Arsenal v. Man U: Stats Preview


Trick post. I would normally call this a win for Arsenal based on the data available and on the home advantage but all the stats go out the window with this matchup.

Mourinho has a philosophy about these big games and especially big games away where he looks to throttle the game and kill off both team’s chances. Basically he plays not to lose and he feels like the best way to do that is to kill the game: sit in the low block, lots of physical play, hard tackles, let the opposition know that they are in an important match, and if his team can hit on the counter they will.

Mourinho banks on two major concepts in these games, don’t make an error on defense and exploit the spaces on offense. Both are sound tactics made especially effective since he has 15 top quality players at his disposal.

In a funny way Mourinho’s tactics in these matches is a vindication of Big Sam’s claim that he should be allowed to manage a big club. Sam would approach these games the same way that Mourinho does and imagine if Allardyce had Pogba, Lukaku, Mkhitaryan, and Mata on the counter attack, with Matic and Fellaini in midfield with the World Class David de Gea making stops at the back! It would be quite an upgrade on the Bolton side that gave Wenger fits in 2006.

For Arsenal, the key is creating chaos. Mourinho’s tactic requires perfect execution. One bad tackle in the wrong area and he’s got to switch to plan B and come out to get the game level again. Alexis and Wilshere are Arsenal’s two main chaos agents but Mourinho will look to neutralize one or both of them (I don’t think Wilshere will start). Mourinho will also look to trap Alexis into being on the ball too much, try to get him to be the main man, and take the ball away from him.

That means that, for me, Ramsey and Ozil will have to pick up the slack. The problem is that Ramsey’s at his best when he’s making a late run and against the low block defenses, he literally has nowhere to run into. He also will have limited spaces for his through ball pass and the forwards won’t have as much space to run behind for those balls either.

Ozil has an advantage. He’s played with Mourinho at Real Madrid against Barcelona. He knows if there’s a weakness in the system. He is also a weirdly chaotic player in his own right, not by dribbling through their lines, but with his constant movement and awareness of space. If he can get on the ball, create time, and find someone like Lacazette (this all seems simple but it’s much more subtle and difficult than that) who is a clinical finisher. Sadly, the Frenchman is a miss.

I do want to add one last statty thing; Man U are the luckiest team in the League right now. They just beat Watford with four goals from distance, something I haven’t seen a team do since I started collecting stats. I know that my expected goals formula isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good and it shows United as the most “overperforming” (LUCKY) team in the League right now. Most of their overclocking is in defense which accounts for 9 of their +13 xGD. And almost 5 of that 9 came against Liverpool and Chelsea. But they routinely rely on de Gea to save their bacon. For the third year in a row, he’s in the top three goalkeepers in big chance saves and saves from shots in prime.

So, even if Arsenal get through the midfield, get a player in scoring position, play him through one-v-one with the keeper, they still have to beat the best keeper in the world to score. That’s what makes them so good and why I think this game is impossible to call based on stats alone.



  1. I would say 2-1 to the Arsenal if we had Laca.

    I think Welbz will play, and that means we’ll be hearing lots of shouts of “unlucky!” Maybe Ozil can bank one off Welbz’ shoulder or some snooker like thing.

    I’m calling 1-0 Arsenal. Giroud comes on for Welbz to score the winner. Mustafi contains Lukaku.

    Though what I really want to see is us dominating but stymied by United fouling all game and getting away with it, then have them cough up a soft penalty in stoppage, Alexis slots home the winner and watch Mou cry about it during the post game.

  2. Yes, yes, that too is what I want to see. But even better would be us humiliating them 6-0.

    Man, I really hate that man, more than anyone else who I’ve never met and who doesn’t have a job with any kind of important real world consequences (e.g. I hate Jared Kushner and Dick Cheney, but that’s a little different).

  3. All I know is that Mou is the most despicable on pitch character in world football. There’s isn’t a team, player, or manager in football that I want to win against more. Unfortunately, his approach is Wenger and Arsenal’s kryptonite. It’s like a game of chicken and the game is lost by the first team to start throwing bodies forward for the win, leaving gaps behind. And we know which team that will be.

