Well, that felt a little more like the sort of Arsenal/United match we’re used to. I mean, for a 0-0. 30 shots, a tactical joust, and some very good individual performances… it wasn’t bad.
We rode our luck at times, no doubt, but at the highest level, that’s how it goes. We could have lost 2-0, but equally, we could have taken the game 2-0.
I actually left the 0-0 frustrated, which is be progress considering where we’ve been. A few of our players weren’t firing at 100% and we squandered the chance to hit a United that felt there for the taking in the second half.
Let’s get the obvious talk out the way. Edison Cavani missed a couple of sitters he’ll be having nightmares over. The first one he fluffed an open goal, likely because he was put off by Cedric’s shadowing. His second, from 6 yards, fell slightly behind him. Outside that, Arsenal dealt really well with their dangerous crossing most of the game.
Arsenal had their chances as well. The first half the front 4 simply didn’t click. It was odd, no one really trusted Pepe early in the game and as a result, Lacazette and Partey opted incorrectly for potshots from 20+ yards. If they knew it was that Nicolas Pepe at the ground yesterday, they might have passed. As the half wore on, Nico had a moment when he dropped 17 stepovers before fizzing one of those trademark low shots wide.
The second half saw Gabriel M taken off for Willian. The Brazilian had a ‘not so shit’ game but his rustiness shone brightly when his shot at the back post was squandered. Pepe was cut in by Willian, the shot blocked by the lumbering leg of Maguire. Smith Rowe tested DDG with a brutal shot. Then Lacazette hit the bar with a beautiful freekick.
We drew, but there was no shame under the circumstances. So what did we learn?
Well, it turns out his is fallible. He didn’t have his best game. But, in the grand scheme of midfield performances, the shock was that he wasn’t the best player on the pitch. His pass completion dropped to 73% and his ‘life on the edge’ midfield game was a bit more miss than hit. What is rewarding is that even when he’s not great, he still keeps you in a game against a top side.
Well, he was excellent. HIS PASS COMPLETION RATE WAS 97%. That is world class when you’re playing against United. I thought he really stepped up. He made lots of great progressive passes and his defensive contribution did not go unnoticed.
Sometimes, you just have to accept that Cheddar is an elite cheese. It might not be fashionable, it’s certainly not original, but accept the reality… with Cheddar on your plate, you’re always going be satisfied. That’s Holdinho. He’s an immensely satisfying lump of Cheddar. Understated, reassuring, and always on-point. He’s our best defender in the second-best defence in the league. Wenger SHOULD have paid £50m for him. He’s been a steal. Once again, he dominated his box, dropped an 86% pass completion rate, and kept things tidy. He’s a god. A cheese god.
Look, let’s stop pissing around, the kid is absolutely mustard. It’s not a fluke. He is built for this level. Arteta gave him a chance and he’s not letting it go. He had to play with a different group of players today and he was still electric. He follows the opportunities, he defends well, he reminds you of a different Arsenal great each week. I love him.
Do I think he’s the level of a £72m player? No. But, I am willing to hold my hands up and say that he had a really good game yesterday. He looked like he wanted to perform. He was more than an impression of a good player. He did the dirty work Arteta demands, he gave a lot to the attack, and on another day, two of those low fizzing shots find the net. That was the second BIG performance inside a week against top opposition. I was very impressed.
It was a bold sub by Arteta, but if we’re honest, Gabriel was offbeat in the first half. He looked behind the game and he didn’t give us the control we needed. Willian slows things down on the left, it’s painful at times, but yesterday, he put in a defensive shift and created two chances and should have scored one. It was pretty decent from him.
It was a 50/50 game… but remember, we were relegation fodder a month ago. Yesterday, we had 17 shots at the United goal. That is a BIG improvement. We looked well-coached, the players were interested, and on another day, we take all 3 points. You can accuse Arteta of many things this season, but one thing you can’t say is that he doesn’t learn from his mistakes.
Young players are now the go-to. He’s massively improved the connection between attack and defence. He’s finally getting a turn out of some of the senior players. Luiz, Willian, Pepe and Cedric were all bordering on very good yesterday. Tactically, we were strong. Everyone knew what they were doing. If we had the resources of United, things might have been different.
It feels like we’re finally on the right path now. There will be bumps in the road, we will still lose games, but it feels like there’s a vision we can all get behind, and it looks like we’ve turned a corner.
If a draw against 2nd placed United feels like a loss, something good is happening at your club.
Onwards and upwards. Let’s smash Wolves on Tuesday. I’m off for a plate of Rob Holding.