Gunners End Ole Gunnar’s Run

Online Ed: Manchester United defeated as Gunners move within a point of Spurs

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Players celebrate Granit Xhaka's goal

Phew! It was a far less comfortable 90 minutes than the scoreline might suggest, and even the most one-eyed Gooner could not deny that their team was a little fortunate in the much-needed 2-0 win over Manchester United. Given 76 points should be enough to secure Champions League football, Unai Emery’s team need to register 16 from their remaining eight fixtures. Nine should hopefully be secured in the home matches against Newcastle, Palace and Brighton, which leaves seven points required from five games on the road: Everton, Watford, Leicester, Wolves and Burnley. Two wins and a draw. There is no question that beating United has made Arsenal’s task a lot more achievable, and will have shortened the odds with the best betting sites on the Gunners finishing in the top four. Not only did they get three points nearer their target, they denied one of their principle three rivals for the two places behind Man City and Liverpool points in the process.

It was a good weekend generally for Arsenal. Spurs lost at Southampton and Chelsea only managed a point at home to Wolves. After the second leg of the Europa League tie against Rennes on Thursday, the team will not play again for two and half weeks due to the FA Cup quarter finals and an international break. It would be good to have momentum going into that break by turning around the tie against the French club, but elimination from Europe might actually turn out to be beneficial in the long run.

As for the game yesterday, there’s no getting away from the fact that United hit the woodwork twice in the first half. On another day, this result could easily have gone the other way. As it was there was an element of fortune with both Arsenal’s goals. David De Gea completely mis-read Granit Xhaka’s shot and seemed rooted to the spot for what should have been a bog standard save for a keeper of his reputation. And Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty (which was softly awarded for the challenge on Lacazette, but what the hell) was probably a worse one than against Spurs, although as the keeper guessed wrong, that didn’t matter.

Unai Emery was unquestionably adventurous in his formation, starting Lacazette, Aubameyang, Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, with Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles as wing backs. It did indicate they were not going to let United have the ball and soak up the pressure, as was the case against Spurs. It was interesting to see that Koscielny stood at least a couple of yards behind his two central defensive partners. So a policy of mopping up rather than trying to play the offside trap.

United continued to threaten throughout the game and there was more than one last ditch tackle that required the Arsenal physio to patch up various players. For all that though, the spirit in the Gunners’ play was evident. They were hungry and determined (aside, granted, from the laconic Ozil), with performances from Lacazette and Ramsey especially notable. At the back, Sokratis and Koscielny both stood out, although the man of the match was surely Bernd Leno.

At 1-0 nerves were understandably frayed in the crowd, but Aubameyang’s converted second half penalty soothed the home support. After that, Arsenal generally played result football, making the game bitty with stoppages and not over-committing numbers going forward. United certainly didn’t give up, although you could sense it just wasn’t going to be their day, epitomized by a late free Rashford header straight at Bernd Leno, who had by that time pulled off a number of excellent saves. The keeper’s game seems to have improved significantly in recent weeks.

Granted, it’s a long time until Arsenal take the field again against domestic opposition, but from 1st April, they will play their remaining eight league matches in a six week period that could, conceivably, also feature four Europa League fixtures. That might of course be knocked on the head on Thursday if they cannot beat Rennes by two goals, but at least they will go into that match with confidence after winning this huge game.

To mark the club’s progress since last season, after 30 matches in 2017/18 they had collected 48 points and were in 6th place. Liverpool were in 4th with 60 points. This season Arsenal are 12 points better off and in 4th place themselves with 60 points. Be careful what you wish for? Sure, Arsenal are not home and hosed as yet, but the brief given to Unai Emery was to get the club back into the Champions League this season – the number one priority above anything else. He has given himself a decent chance of achieving it. Even with a defeat yesterday, it would still have been possible if for no other reason than the patchy form of both Spurs and Chelsea. However, they can now even consider the possibility of finishing third and avoiding a play-off qualifier in August. If you’d been offered four points from the two matches against Spurs and United before they took place, I have little doubt Gooners would have taken that. On English soil, it's been a good nine days for the club. Now to try and put right the wrongs of Rennes away and make the climax of the season even more interesting.