  4. As far as setup for us, I hope Welbeck starts even though as an individual, Giroud is probably a better goalscorer. Quick, off the ball movement and interchanging of positions presents more problems for a packed defense than bouncing balls off a static forward and crosses into the box. Plus, the best way to beat a well organized low block is to counter quickly before it’s organized and set up. I feel like Danny is better at both of those things.

  5. Wenger’s clock is ticking. If this hoodoo is going to end it must happen this season if Tim’s prognostication is true and he (Wenger) gets the sack this summer.

    If it does end today, I will be hungover tomorrow. That I can promise.


  6. Draw. Two-all.

    Their offensive weapons are in-form and firing. In the same way that they play 30% better when facing Arsenal, so does Welbeck when playing against his old club. I’d start him. He’ll want to upstage Lukaku, Martial and all the big money forwards they got since he was shown the door. Shame about Lacazette. I back him to score against their defence any day. He’s more clinical than Danny, who needs 3 chances to snaffle one. And chances will be few.

    Anyway Alexis and Welbeck to get on the scoresheet for us, one of their goals will come from the dangerous and underrated Martial.

  7. wtf, Nacho. If you’re blocking a shot, bloody well block a shot. What’s that schoolgirlish daintyly sticking a tentative leg out?

  8. We lost the game in the first 10 minutes. Impressive. I don’t care if Mustafi’s leg was in the process of falling off. I want to punch him square in the face for one of the stupidest goals to concede I’ve ever seen.

  9. Wow, what a half of football. I don’t think I’ve seen a Mourinho team concede that many corners or shots in a whole game, let alone half, and yet we are down 2-0. De Gea is terrific but you feel we should have at least one back on balance of chances. Football can be cruel.

    Cech had to save the initial shot from Valencia, but you could also see with depressing clarity how much they knew exactly where and how to attack our buildup in possession. Their second goal was terrific football to be fair to them, that scooped pass around the corner from Martial was quality.

  10. Two goals conceded from our CBs giving up the ball. FFS! Apart from that small matter, we’ve played very well and the ManU goal has led a bit of a charmed life. Not ready to say we’ve lost the game just yet, but regardless of the result that was very annoying from Koscielny and Mustafi.

    1. Led a charmed life, sort of. But De Gea is the best keeper in the world and their overwhelming height advantage means that all of our corners don’t mean much. They’re inviting the pressure.
      Yes, we’ve had some great changes, but it feels like one of those games where we’re going to have a ton of shots and lose 3-0.

          1. The point is this, is not the usual Mourinho beatdown, despite the scoreline. The loss will sting but this was not one where they were just the better team all over the pitch.

          2. Look, the point is, Man United can absorb much more pressure than us, because they’re built to withstand it. We’re built to crumble at the back. Yes we’ve had a higher xG, but so what? Those saves are not “lucky” or even “low percentage”. Those are saves that De Gea can routinely make.

            We lost this game in the first 10 minutes. We didn’t lose this game because we missed chances after that or because De Gea had a great game or because their defense got lucky. You give a Mourinho team a 2 goal lead in the first 10 minutes of a big away game, the game is almost certainly over, no matter how well you play after that.

          3. You’re giving them far too much credit. The 2-0 lead after 10 minutes IS the luck. Although nobody gave them that, they played intelligent, good football and got the rub of the green just a little (first shot straight through the legs of the keeper, second shot in off the post; centimeters in both cases!). We then all but knocked the front door down and it wasn’t just shots from distance, it was clearances and ricochets that could’ve gone anywhere. Also, as highly as we all think of De Gea, it’s disingenuous to claim this game was “routine” for him.

          4. 1. Of course it was a well-above-average game for De Gea, simply in virtue of the sheer number of good saves he made. But he DOES routinely make saves as good as the ones he made today.

            2. I’m sure United couldn’t believe their luck at us gifting them two goals, but that’s not to say they were the result of bad luck on our part; rather, they were the result of terrible, terrible, terrible errors (the second one in particular; the first one is really bad from Kos, but arguably Kola makes his bad pass look way worse for rushing in to win it when it was obvious he wasn’t going to get there, as opposed to hanging back; then Nacho doesn’t cover himself in glory with that attempted “block”).

