Arsenal (0) 0 Manchester United (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 30th January 2021. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, David Luiz, Cédric Soares; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith-Rowe, Nicolas Pépé; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Gabriel Magalhães, Martin Ødegaard, Willian Borges da Silva, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah.
Yellow Cards: Cédric Soares
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 43%
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Paul Tierney; AVAR Andy Halliday
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Do visiting clubs get much bigger than when Manchester United arrive in town? Unlikely. Following the superb victory at Southampton last Tuesday, our tails will be up, and group confidence will be high, so the chaps will be looking to continue this winning streak. Unfortunately, neither Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be in action for us tonight, but it is great to see our new loan signing (from Real Madrid), Norwegian international attacking midfielder Martin Ødegaard on the substitute’s bench; let us hope that we get a chance to see him at some point in the proceedings. Everything to play for. Let’s go!
As expected in any match between these two leviathans, both teams started strongly with plenty of good passing and strong tackling out there tonight. Everyone was desperately trying to break through each others’ defences to even to get so much as an opportunity to score, but it was a defender’s game in the first quarter of an hour or so. Alexandre Lacazette had a superb shot on goal from a distance, but David de Gea gathered the ball easily, and a few minutes’ later, Fred’s goalbound shot was acrobatically tipped around the post for a United corner by Bernd Leno. Thomas Partey then ran at the visitors’ defence over a distance of around forty yards as their defenders backed off him consistently, but his subsequent shot was a disappointment as it went wide of the post by some distance. A clever free-kick from Nicolas Pépé found the head of David Luiz, but the defender’s header into the middle of the penalty area was easily cleared by the United defence, and after some pressure from the visitors in our penalty area, Emile Smith-Rowe broke out and ran for the United goal, and after running virtually the length of the pitch, slotted it to Nicolas Pépé, whose subsequent shot went inches wide of the post. After the half-hour mark, both sides’ defences started to loosen up a bit and chances became more plentiful for the strikers. Bruno Fernandes easily turned David Luiz out on the left of our penalty area, and his right-footed shot thankfully flew high and wide past Bernd Leno’s upright. As the minutes ticked away towards half-time, Manchester United pushed us back into our own half, and despite some worrying instances in our penalty area, and a free-kick that went high over Bernd Leno’s crossbar, both sides went into the break with honours even.
The second half started with Gabriel Martinelli being substituted for Willian, and in doing so, the first ten minutes or so, saw us force the issue and take the game to United. Nicolas Pépé and Willian came close with decent attempts, but unfortunately all of our hard work came to nothing. David Luiz was unlucky in not hitting the target with a clever shot from outside the visitors’ penalty area, and just after the hour mark, Alexandre Lacazette was brought down just outside the United penalty area by Harry Maguire, and the resulting free-kick taken, surprisingly, by Alexandre Lacazette himself, hit the underside of the bar and bounced off into play. Emile Smith-Rowe was unlucky not to score a goal just few minutes later, when his strong right-footed shot was pushed aside by David de Gea, which spurred United into breaking out and putting our defence under pressure, but despite that, Arsenal look the best side out there this half by a long way. A good David Luiz free-kick led to our fourth corner of the match, which, although went nowhere, led to us pushing the ball around, pulling the United defenders out of position. Nicolas Pépé’s shot that went through harry Maguire’ legs shaved the outside of the post, and with eight minutes of the match remaining, Emile Smith-Rowe made way for our new man, Martin Ødegaard. With four minutes of the match left, a Cédric Soares free-kick sailed over the United bar, and in the resulting United attack, Edinson Cavani nearly punished us when his clever bicycle-kick went inches wide of Bernd Leno’s post. In injury time, an unfortunate clash between Alexandre Lacazette and Harry Maguire led to the Arsenal man being substituted for Eddie Nketiah, and despite some interesting play by both sides, the game petered out to a disappointing nil-nil draw, despite Arsenal being the better side in the second half.
Overall, it was a disappointing result for us, as we did enough to win tonight. Alexandre Lacazette was desperately unlucky not to score, as was Emile Smith-Rowe and Nicolas Pépé, but a point is better than nothing at all. And we kept a clean sheet too. Although Martin Ødegaard was not on the pitch for very long, it was still great to see this latest Arsenal debutant, albeit with just minutes left of the match. Lots of good things happened out there tonight, enough to take on board for our next match on Tuesday evening at Wolverhampton.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux Stadium on Tuesday, 2nd February at 6.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.