It feels like we have seen versions of this match many times. Arsenal were generally the better team but left themselves open to being countered against where Manchester United were ruthless at finishing their opportunities.
It is a story that has been told before and probably will again as Arsenal play a high-pressing style.
It is a bummer and I hope that this isn’t something that will derail the momentum and good feeling of the club.
Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal: By the graphics
Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal: By the numbers
I have sort of started writing this article several times and then stopped. It has taken me a while to figure out exactly what meaning to take from this match.
I think I want to start with this graphic. This shows the running “Goal Probability Added (GPA)”, GPA is my take on expected threat type metrics where you take the probability of a goal being scored and scored against you and compare how that changes after an on ball action.
I think that this illustrates really well the flow of this match.
In the opening 10 minutes, Manchester United were in control of this match. In this period United had 81% of the ball, they had a 26-11 lead in the final third touches. Arseanl were pinned in but still doing pretty well to play on the break.
After surviving that Arsenal grew into the game. It didn’t count but the goal from Martinelli was a thing of beauty between the pass and finish. It was called back because a foul in the Premier League is a moving target these days, same with what is a “clear and obvious” error. Arsenal started to really impose themselves on the match after that. From the 15th minute to the end of the half these were the key stats.
6 – Shots for Arsenal, 3 for United
0.4 – Expected goals for Arsenal, 0.25 for United
203 – Passes attempted by Arsenal, 86 for United
65 – Final third passes for Arsenal, 9 for United
11 – Passes completed into the box for Arsenal, 1 for United.
United got a goal very much against the run of play, taking advantage of Arsenal giving too much space and a rash challenge.
The start of the second half was more of the same. Here were the stats up to Saka’s equalizer from the start of the second half.
3 – Shot for Arsenal, 0 for United
0.6 – Expected goals for Arsenal, 0 for United
120 – Passes attempted by Arsenal, 36 for United
37 – Final third passes for Arsenal, 0 for United
3 – Passes completed into the box for Arsenal, 0 for United.
Arsenal continued to apply pressure, eventually getting a deserved goal. At this point Arsenal could have switched things up, going more conservative looking to escape for a point but Arteta I think rightly saw that Arsenal had over the course of the match been the better team and thought that all three points were there for the team.
Arsenal continued to have most of the ball but failed to fully strangle United’s ability to get out. That is going to happen from time to time when you are a team that wants to have ball high up the pitch, Arsenal had mostly gotten away with it this season with good pressing and defenders doing well one on one when they got put on an island.
I think about 38% of the time this strategy ends with Arsenal getting the winning goal, about 30% of the time this still ends in a draw and 32% of the time this happens. I think it is the proper strategy because the difference between a draw and a loss is minimal with the reward of three points being much larger. It stings when it goes against the team but it was probably still the right choice. The regular expected points from this position is about 1.2 and playing a more aggressive go for the win boosts it to about 1.4.
There aren’t any major issues that I think change my long-term view of this team from this match, hopefully the team can bounce back to winning ways in the Europa League on Thursday.
Sources: Opta via whoscored, my own database.
Scott, nice write-up. Can we bounce back and continue on? Gabriel Jesus remains the KEY to our improved performance this season. He has improved how everyone plays. Arteta got schooled today. Scott I don’t buy the argument that no adjustment was necessary to our game plan and the results speak for themselves. To be expected actually, ETH is very experienced. There’s nothing flukey about Man U scoring 3 goals and almost more on the counter. ETH knew we’d be high-lining it and had their team ready. MA didn’t adjust game plan to be less vulnerable to the counter, didn’t make… Read more »
The shitty Ref is a major factor as well.
He’s the main factor.
If he gives that opening goal, we go on and win the game.
Simple as that.
Your response is a classic approach to “analysis” where a narrative is written to fit the result.
Scott has written a more balanced article. There was an element of risk in the approach taken by Arsenal but if Arsenal had tried to go conservative and Man U taken the initiative there is still no guarantee that we not have lost. In that scenario people would then have criticised Arsenal for not pressing home our advantage given our dominance at that point.