  11. Would love to see those possession stats. Turns out you CAN boss a game and be behind. De Gea Man of the Match. Switch goalkeepers, and the score would be inverted.

    1. (half-time post, case you’re coming to this late). Applicable to much of the second half, though.

  12. Koscielny at fault for the third goal as well (not that our reckless play didn’t make it almost inevitable).

    1. I’d put that one in the category of good offensive play from Pogba rather than bad defending. The lapse was rather from Xhaka who lost Lingard, gave up on the play thinking Kos would make the tackle, and was out of position when the ball came across.

      1. No way. Not in a million years.

        Xhaka’s of course also at fault (when is he not?), but Koscielny is goal side against one of the physically strongest and most skillful players in world football (who he knows personally from France duty), and he dives in, giving Pogba the opportunity to cross it. It’s braindead defending, simple.

        1. Kos doesn’t dive in, Pogba sells a little hesitation move, Kos bites just a little, and Pogba muscles past him. It’s great play. Most other players either wouldn’t have the speed to make the hesitation move possible, the technique to pull it off, or the muscle to finish it. Pogba had all three and he did it against one of the best 1v1 defenders in the league.

          1. “Bites just a little”. He bites. Period. In the box. During a counterattack. When he has Pogba contained provided he doesn’t let him cross the ball. In a game that his team is in but in which they absolutely CANNOT give up a third goal.

            Let’s just say your version is an extremely generous (towards Koscielny) interpretation of what happened, and leave it at that.

          2. If you’re a top class central defender and you are goal side of an attacker by the end line and your next move means that you suddenly no longer have the player goal side but in a position where he’s completely free to cross the ball across your six yard box (and his name isn’t Leo Messi), then chances are, you “dived in”.

          3. Or, you were “dribbled” which is how I would interpret this duel. A dive in commonly interpreted as a defender leaving his feet to lunge for the ball. Koscielny never leaves his feet.

          4. Semantics (as we philosophers don’t particularly like to say, but poseurs for some reason always think we do). Whatever you call it, it was a defensive mistake from Kos, and not one befitting such an experienced and important player.

      2. I agree. Hat tip to Pogba for a glorious bit of skill.

        (And brickbats for serious foul play, as I type this…)

        1. It’s a great bit of skill, but Kos dived in when there was zero reason to do so. It’s brainless. Completely lost his head.

  13. I don’t agree with PFO’s downbeat assessment of the strength of the two sides. We came up against one of the best two goalkeepers in the world, on his day.

    And no, we know he’s good but he does not routinely make saves of that quality.

    Look gooners, don’t get despondent. Yes, we made some bad errors for the fisrt two goals, but the stats dont lie. They speak to the bigger picture of a match, in which De Gea was the difference. Im unhappy with the probable result, not our overall performance.

    1. The flashpoint in this game was his reflex double save from Lacazette and Alexis at 2-1. That was world class stuff. If one of those shots goes in, it’s a whole new ballgame.

      1. Sure. But the real flashpoint in this game was Mustafi inexplicably giving the ball away as last man within the first ten minutes of a game that we were already losing 1-0.

        1. I didn’t bristle at the suggestion that we made big mistakes at the back, rather that this is “business as usual” for Mourinho’s team.

          I disagree with this point as well because even though he made that mistake, there was a sequence of several passes after that that led to the goal. It was a big mistake but the outcome was far from pre-determined at that point. Think about the xG at the time that Mustafi misplaces that pass vs. the xG for those two shots by AL and ALexis.

          1. Yes, and what was the xG the moment before Ozil 1-2’ed his way through the Huddersfield defense to set up the crucial second goal the other night?

            It’s almost as if you can’t tell what was the crucial moment in a match just by looking at the xG stats…

          2. It’s one way to do it. I think it’s preferable to going backwards from an outcome because then obviously your view of the incident is biased by the outcome.

          3. I would think that it’s a conceptually necessary truth that you can’t determine the “key” or “flash” or “turning” point in a game without knowing the outcome and working backwards.

