After Sunday’s late performance against Manchester United, Arsenal go into the international break unbeaten and with a meaningful result.
They are already two points behind Manchester City, the only team to record four wins in a row, but Mikel Arteta can be pleased with an encouraging start to the season despite their problems at home to Fulham.
However, until Declan Rice scored the first of two stoppage-time goals to bring down the Emirates’ roof, Arsenal were not playing like a team that looked ready to push City close again and Arteta has plenty to think about ahead They return to action against Everton in two weeks.
The question facing the Spaniard is familiar: is a win without good play a cause for encouragement or concern? Clearly Arteta’s side have not had much success this season and Sunday’s last-gasp 3-1 win, while ultimately deserved, was not entirely convincing, much like the one-goal victories over Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace.
The hosts had the video assistant to thank for Alejandro Garnacho’s 88th-minute goal being tipped over for a fraction of offside, before Rice and substitute Gabriel Jesus both scored in stoppage time when United’s makeshift defense – to this one At that point it consisted of Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans – collapsed.
Perhaps conscious of their 3-1 defeat to Erik ten Hag’s side at a similar stage last season, Arsenal were strangely passive against a motley United who were on hand, uncharacteristically leaving the handbrake on until the last, decisive advance made.
Although Arsenal were wary of United’s threat on the counter-attack, their concerns were justified in the 27th minute when Marcus Rashford opened the scoring with a superb shot against the run of play after Christian Eriksen turned the ball over and released the England striker .
Arsenal’s response was swift and lethal, showing what Arteta’s team are capable of at their freewheeling and fearless best.
Immediately after kick-off, Arsenal stormed down the left with a clever move involving Oleksandr Zinchenko, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli, and Martin Odegaard scored his first goal just 35 seconds after the restart.
Arsenal’s goal and late push underlined the team’s quality, spirit and character, traits they will need as they continue to prepare for new signings.
What’s most urgent for Arteta is finding the right balance with his midfield, which has repeatedly sputtered in the sunshine. Rice didn’t dominate like Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira once did in the game’s heyday, but he was imposing, overcoming tackles and trying to drive the hosts forward.
The goal was his first big moment for the club and could be a start for a player who is already one of the best in his position but still feels unable to fulfill his potential. In contrast, it was another frustrating afternoon for Kai Havertz, who continues to look like a cornerstone for his new club.
Arsenal’s goal and late push underlined the team’s quality, spirit and character
The German missed a great chance to take the lead with a missed kick when the ball fell to him just a few meters from the goal and he lost the ball to Eriksen with a loose pass before Rashford’s opener.
A difficult afternoon for the German was made even worse when referee Anthony Taylor, after consulting his pitchside observer, reversed his decision to award him a penalty with a score of 1-1 and the £65million summer signing was ruled out of the last 15 was replaced by Fabio Vieira in minutes. The Portuguese supported Jesus in his cool counterattack.
Da Granit makes his team purr.
As the old saying goes, winning when you’re not playing well is a sign of greatness, and Arteta can point to City, who often took a while to get up to speed. Last season the champions drew two of their first six games and only really got going after Christmas.
On the other hand, if Arsenal continue to play below themselves, there is a risk of Arsenal being found out by really good opponents – and United not qualifying, particularly given their away record against ‘big six’ rivals.
Arsenal should have enough to beat a struggling Everton without being at their best, but after visiting Goodison Park they host Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham, who have made a strong start under the Australian and significantly less so against United at the other end of the seven Sisters Road had problems last month.
With ten points from four games, Arteta has a solid platform but the performance needs to improve if Arsenal are to keep up with City.
https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/arsenal-fc-declan-rice-man-utd-title-race-b1104695.html Declan Rice is having a breakthrough but Arsenal must improve to keep pace with Man City