It’s a fluke! They can’t control games! The so called richest club in the world has to depend on counter attacks..did same with Liverpool…let’s see them continue to do it against teams that will also park the bus like them….a bunch of 20year old centre backs will surely master the high press as part of our evolution… we’re bossing possession away! Have some faith mate…. meanwhile we stick with the process! On to the next one
This is an important point to make. Yes, Liverpool are dealing with injuries, but we looked better at Old Trafford than they did. It’s really hard to argue that Arteta was “schooled” unless Klopp was also.
You apparently also think klopp got schooled! You have CR7 and 100m players and the best you can do is an ancient Italian catanacio?! Pleaseee!
That’s going to be the big question — can we recover, shake off this loss and win our next Premier League game? I personally never went too overboard on the late wins against Villa and Fulham at home, it was always going to be this result and the one after that was a true test of our mettle. We have to bounce back and beat Everton if we are serious about being a mainstay in the top 4 this season, and maybe be a bit of s dark horse for finishing higher because I’d say all of Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs… Read more »
Talk sense FFS.
Arteta didn’t get ‘schooled’, he got ripped off by the ref and VAR.
On certain away days when defensive grit is needed I would like to see Zinchenko, Xhaka and Lonkonga in 6, 10 and 8 respectively and Kieran at left back because u need your fastest defenders when you’re playing a counterattacking team. We Would miss Odegaard’s creativity at the start but I think it would be well compensated for with the freedom of a very athletic box to box Sambi and a press resistant and creatively understated Zinchenko in the middle.
Need a stat where the man utd players were constantly fouling arsenal without getting a card
We controlled the game well… Sometimes it’s just how the cookie crumbles (look at Man City draw with Villa). We got beat on the counter. Also, Man U didn’t defend that well overall I thought, but due to some of their dirty players, they really disrupted us at key moments. Disappointing result, but loved to watch all our possession and playing style, was beautiful. Arsene is proud am sure. I think Arteta needs to learn how to manage the game better… He’s a great coach but tactically still very green. Would have been amazing to get 6 from 6 wins… Read more »
I think leaving the two defenders back about 10 yards into our half prevents the quick break more often.
First goal came as Manure were targeting the space behind Zinch and this is where he is weaker defensively, drawn inside instead of covering the winger (never seen him before but I already hate the arrogance of Antony).
Agree… We got beat there fair and square. They are a good team, one has to expect goals against us. Though I think we pressed high to try comeback and well… It didn’t work in our favour. A draw would have been okay for me. Antony comes across as a thug… Don’t like his vibe at all. Funny that we “almost” signed Lisandro… Don’t like him either haha, even though I was dissapointed we didnt sign him a few weeks ago!
A draw at 1-1. Would have keep that invinsibke2 Alive too. ETH, brought on Fred etc to defend our for a draw
I really don´t like losing to Utd. Even though we beat them at Old Trafford in 2020, its been a tough place to visit for us in the past decade, and i wish we´d be more cynical when we visit. When we won there in 2020, we let them have dominate the play and hit them on the counter. Kind of similar to how they play against us, and guess what, it worked. It´s crucial to have your own style, but i wish we could adapt a bit more away against the “big” teams to give us a better chance… Read more »
if them stats where for Boxing we would of won on points! for possession in an away match we dominated them but got caught with the over the top sucker punch too many times, more positives from this game still a loss but good vibes, usual united tactic come out kicking fuck out of everyone for ten minutes, how the mctominay aint on 10 reds a season is any ones guess dirty fker ! This league is going to get some crazy results this year for sure especially with VAR reffing the games now, should the ref now be called… Read more »
After cooling off from the match, it feels like a fair result. We failed by playing effectively a 3-man defence against a team who only have counter attack as a strategy. It was a little naive, because we are relying on converting our chances and we are not that clinical yet. This feels like some blueprint for teams facing Arsenal in the future if we are not careful. In hindsight, Tierney would have been a better choice left back for this one. My biggest disappointment comes from comparing Saka being lifted and thrown over in the penalty area by Mings… Read more »
I’m hoping United haven’t handed out the blueprint on how to beat us. They loaded the central areas and were happy to let us have it out wide, let us move the ball side to side and wait to pounce on any mistake. It is not a hard model to replicate, and is how most teams set up against us in the later wenger years. We had a lot of the ball without creating many clear cut chances. United doubled up out wide when we approached the box and were able to prevent us getting to the byline and cutting… Read more »