          4. No, but you can determine which situations had the largest amount of impact on the game, whether in a negative or positive sense. That’s what expected goals do, and they do not deal with outcomes, only probabilities. So, a high probability chance being missed is a huge swing in a game, just as a low probability chance being scored is, but our minds our outcome oriented so we will fixate on the scored chances rather than the missed ones. So it is with your fixation on the Mustafi incident, because United scored from it. If that had been cleared or if the resulting shot was missed, we would probably not be talking about that moment at all.

          5. “A high probability chance being missed is a huge swing in a game, just as a low probability chance being scored is”

            False. (Or, more precisely: not necessarily true.) A high probability chance being missed doesn’t swing a game if the score is 5-1 at the time. There are more factors than just whether a chance should have been scored or not. Like, the timing of the incident, the score at the time, etc.

            The entire tenor of the game was shaped by the first two goals (and Mustafi’s “injury”, which went with the second). The second was arguably more of a “flash point” than the first, since it came out of such an innocuous situation, and because a 2-0 goal lead (especially for a defensive-oriented team like Mourinho’s) is a far, far more significant lead than 1-0. And the idea that Mustafi’s mistake wasn’t crucial because the United players still had a bit to do before scoring is rather simplistic: we went from being in a comfortable position with the ball (they were pressing, but it was hardly like he was “forced” into a mistake) to giving up a dangerous fast break with most of our defenders up the pitch and several of their attackers bearing down on goal (I haven’t rewatched the incident to see exactly how many defenders vs. attackers there were back when the ball went in).

            Sure, De Gea’s double save was very significant, but we wouldn’t have been in such a desperate situation to begin with if we hadn’t shot ourselves in the foot at the beginning. Look, I’m happy to agree to disagree about something that’s clearly a subjective call. What I get annoyed about is the suggestion that some stat like xG can “tell” us what was most important. That’s not the way life works, and it’s not the way football works (and I’m not against stats!). The game is just too complex: we have to actually use our brains.

          6. I get that you’re frustrated and want to make a point, but let’s acknowledge the fact that you just admonished me to use my brain because football is too complex and just doesn’t work the way I think it does. Ahem. Not trying to be too sensitive here but let’s stay inbounds shall we?

    2. I’m thrilled with our offensive performance, but enraged by the stupidity that gifted them a 2 goal lead.

      You can’t give a 2 goal lead to a Mourinho team in the first ten minutes of a big game and put the eventual loss down to his team being fortunate, the goalkeeper playing out of his skin, etc. You just can’t.

      That’s like jumping into the tiger pit at the zoo and claiming your eventually being eaten is down to bad luck, the tiger performing out of his skin, etc.

      1. No, you dont gift two early goals to the shut up shop specialist’s team. Yes, de Gea made a (big big) difference. Both those things can be true, you know .

        1. I can hear the sarcasm, and while I understand actual goals trump expected goals, I still think we have to be encouraged by this at least a little, especially in context of the Tottenham game. We would usually not concede 3 goals from those types of chances and this type of offensive output against a top tier opponent is elite level stuff.

          1. If we could keep this team together, we really could be consistently great. As it is we’ll probably need to replace Alexis and Ozil, along with replacing Cazorla, and adding to and freshening up the defense.

          2. Believe it or not, I agree, but the key there is “at least a little”.

            Look, Mourinho’s ENTIRE COACHING PHILOSOPHY (especially in big games against relative equals) is based around:

            1. Being defensive and cautious
            2. Making sure the other team makes more big mistakes than your team
            3. Hitting on the counter attack

            Sure, they gave away more chances than they would’ve liked or expected, but then they had the best keeper in the world at the back to compensate. Other than that, this followed Jose’s dream script to perfection. And now our top four chances have taken a knock back, and it’s United, not us, who are left with the (slenderest) chance of being City’s last realistic challengers.

            Plus, this is our team at it’s best. We’re not likely to look this good going forward consistently for the rest of the campaign, nor are we likely to keep many of our best players beyond this season. So I can’t share the optimism that’s bizarrely flying around this place right now.

          3. Yes, I know how Mourinho likes to set his teams up. The first 10 minutes aside though, he will not have been happy with this game. Those 10 minutes most likely decided the outcome of this game because a 2-0 lead allows Mourinho teams to be even more Mourinho. Super Mourinho. (Someone needs to make a mock version of that with Jose fouling mushrooms and shooting crosses down with fireballs, but I digress). It looked like it was going to be one of those hideous 5-1, 6-0 iconic beatdowns we’ve been subjected to in recent years.

