Ole Gunnar Solskjaer experienced his first Premier League defeat as Manchester United’s interim boss as Arsenal took the opportunity to move one point off rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsenal had changed to a back three for the game, with Manchester United looking to use a 4-4-2 formation with in-form strikers Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku. Unai Emery had learned from his previous encounter with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by avoiding the use of a back four against rapid attackers to hit them on the counter. Emery was without key man Lucas Torreira for the game, who picked up a straight red for a high challenge on Danny Rose in the previous league game, nevertheless, Italy-bound Aaron Ramsey stepped up in his absence providing 8 tackles in midfield – double the amount than any other Arsenal player!
Granit Xhaka looked to start things off well for Arsenal with his long-range effort going in after Romelu Lukaku had hit the bar at the other end. Eyebrows will be raised at the movement of David De Gea after Xhaka had let fly; the strong winds had created a big advantage for the Swiss with the ball moving drastically away from the wrong-footed Spaniard.
United decided to turn up the pace and created a whole host of chances after going behind with Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw providing the biggest threat to the Arsenal back line. Shortly after the break, Bernd Leno was called into action on numerous occasions (making 4 saves) and the pick of the contributions was a sprint off his goal line to stop Lukaku in his tracks, 25 yards from goal.
The pressure from United continued with a couple of free kicks from the edge of the box causing anxiety to most Arsenal fans and defenders being among the battles in the box. Laurent Koscielny went into block a snapshot from the Belgian Lukaku, which I must say was well saved by Leno, and picked up a nasty 3-inch gash on his leg requiring medical attention immediately though the ”Gunners” captain was brave enough to play out the rest of the 90. A lack of threat on the other side of pitch changed when Lacazette was fouled in the box by midfielder Fred despite it looking quite soft on second viewing.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was given the ball by his partner in crime, Lacazette, and after his last-minute penalty miss against Spurs the week before he stepped up and hit the ball down the middle of the goal doubling Arsenal’s lead. A downside to the goal was that a fan ran on the pitch and shoved Chris Smalling adding to the controversy that took place at St. Andrew’s in the game between Aston Villa and Birmingham.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Alexandre Lacazette
He held the ball superbly and got into some brilliant positions, which could’ve got him a much deserved goal. He motivated the fans at every opportunity, most notably after winning a tackle in his side’s half of the pitch. Most certainly Arsenal’s big game player this season with 6 goals and assists against top six sides. His contributions have doubled Arsenal’s points tally in big games (12) to last seasons (6).
The win for Arsenal takes them into fourth and a point off third as Spurs start to struggle after failing to win their last four games since the return of Harry Kane. Arsenal will need another 2-0 win on Thursday night to put them through to the quarterfinals of the Europa League.
Manchester United have a week-long break before taking on Wolves in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final. Returning players will be something Solskjaer will be pleased about ahead of the final 8 Premier League games of the season.