The last time Arsenal beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League: September 17th, 2006. The last time Arsenal won away at a “Top 6” club: 29 matches ago. Both those streaks ended: today.
It’s too early to tell whether Arsenal have “turned the corner” or if this is a “statement win” from Mikel Arteta’s bunch, but it was easily their best performance of the season. They bossed the first half and played United more or less even in the second. Hector Bellerin drew a penalty kick off a silly foul from Paul Pogba. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted. And that was all she wrote.
Thomas Partey is the real deal. He led all players in successful take-ons (3/5) and ball recoveries (11), led Arsenal in final third passes (12/13), was behind only Gabriel in tackles (4/5), and his 3 interceptions trailed only Bukayo Saka and Mohamed Elneny. And speaking of Elneny, he was magnificent today. He’s always in position and rarely makes mistakes, and today, he improved his ball progression significantly. I don’t remember who said it on Twitter, but Elneny plays a great Robin if you’ve got a Batman.
Gabriel was incredible today. He picked up an early yellow, but that didn’t stop him from putting in several last ditch, desperation blocks/tackles. He timed them perfectly, well almost all of them. He was a bit fortunate not to pick up a second yellow for a tackle on Mason Greenwood late on. Arsenal look to have a star in the making: he’s composed, a strong tackler, and confident with the ball at his feet. And shoutout to Rob Holding, too. He came back quicker than expected from his hamstring injury and put in a solid performance today despite picking up an early yellow.
Hector Bellerin was the other standout, for me. He appears to have rediscovered his pre-ACL tear form, which is a massive boost for the Arsenal attack. His attacking half passing was incisive, and it was his run that earned the penalty. Being able to attack down the left with Kieran Tierney and the right with Bellerin will make Arsenal difficult to defend.
Don’t look now, but Arsenal have the best defensive record in the Premier League in terms of goals conceded (7). They’ve played Manchester City, Liverpool, and Manchester United away, too. They’re middle of the pack in xGA so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, but the biggest knock on the club for a while has been the defense. And Mikel Arteta has improved that by leaps and bounds. Hopefully today’s performance is a glimpse of what’s to come in terms of the attack — it was better, to be sure.