            The real shocker was that they presumably tried to go Super Mourinho but were battered instead, in a way I’ve never really seen a Mourinho team be battered, certainly not by Arsenal. That’s a consequence of no small amount of skill, desire, mental toughness, etc etc. So if we’re going to dole out blame for the hole we dug ourselves into, which is entirely fair, I think credit must also go for the game that followed, a game in which we not only stood on our collective heads offensively but also didn’t give a lot away even though with the players they have another sucker punch was always on the cards. At the end of the day it may only be a consolation prize, but damn, after how that game started I don’t think a lot of people were expecting Arsenal to respond like that and take the game to them so comprehensively. Bizarrely perhaps but it gives me a lot of hope for future games and this is why: defensive mistakes can happen to anyone and can be mitigated but great offensive play is so much harder to achieve. We achieved not just a great offensive performance but we did it against a supposed defensive mastermind, the guy who ALWAYS beats Arsenal. Yes, we lost, but the players on either side won’t forget that Manchester United had to play like Burnley for 70 minutes in this game (Arsenal had 33 shots! 33!!!) and that if it wasn’t for De Gea’s absurd saves (14, the most in a single game since saves started being counted as a stat), Arsenal would almost certainly have gotten at least a draw. So yeah, I feel pretty good about that game. Most of the time, if we play like that, we would win.

  14. I’m not kidding when I say I really enjoyed our performance. Yes we made mistakes at the back and that’s why we lost against a very good side. But we also really really troubled that very good side who are built to be defensive. Play like this throughout the season and we’ll be fine.

    The 3rd goal killed us to a large extent. I think we were very much in with a chance of not just drawing, but winning the game before that went in. And might I also add Alexis Sanchez to the list of players at fault for that. Yes yes I know he’s an attacking player, but that flick was completely wrong in terms of risk and reward and when the whole team is joining in the attack there is some responsibility on the attackers to not just give the ball away.

    De Gea with that double save won them that game. If it goes to 2-2 there, I think we end up winning this.

    Also, we withstood the physicality of the game very well. This almost felt like a game from the early 2000s between the two sides. I’m annoyed but not too upset tonight.

    1. Between this and the Man City game we are becoming awesome at losing 3-1 in impressive fashion. :-/

      I will say I thought City were clearly in a league above us in that game in a way I didn’t think United were today.

      1. Oh absolutely. I was just thinking that there’s no way ManU can withstand City if this is any indication.

  15. It IS true that that you dont gift to early, soft goals to teams managed by the specialist in shutting up shop. Notwithstanding that, it’s also true that de Gea made a big difference to the outcome of the match. Both can be, and are true. Th etwo things do not have to be mutually exclusive.

    We will play worse than that win.

    The result sucks, but I’m tipping my hat to David de Gea, for one of the all time great goalkeeping performances I have ever seen.

  16. Is it just me or was Sanchez mostly poor during the match – outside of his pre-assist of course – He kept taking one-too many touches.

    1. It’s not just you and it’s not just this game. Teams aren’t letting him get daylight on his right foot cutting in and he hasn’t varied his game enough to be involved in other ways. Still a little menace on the ball but far less effective then he would like to be. His dribbles are in dangerous positions to his own team and often sideways, and he misplaces so many passes while trying to do too much too often. Teams know that and try to take advantage. Still, he was part and parcel of an outstanding offensive performance today and the attention he attracts leaves space for others to operate. He’s going to score a lot more goals this season than he has thus far.

      1. Oh well… True that he does drag a lot of markers away from other folks but when you contrast it with how Mesut manages his space, it can look quite shocking.

        Nonetheless I have never been more displeased and satisfied with an Arsenal performance like I am today. Great fightback; we fought hard, lady luck (and some blind refereeing) didn’t just quite help our cause.

      2. Not to overflog a dead horse; but I just saw a stat (unverified) that Sanchez gave the ball away 17 times in each half; that’s THIRTY FOUR TIMES in the full 90 minutes! Is that at all justifiable in any context?

