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Tactical Points from Arsenal's gutting defeat at Old Trafford

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

A game that was reminiscent of our previous encounters against United under Wenger- naivety, error-prone, and a general lack of discipline. Our recent record against them is solid precisely because we have avoided these traps:

• Elneny's late cameo against Newcastle seemed like a sign that the Egyptian was going to start at Old Trafford in an attempt to replicate the high-pressing workman-like performance seen last year. The key difference to last year's fixture is that this game was in the midst of a hectic schedule so the energy levels weren't going to be the same, with the addition of fans also a major soft factor.

• While the start until the early goal was fairly solid if not spectacular, the inability to take control of the game against a side bereft of ideas is the key issue once again. Turnovers under minimal pressure, second-best in duels, late to the second ball, and crucially, the typical attacking structure prevalent under Arteta wasn't there.

• United were hardly posing a threat to the Arsenal defence, evident by the number of long-range efforts taken by the home team. Getting to half-time with the lead intact was perhaps the best scenario but one chance was all they needed and throughout the game, they were clinical every time they got an opening.

• The second half saw a lot more fluidity in attack with Arsenal exploiting the gaps in the United press. Odegaard drifted around into the spaces between midfield and defence to break the press and feed the likes of Aubameyang and Martinelli running in behind.

• United's main tactic was to get Rashford and Sancho isolated in the wide areas at every opportunity but both Smith-Rowe and Martinelli got back to support the full-backs. From these situations, the midfielders seemed to switch off as they weren't tracking the late runs from the midfielders, especially of Fred. While Odegaard deserves criticism for giving away the penalty, the lack of marking was prevalent throughout these moments.

• Something's not quite right with Partey and this issue has to be sorted out as we head into the crazy Christmas period. He seems to be struggling with a lot of aspects that he is normally very reliable at. Additionally, he seemed to struggle with his fitness and it could very well be a case of the player not trusting his body and for a defensive midfielder, it's a big part of the game. Elneny did the role he was tasked with and surprisingly, was the more progressive passer of the duo.

• The striker problem just doesn’t seem to be going away for Arsenal. Most of the build-up right now is with all the 10 players on the pitch, except Aubameyang, and this problem has been there for quite some time. Temporary solutions need to be found until the end of the season and hopefully, a striker of the right profile is brought in.

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