Match Report: Manchester United 1- 1 Arsenal

Manchester United (1) 1 Arsenal (0) 1
Premier League
Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Stretford, Manchester M16 0RA
Monday, 30th September 2019. Kick-off time:8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka; Mattéo Guendouzi, Nicolas Pépé, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (58 mins)
Yellow Cards: Calum Chambers, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 45%
Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance 73,201


So much was expected of tonight’s match, but in the end it was a disappointing draw; however in the greater scheme of things the point we earned from this game pushed us into fourth postion in the Premiership. In essence the first half was a cross between a dull affair and a comedy of errors from both sides. Arsenal had their chances in this rain-soaked Old Trafford; of the efforts on goal, it has to be said that both Mattéo Guendouzi and Nicolas Pépé came the closest, and in the case of the latter, desperately unlucky not to open the scoring when he was extremely hasty in taking a shot when, in reality he had more time than he thought he had. Against the run of play, on the stroke of half-time, Scott McTominay picked up the ball on the edge of our 18-yard box, and with Calum Chambers closing in on him, he struck a strong shot that gave Bernd Leno little chance of keeping out his effort. More worrying than that, was Granit Xhaka, our captain, ducking out of the way of McTominay’s shot. Perhaps if he stayed where he was and deflected the ball away with his head, then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have gone into the break in deficit?

Starting the second half one-down, we regrouped and started to play football in these difficult conditions the only way we know how, which is forward. We played some excellent football on a greasy pitch, which although didn’t reap the rewards it should have done, the movement of our players still showed that we are capable of playing some intelligent, useful football when it counts. It certainly counted with just over half an hour of the match left to run, when we finally got the ball in the back of the United net. The impressive Bukayo Saka put a superb ball through behind the United defence into the path of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who wasted no time in bearing down on goal, and lobbing the ball over David De Gea into the goal to redress the balance. But wait! The linesman flagged for offside, and referee Kevin Friend consulted VAR, only to find that Harry Maguire played our striker onside by a country mile before he started his goalward run. But why did the linesman flag for offside before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made any movement?

Shortly after our goal, Bukayo Saka was wasteful in front of the United goal, and it was felt by everyone in the stadium (and at home too) that Arsenal should have taken the lead at this point in the game. Despite quite a few wasteful chances by both teams (just how unlucky was Reiss Nelson in not scoring at the end of the match?) the game finished in a draw, which by rights, it was truly one that we should have walked away with three points in our pockets and satisfaction with a job well done on a difficult night in Manchester.
But it wasn’t to be. Leaving the conditions aside, there are some question marks over one or two of our players’ performances tonight, our captain being just one of them. We’ve already mentioned the incident before the United goal when he ducked out of the way of Scott McTominay’s goalbound shot; he does lack concentration at times, such as the incident that led to his booking. All he had to do was think about the consequences of his actions before he floored the United player and he wouldn’t have been booked for such a rash and unnecessary tackle. We also cannot keep relying on the wonderful Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to get us out of mire time and time again; in Alexandre Lacazette’s enforced absence, both Nicolas Pépé and Bukayo Saka need to take their chances better. Still, a point is good, especially when you consider the inclement weather conditions and the partisan crowd in Manchester. 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: Standard Liège at The Emirates on Thursday, 3rd October at 8.00pm (Europa League). Be there, if you can. 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.


Emery should resist temptation to play returning pair against Man U

On Monday Arsenal face Manchester United away. It is a game that would solidify Arsenal’s top 3 intentions if they win; or plunge us back into depression if we lose.

Following their good performance against Nottingham Forest, there have been plenty of calls from fans to put Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney into the starting XI for the key game against Man U. Emery should not bow down to the pressure.

Tuesday’s 5-0 victory over Nottingham Forest was Rob Holding’s 1st senior game since December 2018.

Holding suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on during a 2–2 draw against Manchester United nearly a year ago.

Likewise Tierney has spent 4 months out following a hernia injury, which subsequently required surgery for.

Both players are top young talents and will be mainstays in the Arsenal first team, so it is important that Emery looks at the bigger picture.

All being well, this season Arsenal will play around 50 games. There is a lot of football to come.