        1. No, that’s wrong. ARsenal lost possession 22 times and Sanchez was guilty of 7 of those, which is not bad by his standard!

          The craziest stat in this crazy game was that Man United had a 66% pass completion rate in this game. That’s just absurd. They truly went full Burnley on us.

        2. What I hate is how he coughs up the ball on the simple passes, and often just refuses to even take the simple pass despite nothing else being on. Last season, I felt he was carrying the Arsenal offense. This season I think he’s dragging it down, despite his obvious skill and the threat he poses. I’d be happy to see him replaced in January. I think his skill set is easier to replace than Ozil’s and if we can only keep one of them, I’d want it to be Mesut.

          1. He’s definitely trying to play hero ball at times, and unfortunately that tendency gets worse with the scoreline. He is not one for patience, he is all blood and thunder and that often means he takes on the world and loses the ball. I doubt anyone is coaching that out of him. That same trait also makes him the fiery competitor he is, so to some extent you have to live with it and surround him with players who do take care of the ball. When he does get it right, he can win games and it was his diagonal that set Ramsey free for our goal today.

            Part of it is also that teams key in on him so much and he gets closed down so aggressively, he definitely gets the lions’ share of close attention, and others profit from that.

          2. I think a Sanchez – Draxler swap would be a great deal of business this January. We def should keep Ozil (motivated, of course).

  17. Look, one of the knocks against us Brits (naturalised in my case), is that we glory in glorious losses. Be more like Americans, we are told, who believe that winning is the only thing. The BBC is known to run teary eyed profiles of olympians who finished 7th. That sort of thing.

    It does feel weird to say that I’m disappointed, but not too down by how the game panned out, but that’s how I feel. Mind you, in real time I was making way too many loud howls of frustration (with more families having lunch than tribal football supporters) in the sports bar in which I watched the game, as de Gea made saver after save, and as two boneheaded plays gifted them early goals…

    …but I agree with every single word you’ve just uttered, Doc.

    The one shot that beat de Gea? When an Arsenal attacker (Ramsey), in a very good position to shoot, passed it instead. de Gea would probably have saved from Ramsey.

    Yes, I know that this is of scant comfort to us, but Jose had to have given his players a bollocking after the game. The were clinical in taking their chances. But at times, they looked a lower half prem side against us.

    Dont get me wrong… we have our own inquest to do, and Arsene has to do some yelling of his own.

    Everyone here knows Im not some perpetual optimist, but we’ve been unlucky against both Manchester sides, and on other days might have taken 2 points from those 2 games. We have shown naivete, and played badly to conceede , but Id still maintain that.

    Overall, my dominant feeling is to say, “take a bow, David de Gea. That was some frickin’ show”.

    1. That pass was a very intelligent play by Ramsey. Lacazette acknowledged it too.

      Also interesting point about glorious failure. Romanticism of the charge of the light brigade stuff. Can’t say whether that contributes to it or is the effect of it. But whatever. The point is, the home crowd was very good. Which they have been since Spurs at least. And I think most of them left the stadium disappointed with the result but generally satisfied or even happy with the performance.

  18. Ok, so I’ve been negative on here today, but it’s still obvious to me that we battered them for most of the game.

    Yet the following is Alan Shearer’s assessment of the game. Talk about a one-eyed narrative of the action! What an absolute muppet.

    “It was a magnificent game of football. We have talked about Manchester City going forward but what we saw at times from Manchester United was equally as good.

    They were just breaking, too quick and too sharp with their pace and their power. They went after Arsenal, put them under pressure and wanted to get behind their defence, and Arsenal could not cope with their one- or two-touch football.

    It was great to watch, and Manchester United were too good and too clever for Arsenal. Superb.”

    1. I’ll never understand who thought it was a good idea to pay Alan Shearer to talk about football. The best thing about Alan Shearer as a pundit is also the best thing about Michael Owen and countless others: that people know their name and therefore have some passing emotional attachment to what they might say. They are not there on merit.

      I will admit though, Martial’s scooped around the corner assist to Lingard was pretty sick. Nothing easy about that and that’s really what opened up the shooting chance.

