Arsenal entered the recent Premier League clash against old rivals Manchester United in an enviable position at the top of the table, having won all of their five previous matches and maintained a 100% record.
However, the side endured a difficult time at Old Trafford, dominating possession for periods of the game before succumbing to United’s pace and progressive passing in transitions during a 3-1 defeat.
Of course, the Gunners reacted with a solid 2-1 win over FC Zurich in Switzerland, while they return to the EPL this weekend against a dogged Everton side. The Gunners are favourites with all Crypto Bets sites to record a sixth league win of the season, but what lessons do they need to heed from their Old Trafford defeat?
How Arsenal Struggled at Old Trafford
It’s now clear how Gunners’ manager Mikel Arteta wants to play at the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal’s possession-based game based primarily on quick and progressive ball distribution and constant movement in the final third.
Arsenal were able to do this at times during the match at Old Trafford, particularly in the 15 minutes after half-time that preceded their equaliser.
As for much of the season, however, they were unable to dominate huge swathes of the match, while often their possession lacked menace or tempo and was relatively easy to defend against.
The side’s press was also easy to play through as they chased the game after Bukayo Saka’s goal, with Christian Eriksen constantly finding space and threading proactive passes between Arsenal’s defensive lines.
This was borne out by the second goal, as Eriksen had the freedom of the midfield to supply Bruno Fernandes in the centre circle, whose outside of the boot ball released Marcus Rashford through the middle to beat Aaron Ramsdale.
For the third goal, a simple Fernandes pass released the marauding Eriksen beyond a threadbare defensive line, with the Dane subsequently squaring for Rashford to claim his second (and United’s third goal).
Can Arsenal’s High-Risk Game be Sustained Against the Best Sides?
The issue here is clear, as Arsenal looked vulnerable in transition at Old Trafford, while their failure to sustain attacks and deploy an effective press has been evident throughout the season at different times.
This has much to do with a lack of presence and quality in midfield, with Granit Xhaka and Sambi Lokonga unimaginative in possession and too easy to bypass with cutting and progressive passing.
Similarly, the defence became ragged as Arsenal chased the game, with the removal of left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko caused the Gunners to lose their shape and become even more open in the wide areas.
Arteta has to address this, ensuring that his side are more compact in possession and able to close the space more effectively in instances where they lose the ball. This is particularly important against the best EPL sides, as it’s hard to see the Gunners prevail against Manchester City, Liverpool or even local rivals Tottenham if they remain so open across the pitch.
Otherwise, it could be another season of frustration for an undoubtedly talented Arsenal side.