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  1. Paulo75

    Mar 12, 2019, 20:19 #113424

    Big bonus having Lacazette available for Thursday, I think we might need him. Things seem to be coming together for a decent end of season although Rennes won't be the pushover perhaps some are thinking. Don't think its coincidence that we looked better at the back on Sunday without Mustafi's presence. Interested to see who Emery picks in place of Sokratis although I fear it will be our hapless German. I think Monreal has been a standout in recent weeks and takes the onus off Kolasinac being relied upon too much to defend - certainly not his strong point. Time for Ozil to pay back some of his hefty wages and push us towards the quarter finals.

  2. Bard

    Mar 12, 2019, 13:13 #113423

    Great result. I thought Leno had a cracker of a game and wonderful to see us getting stuck in. Loving Sokratis, a proper animal. Trying not to think too much about how it will all turn out and trying to enjoy the ride.

  3. Radfordkennedy

    Mar 12, 2019, 12:52 #113422

    Good to see bodies being thrown into the line rather than backs being turned, a huge improvement too my mind on recent seasons. AMN a player not given to emotional outbursts and certainly not someone you'd play 5 card stud with, even he was fist pumping and shouting at those a around him which was good to see. Another seat of the pants game, but we took our chances and got stuck in which is all you can hope for really......it did amuse me somewhat to hear the sky pundits asking what did MU do wrong rather than well done AFC.....still if we can do Rennes it will for a refreshing change be an exciting run in

  4. Radfordkennedy

    Mar 12, 2019, 12:52 #113421

    Good to see bodies being thrown into the line rather than backs being turned, a huge improvement too my mind on recent seasons. AMN a player not given to emotional outbursts and certainly not someone you'd play 5 card stud with, even he was fist pumping and shouting at those a around him which was good to see. Another seat of the pants game, but we took our chances and got stuck in which is all you can hope for really......it did amuse me somewhat to hear the sky pundits asking what did MU do wrong rather than well done AFC.....still if we can do Rennes it will for a refreshing change be an exciting run in

  5. CORNISH GOONER

    Mar 12, 2019, 11:26 #113420

    GoonerRon, I do see where you are coming from re Laca but his finishing was bit rubbish wasn't it? I also think Marky is correct about the selling off of any substantial player assets - which would make sense if there was a positive plan in place to ensure Trophies will also come through astute buying of replacements. No chance under The Wigmeister I fear - he has to go. Chances of this happening as American business tightens it's grip on our economy a bit fat ZERO!

  6. markymark

    Mar 12, 2019, 06:51 #113419

    GoonerRon -I fear him going as a way to raise a big lump of cash for rebuilding. I understand Josh was in town the other night at a fans forum I think he was drumming the sustainability message again. Be good to here from anyone who was actually present.

  7. GoonerRon

    Mar 11, 2019, 23:35 #113418

    @ Cornish - I disagree a bit on Lacazette if I’m honest - I think the guy is an absolutely top drawer number 9 (and a half). I think he’d do a great job in virtually any club around - fabulous at instigating a high press, hardworking, strong, wins plenty in the air for his size, enough pace, brilliant link up, good shot with minimal back lift, good finisher - he’s got the lot.

  8. mbg

    Mar 11, 2019, 22:05 #113417

    SKG 1, spot on ref Ramsay, a lot of us have had a go at him including myself but his attitude in all of this has been first class a true pro, many would be playing half heartedly and just going through the motions.

  9. mbg

    Mar 11, 2019, 21:49 #113416

    It was a good win and extra good to put the skids on ole, yes we rode our luck but so did they we could have had another one or two but for poor finishing. We played well and yet again defended well fourth is on if we hold it together maybe even third so lets not go and balls the whole thing up again with another couple of petty loses and mistakes.

