Well, the boys came through when they needed to.
It was a very long 90 minutes of football at The Emirates on Sunday as Arsenal hosted one of their biggest rivals in the Premier League. This would be the final time Arsenal play a top six side before the end of the season. Additionally, Manchester United came into the game atop Arsenal by a single point. Arsenal knew coming into the match that a win would see them overtake the Red Devils in a very tight race for Champions League football next season.
As the lineup came out today prior to the game, a few interesting names were called in a 3-4-2-1 formation from Unai Emery. Lacazette and Aubameyang started next to each other rather than Emery choosing the Iwobi/Mkhi combination he has favored lately. Ramsey and Ozil featured in the same starting lineup as well, while Guendouzi did not get into the team sheet. This was particularly surprising as Ramsey/Ozil is a move that Emery has not made in recent. Arsenal did report that Mkhitaryan was sidelined today due to back issues, and would not be featured.
The first half started quickly, and Manchester United had the first chance coming out of the locker room. A nice combination between Shaw and Pogba saw the Englishman have the ball returned to him. He shipped a beautiful cross to Lukaku who did wonders to NOT get it in the back of the net. As the ball hits the woodwork, Pogba puts it back across the goal at Fred, who missed it by mere inches. Take a look.
But after that chance it became Arsenal’s game almost immediately. Two minutes later the ball has reached the midfield and is in Arsenal’s possession. A seemingly mundane set of passes between Maitland-Niles and Lacazette led to a pass to Xhaka about thirty yards out. The Swiss international took one touch to the left and unleashed a wicked outward-swerving ball that caught “the best keeper in the Premier League” on his wrong foot. As the ball dipped left, De Gea jumped right, and Arsenal found themselves 1-0 up and in fourth place as it stood.
HALF TIME here at the Emirates: Arsenal went ahead early, then sat back. Man United started slowly but are growing into the game. Will #AFC sit back and try to hold this 1-0 lead? Can #MUFC gain control in midfield?— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) March 10, 2019
Turn on @NBC now! #ARSMUN 1-0 #PLonNBCpic.twitter.com/eU2zjzHVUD
Man United had another chance shortly after the Gunners first goal. Fred received a ball from Pogba about 22 yards from goal, and unleashed a shot that rattled the outside of the left post. United were asking questions early about the Gunners defense, but Arsenal were able to see through their 1-0 lead into the half.
It was a similar story at the beginning of the second to the first. Arsenal were on the back foot coming out of the locker room as United began to penetrate the Gunners defense. In the 50th minute, United were making a break down when Fred’s shot from the top of the box was blocked by Koscielny. As the ball made it’s way around the box after the deflection, it was at the feet of Marcus Rashford. Rashford made one hell of a bass that completely deleted the Arsenal defense to Romelu Lukaku. But the Belgian was one of the best Arsenal defenders on the day, and a heavy first touch gave Leno just enough time to get in front of his shot. Arsenal kept the lead and Leno was indicating then he had no plans to lose a clean sheet. The German goalkeeper was phenomenal in goal again, and he was second in my man of the match voting behind Xhaka.
My apologies, I could not find a video.
Arsenal were able to get their second goal from a [soft] penalty call in the 72nd minute. I am unsure still watching the replay if it was a penalty or not, but the important part is the man with the whistle felt as though it was. After a costly miss last week in the NLD, Aubameyang went up to the spot and beat De Gea down the middle. As Arlo White says in the video below, “that was brave”.
Aubameyang sends his penalty past De Gea to score!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) March 10, 2019
ARS 2-0 MU pic.twitter.com/av33UcV4Vt
Arsenal would easily see out the result as the fans chanted “Tottenham Hotspur, we’re coming for you” throughout the stands. Arsenal now jump to 4th in the table on 60 points. Chelsea’s tie today and Tottenham’s loss yesterday mean the Gunners are now just a SINGLE point away from their North London neighbors/little brother. Arsenal now sit two points up on United and three on Chelsea with eight games remaining. Tottenham still have to face Liverpool and Manchester City in their remaining games, and Arsenal will hope that they can use those fixtures to jump to third in the table.
It is quite a good day to be a Gunner.