Last season, when Arsenal went to Old Trafford, the decisive goal that put the game beyond doubt was scored by a Spanish midfielder, running onto a cutback, with Francis Coquelin failing to track the midfield run, leaving him the entire penalty box. This season, the goal that looked to be decisive was scored by a Spanish midfielder, running onto a cutback, with Francis Coquelin failing to track the midfield run, leaving him the entire penalty box. There were only two differences: this season it was Juan Mata, and Mohamed Elneny was also culpable.
In fairness, the goal had been on the cards, for more than half an hour. That was when Antonio Valencia burst through, and went down under the rugby style tackle of Nacho Monreal. There was no penalty, causing Jose Mourinho to have an aneurysm. Aaron Ramsey laughed, the only thing he could smile about, as he, stuck out on the left hand side in a position that does not suit him at all, had an abysmal game. And to be fair he wasn’t the only one. Carl Jenkinson was a black hole in possession, and a bundle of nerves off it. The midfield two—Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny—were atrocious. They offered very little in possession, and weren’t secure out of it, giving Manchester United’s midfield too much space, as evident by the goal. A midfield pair that struggled against Middlesbrough at home struggled at Manchester United away. Who could’ve guessed? Well, everyone, aside from the Arsenal manager, who left Granit Xhaka on the bench after he played his best game for the club.
The lineup was wrong from the beginning. Nothing was done to address it until Manchester United went ahead. United went ahead in the 69th minute. Wenger had an hour to change things, to bring on Alex Iwobi and Granit Xhaka, skilled in possession and more suited to the gamee, and he sat on his hands. But in all honesty, the only surprise is that it took United so long to score.
And that cost Manchester United. Arsenal’s only chance was early on. A flicked header from a set piece found it’s way to Alexis, who headed wide, when he should’ve scored. And that was that. Arsenal didn’t have a shot on target. They didn’t have a shot after the 39th minute. All until the 89th minute. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went past Marcus Rashford and dug out a perfect cross for Olivier Giroud to power past David De Gea. It was Arsenal’s first shot on target, and first shot in 50 minutes. And in all fairness, totally undeserved, for it was an awful performance, and the blame can only be put on the manager. In credit to Wenger, bringing on Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain were good decisions, but one can only wonder what had happened had Arsenal started with a better line-up and in a better tactical set up.