  10. markymark

    Mar 11, 2019, 21:14 #113415

    It’s Ron - you nailed it with the Wenger bellyaching he literally caused open season on us at times. That and his complete snobby stand offishness with admittedly dumb ass rivals went down like a Led Zeppelin. He was never quite clever enough to play along with the Neanderthals . Preferring to whinge from the side lines. Once read an interesting piece on French executives / establishment from his era. Apparently the attitude is very common a mix of titanic egos and stubbornness born out of their education systems and belief they were the most educated in the world . As we all know everyone loves to have a poke at someone who puts themselves on a pedestal . Arsene perhaps unknowingly caused us a lot of problems in this regard

  11. itsRonagain2

    Mar 11, 2019, 21:07 #113414

    CG - Yes, agreed but the 'top quality' you allude too isnt coming to Arsenal, not now or ever under this owner (or perhaps under other owners even) They cant and wont pay. AFC have always been that way.Yr Laca s and Aubas are really good on their best days and are likeable players but as you say, are not the types the very top clubs in Europe will seek to buy BUT we have to max that level of player s performance and the guts and drive we showed v Utd as we re commenting on is the recipe to do it. The intensity and effort is designed to make up the shortfall in 'qualitee' . AFC have not been doing thats until Dick arrived and its good to see. Pundits rave over Klopps Liverpool, but in truth hes doing the same with players who arent truly top marque. Yr Firminos, and Manes and Salah s arent the creme de la creme either. Very good yes, but without Liverpools energy and drive, they wouldnt be up there now with one defeat all season. AFC have cut their cloth and we have to accept it.

  12. Don Howe

    Mar 11, 2019, 20:22 #113413

    Not for the first time Richard is a breath of fresh air. Let’s go on the park and outrun and outthink and outfight united. Last done under G Graham. Fantastic. Discovering our nuts again. On other business United really do think they have an inherent right to world domination. Let’s call them Ernst Stavro. I do so enjoy it when they are on 606 contemplating oblivion and despair. My profound hope is that they and their Mancunian chummms the oilers disappear into the European boreathon league. That will leave us to enjoy our football without their tantrums. They make the Spuds look mature. Speaking of F.C. Poultry I can’t help feeling that the move from Wembley to New white Hart Lane before seasons end is a mistake. It may take them a while to get used to the pitch. Good news for us if I’m right.

  13. CORNISH GOONER

    Mar 11, 2019, 19:34 #113412

    Well done Dick, this welcome result was totally down to him & I hope the doubters will now back off & give him the time he needs because as Souness (I think) said we are sitting in fourth with a squad that is sixth at best. Leno really looking the business now & even Mesut put in a shift - sort of. But I am really not going to miss Rambo as, despite his commendable attitude, he is not top, top qualitee. Laca clearly more effective than Auba but to be honest they both worry me in the Club's quest to get back in the top tier - again not really top, top etc.! Suarez showing a bit more confidence on the ball - will he come good?. Was Kola's projectile vomiting a cunning plan to reduce the playing size of the pitch? Pleased to see the tubby referee making amends for an otherwise poor display - but to be fair it must be tough keeping up with Premiership matches if you are a bit porky. Finally, well done to the Editor for correctly predicting a 2 clear goal result - even if it was the wrong way around!

  14. John F

    Mar 11, 2019, 19:28 #113411

    He is a risk Ron for the odd Red and I am surprised he hasn't conceded a penalty by now. On yesterdays game shouldn't there be a fitness standard for Refs as John Moss looked almost as tubby as Lukaku and struggled at times to keep up with play.

  15. itsRonagain2

    Mar 11, 2019, 18:42 #113410

    Agree John - Socratis. A nice blend of cynicism and good play. He s never scared of taking yellow for the team. Occasionally he ll take red but thats football.No team made up of choir boys ever won anything. Arsene knows that much now!

  16. John F

    Mar 11, 2019, 18:19 #113409

    A few people are suggesting that slur Alex has been helping OGS out with a few team chats something he would not do with Maureen in charge and may be the real reason behind the good form.I was watching what Sokratis does off the ball and he really is a master of the dark arts especially when he stopped Rashford from bursting into the box with a crafty body check .We have not had a player like him for years.

  17. itsRonagain2

    Mar 11, 2019, 17:16 #113408

    Marky - i honestly think OGS has had some beginners luck, i really do. I dont think he ll return MU to the top. You make a good point about his comments, if they're true of course and not media garbage. Hes maybe got some what drunk on his new found status of no mark manager to MU messiah. He seems a nice guy though in fairness, maybe too nice to manage them? Very good point about making yr own luck too. I always thought Wengers years of bellyaching, excuse making and scapegoating alienated not only other coaches and clubs against him but also the refs too. Unai seems to have it all in perspective. Its good to have an Arsenal Coach again who gets on with it and doesn't blame the World and its dog for every setback. Have to say though, that nobody in my experience whinges sulks and cries like the French so Wenger was just being himself really.

