Arsenal drew 2-2 with Manchester United in one of the chippiest games that I’ve seen this season. Andre Marriner lost some of his control of this one toward the end of the second half and never got it back, and I’m a little surprised that it ended with 22 players on the pitch.
Arsenal looked unsettled at the beginning of the match, and Bernd Leno was forced to make a save just four minutes in. But the Gunners soon got themselves more organized, and by the middle of the first half, the back three were taking care of things for their keeper and Aaron Ramsey and company were giving United’s defense some trouble at the other end of the pitch.
Arsenal’s first goal came at the twenty-six minute mark, and it was a weird one. Lucas Torreira’s high, looping corner kick found Shkodran Mustafi, who headed it into the ground, causing it to pop high into the air in front of the advancing David De Gea. De Gea only got his fingertips to it, and it came back down and just across the goal line before Ander Herrera could clear it.
Four minutes later, it was 1-1 after Arsenal’s own sloppy set piece defending. Leno made a good save from a United free kick just outside the box, but in the chaos that followed, Anthony Martial poked the loose ball home. Herrera, who collected the ball after Leno’s save, was probably a couple inches offside, but it wasn’t called and the goal stood.
To make matters worse, Rob Holding went down shortly afterward with what looked like a knee injury. Holding immediately made his way to the sidelines, unable to put weight on the injured leg, and was stretchered away a few minutes later. Stephan Lichtsteiner took his place.
The game devolved into a foul fest as the first half drew to a close, fractured by stops in play for free kicks, with yellow cards for Mustafi, Jesse Lingard, Hector Bellerin, Nemanja Matic, and Marcos Rojo—Rojo’s easily could have been red; his challenge might have broken Matteo Guendouzi’s ankle. The actual ankle injury went to Ramsey, who got unlucky and rolled his right foot badly while challenging Matic for the ball.
Rambo could barely run on that ankle at the end of the first forty-five, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan took his place on the pitch for the second half—another less-than-ideal substitution for the Gunners. Arsenal looked a little lost, having to absorb United pressure as they adjusted to their new lineup. Leno again did a good job to clear a dangerous shot at about the two-thirds mark. That seemed to wake the team up, and although the Gunners still didn’t look like themselves on counters, they at least started getting the ball over to United’s side of the pitch again.
Unai Emery made his last substitution in the 64th minute, replacing Alex Iwobi with Alexandre Lacazette. Lacazette combined with Mkhitaryan on a counterattack and was sandwiched between Rojo and Eric Bailly, with the ball trickling past De Gea for Arsenal’s second.
United tied it up almost immediately after a defensive mistake on the kickoff from Sead Kolasinac (up until then, he had had a decent game). Lingard collected a pass from the halfway line and slotted it past Leno.
Arsenal fought back, and De Gea had to make three good saves in the space of five minutes in order to keep his side level. But the Gunners’ attack faded as the game wore on (they probably could have used some fresh legs, but had used their last substitution twenty minutes earlier). Play hadn’t gotten any friendlier—Marouane Fellaini pulled Guendouzi down by his hair, and Lacazette returned the favor by heading the ball out of the hands of a confused De Gea as he strolled around the front of his penalty box. Mkhitaryan was denied by the offside flag in the dying minutes of regular time, and neither team was able to score in an extended period of stoppage time.
The Gunners extended their unbeaten run to twenty games in all competitions with the draw today, but it came at a high cost—Holding’s knee injury looked bad, and Ramsey will probably be out for a couple weeks with his ankle issue, as well. Arsenal’s next match is this Saturday, against Huddersfield Town. In the meantime, they’ll want to focus on keeping everyone as healthy as possible.