Arsenal (1) 3 Manchester United (1) 2
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 22nd January 2023. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith-Rowe, Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Leandro Trossard, Fabio Vieira, Albert Sambi Lokonga, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Eddie Nketiah (23 mins, 89 mins), Bukayo Saka (53 mins)
Yellow Cards: Ben White, Mikel Arteta
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 58%
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Michael Salisbury; AVAR Dan Robathan
For this “blue chip” match today, we remain without Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson because of knee and hamstring injuries respectively, and it is heartening to see that our new £21,000,000 (plus add-ons of course) new signing Leandro Trossard (from Brighton and Hove Albion) has been registered in time to be eligible for this game this afternoon, and therefore sits on the substitute’s bench; either way, history tells us that it could be a match to remember!
The visitors kicked off the match on this cold North London afternoon, and immediately the pace of the game was electric in this white-hot atmosphere today. Thomas Partey was unlucky not to score within two minutes, and for the opening stages of this game, our confidence was there for all to see. However, the visitors had a penalty appeal (which was turned down) when Bruno Fernandes latched on to a through ball, and got to the ball ahead of Aaron Ramsdale and went down to the floor; a dangerous moment that our defence needs to constantly address as the game advances. Gabriel Martinelli superbly cut inside Aaron Wan-Bissaka but unfortuntely blasted his curling shot wide of the goal. Gabriel and Bruno Fernandes had a minor spat which led to a bit of pushing and shoving from players of both sides; we were awarded a free kick, but the effort went nowhere. After a quarter of an hour, Aaron Wan-Bissaka lost his bearings at the back post from a superb Bukayo Saka cross and he nearly put it into his own net, when he should have let it go for a goal kick. The resulting corner was headed out by Scott McTominay, and a couple of minutes later, the visitors took the lead when Marcus Rashford shot from twenty yards that had Aaron Ramsdale beaten all the way. Soon afterwards, Ben White received the first yellow card of the day for a foul on Marcus Rashford, and we replied to the goal by applying pressure to the United defence; Gabriel Martinelli was unlucky on not hitting the target from a Bukayo Saka corner, and we equalised on the twenty-third minute when Granit Xhaka crossed a superb cross from the left wing, for Eddie Nketiah to nip in front of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to head the ball into the net! A superb, well-taken goal. The visitors counter-attacked, and Antony moved in from the right wing and played it to Scott McTominay outside the penalty area and the midfielder’s side-footed effort was comfortably pushed to safety by Aaron Ramsdale. The subseuqent corner was cleared, and the match has become an exciting end-to-end, no quarter spared game (just like the Arsenal versus Manchester United games of old!). Mikel Arteta received a yellow card for his touchline behaviour and for the next few minutes, the visitors were active in our half, passing the ball around, trying to find a chink in our armour. As the game ebbed away towards the half-time break, we played some great moves, one in particular saw Oleksandr Zinchenko being very unlucky not to score when his shot went inches by the post. In injury time, the visitors had a penalty appeal turned down by the referee, and the last action of the first half came when a Bukayo Saka shot was easily plucked out of the air by goalkeeper David de Gea.
We started the second half off in earnest, but withut Ben White, who was replaced by Takehiro Tomiyasu, as the former has already been booked, and is in danger of receiving a second one. Antony was booked for a foul on Oleksandr Zinchenko, and a couple of minutes later we had a penalty appeal which was ignored by referee Anthony Taylor. A through ball created by Martin Ødegaard went towards Granit Xhaka, but Lisandro Martinez came hurtling across to make an inch-perfect sliding challenge in the six yard box; and then, out of nowhere, Bukayo Saka had the ball out wide, but Christian Eriksen backed off him, and then he shifted it to his left foot then hit a glorious low shot which just nestled into the far corner of the net, with the United goalkeeper graping for fresh air, a truly fantastic goal. The visitors came back at us, and Marcus Rashford managed to somehow get clear and hit a shot goalwards, but Aaron Ramsdale saved it with a superb, instinctive low save. Unbelievably, United equalised a couple of minutes later when Lisandro Martinez scored with a looping header into the net, despite Gabriel’s best effort to keep the ball out of the goal. Both teams sensed a chance to win this game now, and as such the intensity is ramping up. Bukayo Saka provided the danger again, rolling it to Eddie Nketiah but the striker got in a tangle eight yards out and could not finish the job, sadly. A superb Martin Ødegaard shot just inside the United penalty area ricocheted off a United defender for a corner, and although it eventually went off for a goal kick, the pressure was surely on the visitors now. With twenty minutes of the match remaining, in a carbon copy of his goal, a Bukayo Saka shot was deflected onto the foot of the post by a United defender for a corner, and although the resulting corner went nowhere, we continued our pressure on the visitors’ goal. A Takemiro Tomiyasu cross was cleared by Raphael Varane, and then a through ball from Bruno Fernandes found the feet of Marcus Rashford who was running onto it then he went down to the floor under Aaron Ramsdale’s challenge; United shouted for a penalty, but the referee Anthony Taylor (who has a good game today) waved the protests away, saying that the challenge was fair. After some exciting play in the United penalty area in which we were unlucky not to score, our new signing Leandro Trossard replaced Gabriel Martinelli with ten mimutes of the game remaining. Shortly afterwards, Eddie Nketiah swivelled and shot from such close range, which was close to David De Gea but he still had to make the save and palmed it away with his left hand. We were constantly pressurising the United goal, with their defenders panicking and kicking the ball away from the penalty area, seemingly anywhere, just to get it away. Literally, on the ninetieth minute, Oleksandr Zinchenko crossed the ball from the left wing. and Eddie Nketiah flicked it into the goal from close range for our third goal (and his second of the afternoon). There was a heartstopping couple of minutes when it was feared that the goal was offside, but VAR did their job and the goal stood! The game petered out after that during injury time, and we naturally ran out deserved winners by three goals to two.
An outstanding result from an an outstanding Arsenal team. A draw would have been disastrous, but we kept on going, and our on the ball quality, intensity and good old fashioned guts came through good for us at the end. More importantly, we remain five points clear of Manchester City, and although we meet them at the Etihad in the FA Cup on Friday evening, we can go into that game with our heads held high. Who knows what will happen next?
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: Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Friday, 27th December at 8.00pm (FA Cup). 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