To cope with the work load, Emery needs to rotate his squad and ensure players do not pick up long the term injuries that hampered the clubs top 4 and Europa league challenge last season. It is also important that he manages the work load of returning players so that they immediately break down once more.

Both Holding and Tierney performed brilliantly against Nottingham Forest, but a Premier League game against Manchester United would be a huge step up; and one which might be a step up too soon.

What makes more sense is to leave both with the “mid-week squad” in the short term.

Next Thursday we play Standard Liege at home. It would make more sense to play Holding and Tierney in that game, continuing their rehabilitation at a lower level, than put them into a big game at Old Trafford.

It might be seen as some as a bit of a risk not to play both against Man U, but looking at the bigger picture it makes a lot of sense.

Following the game against Liege, Arsenal face Bournemouth. Once again Emery should not be tempted to put Tierney and Holding in.

After Bournemouth, we have an international break, with our 1st game back against Sheffield United on Monday 21st October. That is nearly a month away.

This should be the game that Holding and Tierney are slated in for a Premier League return.

The Sheffield United fixture is over 3 weeks away. By that point both players would have had a months full team training under their belt, as well as 2 senior games. They will be ready for Premier League football.

Putting them in against Manchester United would be short sighted. It would be playing the strongest XI at the risk of one of the 2 suffering another injury – which is likely for players returning from long term problems.

Not playing the pair against Man U means that come Sheffield United, both (and Hector Bellerin) are fit and strong and ready to go for the rest of the season. A sacrifice in the short term to see the benefit in the long term.

I am excited to see Holding, Bellerin and Tierney play together. They will be 3 of the back 4 for at least the next 5 years. But to ensure we get the best out of them for the next decade, it is important that we keep their recoveries from long term injuries slow and do not rush them back.


Guendouzi the Great

January 2007. Blackburn Rovers 0 – 2 Arsenal. It was the day a 19-year-old Cesc Fàbregas has his finest day in an Arsenal shirt.

12 minutes on the clock and Gilberto Silva was sent off following some theatrics from Robbie Savage. What followed was a one man masterclass as Fàbregas played on his own in the middle of the park, driving Arsenal to victory.

The record books will show that it was goals from Kolo Toure and Thierry Henry that won us the game, but the truth is it was the performance of the young Spaniard.

12 years later and 20-year-old Matteo Guendouzi may have had his Blackburn moment.

Down to 10-men and 1-0 down; it was Frenchman Guendouzi who stood head and shoulders above everyone else to deliver Arsenal 3 points.

Guendouzi was partially at fault for Aston Villa’s opener. He let John McGinn run off the back of him; although there was a clear lack of communication from Saed Kolasinac letting his teammate know of the danger. But after half-time he was the best player on the park.

This after a man of the match performance against Tottenham when the Gunners came back from 2-0 down.

Guendouzi drove forward into the box for the penalty that bought Arsenal level. He was then unlucky not to score himself with a low drive from the edge of the box.

Calum Chambers will get the credit for his quick reactions for Arsenal’s second equaliser, but it was Guendouzi’s beautifully flighted ball that found Chambers in space to create the goal. One of them situations where he will not be credited for an assist even though he clearly created the goal.

No player on the park had more touches of the ball than Guendouzi. No player made and completed more passes. He was Arsenal’s all action midfield hero.

Guendouzi’s problem is he does not have a partner that can get the best out of him.

Patrick Vieira had Emmanuel Petit. Cesc Fàbregas had Gilberto Silva.

Petit and Gilberto were senior pros who knew they had to sacrifice their own instincts to allow their younger teammates to flourish.

In Granit Xhaka, Guendouzi should have the perfect partner. Experienced, positionally disciplined and able to lead Guendouzi through a game. But he looks shot. Zero confidence. Doubting his own game. The Premier League becoming too quick for him.

Lucas Torreira is not positionally disciplined enough to play alongside Guendouzi. He wants to get forward to press high. Move wide. We want to free Guendouzi of as much defensive work as possible. Not have him covering a teammate who wants to play a similar role as him.

In Arsenal’s midfield it is clearly Guendouzi +1 at the moment. He is turning into our best central midfielder. A leader in the middle of the park.

Like Fàbregas against Blackburn, it is easy to forget how young Guendouzi is.