3 things we learned: Manchester United v Arsenal
Manchester United - Arsenal was a tight, tense tactical battle at Old Trafford, as two giants canceled each other out for the majority of the clash but the better team edged it.
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a penalty kick to win it for Arsenal in the second half, as Mikel Arteta’s side put in a mature, composed display to expose the gaps in this disappointing Manchester United side.
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Here’s a look at what we learned from Manchester United - Arsenal.
Home form a huge concern for sluggish Manchester United
Manchester United haven’t won at home this season, losing against Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal and drawing against Chelsea. This is the first time since the 1972-73 season that Man United have failed to win any of their first four home games in the league and the pressure is building. Solskjaer looks like a man who knows he has big problems and they should have lost by more than one goal against Arsenal. The honeymoon period for Solskjaer ended a while ago and he just cannot find any consistency with this United side to start the season, both in terms of results and performances. The problem is, the clear identity and style of play on the counter under Solskjaer in the early months, and even at the end of last season, has gone.
Solskjaer needs more from these players and needs to get more from these players.
He switched to the 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond which worked so well against RB Leipzig in midweek, but Arsenal totally clogged up the central areas and stifled any creativity from Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. United played into their hands and it’s fair to say that Solskjaer is getting out-thought regularly. Arteta won the tactical battle and United look sluggish as the negativity around their haphazard summer spending appears to be lingering. Next up at home: West Brom, Man City and Leeds. Only seven points from those three will ease the pressure.
Should Paul Pogba stay on the left, and in the team?
I don’t want to say I told you so. But I told you so. During ProSoccerTalk last week we discussed Pogba’s best position and I said he should play on the left side of midfield, just like he did for Juventus five years ago. What happened next? Pogba started on the left of a midfield diamond against RB Leipzig in United’s 5-0 UEFA Champions League win, then he was pushed out to the left in the second half against Arsenal.
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And although he had a much bigger impact on the game from the left from an attacking standpoint, he gave away a penalty kick as he tracked back right wing-back Hector Bellerin and was clumsy to foul him. After four years of trying to make Pogba the midfield lynchpin of this team centrally, we can now all see that he should play out on the left for United. It gives him more time and space to operate in and he can cut inside to supplement their attack. Defensively, he obviously has a lot of work to do to improve his game and that may mean he will find himself out of the team once again as the Pogba problem continues.
Partey typifies solid Arsenal
Thomas Partey was absolutely brilliant in the heart of the Arsenal midfield. This is exactly why they bought him on transfer deadline day. Partey won the ball back on so many occasions but it was what he did when he had it that impressed most. Driving runs linked midfield and attack, while his array of passing see the Gunners on their way to a control, disciplined display. Partey was worth the wait and Arsenal finally have a midfield general who can dominate that area and allow their attacking players to flourish.
Arsenal have won away at a ‘big six’ side for the first time since January 2015, and it is wild it has taken them 30 attempts to do that. This wasn’t a vintage Arsenal display but their grit and discipline, typified by Partey, was the key behind their first league win at United since 2006. Their direction and style of play under Arteta is clear and in less than half the time Solskjaer has had at United, he’s managed to create a real identity and a clear plan. After losing back-to-back tight games against Manchester City and Leicester City, this was the perfect response from the Gunners and showed they can battle for a top four finish at the very least this season.