, pretty great, right? Things are starting to feel positive… let’s see how we handle the next two games, in the meantime, enjoy Zoom gloating to all those sad United fans.

See you in the comments. x

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