  18. markymark

    Mar 11, 2019, 16:57 #113407

    I reckon if you show enough intensity the luck tends to go your way. Fergies high tempo teams plus of course his intimidation of officials tended to get the rub of the green. Towards Wengers middle period when a certain arrogance started to stink out the place we saw the constant moans of this not going our way . See Untolds great Referree conspiracy theory pushed by those nut jobs over the last 5 years. Then you get Unai brush aside poor decisions earlier in the season and at home at least he raises the bar. Ultimately the best team won. We can also count ourselves unlucky not to have added 5 or more extra points against the top 6- Chelsea away , Man U away ( loss of Holding stuffed us ), Tottenham away. If Unai could get the away performances raised he really would be firing on all cylinders. I’m still not sure if he’ll end up a interim manager but, he thoroughly deserves this and I don’t think I’ve heard anything negative from him regarding referees or luck. Good man! Did anyone think OGS’s comments about UTD feeling at their lowest very odd? It’s one defeat in 13! I wonder if it’s something in him, whether he’s suddenly thought he’s been found out and the dream is already over. Most odd considering it’s all all to play for.

  19. Moscowgooner

    Mar 11, 2019, 14:41 #113406

    Be careful what you wish for! Anyway it's good that all those who trotted out this trite little phrase and warned us about seasons of mid table mediocrity post AW have been gracious enough to own up and admit that they got it completely wrong. Oh...

  20. Exiled in Pt

    Mar 11, 2019, 13:59 #113405

    Good team performance and a pleasant change to have the luck go our way against United . Would be great to finish above the scum again ...

  21. itsRonagain2

    Mar 11, 2019, 11:35 #113404

    i ll second that view on Ramsey, but to be honest i dont think his attitude has ever been doubted really. OK, he did seem to bask a bit in Wengers loose acceptance of players over indulging themselves with carefree, flicks and back heels etc etc for a period but he wasnt alone was he in doing that was he? In fact, its that which UE has had to eradicate and after so many years of it, its hard to get players to become more rigorous in their approach to playing the game. I some times think its underestimated how hard UE is having to work to remove the Wenger legacy. UE seems to recognise what players can and cannot do, whereas the AW cavalier approach seemed to be that if you allow a player to think hes Messi or Baresi than the player will morph into being that good! As for Thursday GR, i think they ll get through anyway. I hope so anyway.

  22. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Mar 11, 2019, 11:06 #113403

    It's a long time since we have had a bit of luck against Man U - the first goal more or told you it was our day. Still we battled very hard, Leno's decision making was spot on and what a thoroughly professional performance from Ramsey, I have grown to admire this guy's attitude.

  23. GoonerRon

    Mar 11, 2019, 10:38 #113402

    I was massively surprised with the attacking team selection but pleased that Emery can continue to surprise us with team selections as it probably means the opposition will not be expecting it either. We were a touch fortunate in that they had some decent chances but we earned our luck with our brilliant attitude, endeavour and commitment - right up until the last minute we were hassling and harrying them into mistakes. Really delighted to win and hope it can give us the confidence to turn the tie around on Thursday. COYG!

  24. itsRonagain2

    Mar 11, 2019, 10:18 #113401

    Check out the guts and desire and drive to battle and win, never mind the shortfall in quality! Great win i think and the team got the breaks v Utd for the first time since i can remember.

  25. RobG

    Mar 11, 2019, 10:05 #113400

    Agreed, we were fortunate. But it's about time we had some luck. And credit to the players for that performance. Now for the wider picture - Emery has the sixth - by my reckoning - best squad in the Prem' and he is pushing for third place. This suggests that he knows his onions. And with the greatest respect, his critics should back off. He's doing a pretty decent job and we need to encourage him and the team not the opposite. It hints all the more at what he can achieve with a proper transfer window this summer and if he can set about that from the position of CL football, then all the better. We are not there yet be any means but given we don't have any of our rivals left to play, we've given ourselves a really decent shout. Come On You Gunners !!!