    2. No one I know rates Shearer’s punditry.

      I think that Barney Ronay, for the Guardian, got it spot on when he said that but for de Tea, we might have won 6-3, and he doesn’t know how we lost that one.

  19. Couple of things:
    DeGea had a normal day at the office , and you would know this if you watched all Man U games.
    The only save worth talking about really was the double save on Laca and Sanchez. Everything else was as routine as they come for the world’s best keeper and if something is routine, than it doesn’t matter if you are made to do it once or ten times.

    For all the posesion and chances Arsenal created , only two were clear cut chances and Arsenal scored from one of them.

    The game was lost on the defensive side of the ball but not by simply turning the ball over in the dangerous area, but rather by what followed after.

    Arsenal players’ style of defending for the first and third goal was the ” cat after the laser light ” style , with all players available to make a contribution running after the ball and leaving their markers free.
    Monreal on Valencia, and Xhaka on Lingard for a tap in.
    Schoolyard defending at best if I’m being charitable, shocking if I’m honest.
    Not a single United attack that resulted in them scoring was a consequence of their numerical advantage on each of the three plays.

    Highly entertaining game and a great advert for the PL.
    Not so great if you’re Arsenal.

    1. It’s normal for games to be somewhat re-interpreted in the context of the scoreline, but it’s hard to claim with a straight face that making 14 saves is a “normal day at the office” for any keeper. The only two keepers to have made that many saves in a single game were Vito Mannone, then of Sunderland, and Tim Krul, then of Newcastle, two moribund teams that became relegated. Manchester United does not concede 33 shots in a game. Manchester United does not pass the ball with a 66% success rate. They do not concede 14 shots on target. None of this is normal, routine or everyday. A lot of it was skill, some of it was luck, some of it was Arsenal not placing the ball well, but none of it was anything approaching routine. This was a crazy game where their few chances went in (3 out of 4 shots on target were goals) and our many chances (1 out of 14 shots on target were goals) did not. Quick, what is De Gea’s usual save percentage? I’m sure it’s good but I doubt it’s 92%!! which is what it was in this game! That number is almost as wackadoodle as Manchester United’s 75% conversion rate. (2 and 75. Those numbers tell the story of how this game ended at 3-1.

      1. What has the number of saves got to do with the quality of any of them?
        Very little.

        I have watched every United game this season and every one of those saves DeGea made v Arsenal you would expect him to make.
        As a matter of fact , the hardest shot to save from the game was the Valencia shot that travelled through Monreal’ legs and subsequently through Cech’s .

        1. So you would expect De Gea to have a 92% save rate in every game he plays??

          The Valencia shot was from a narrow angle and it’s xG value was pretty low. I believe their only big chance was the Lingard tap-in.

          1. Two big chances: Lingard tap in on 63rd minute (which was double-plus-big-chance) and the first Lingard goal as well.

        2. I looked this up for you (source:

          David De Gea has made 5 saves per 90 minutes for every goal he has conceded this season (80% save rate) compared to his average of 2.11 (47%) last season. For comparison, Hugo Lloris allows one goal for every 1.68 saves, Petr Cech for every 1.58, Courtois for every 2.5 and Ederson for every 2.00, and Manuel Neuer every 2.5. De Gea, so far, has been twice as good as any other keeper playing for a similar team, in other words, he is a massive outlier including compared to himself from last season. Want to know the only other player who is even close? Nick Pope from, you guessed it, Burnley, with 4.75 saves per goals allowed. Both players will regress to their mean.

          1. 1. The Barney Ronay quote is irrelevant. I don’t rate him as a journalist and I don’t use journalists to tell me what I should think about football matches I’ve seen.

            2. It was a tremendous performance. Tom and I aren’t disputing that. The point is that the saves he made are types of saves that people who regularly watch DDG know he makes regularly. The only difference was the sheer number of saves. The numbers you posted that you’re apparently so impressed with do not refute this point.
            3. The save rate is interesting but clearly of limited significance: that his save rate happened to be higher than average in one game doesn’t show his performance was much higher than it usually is, since it may just have been that he was presented with a much higher than average number of savable shots. This in fact is what I think happened.

            But please, continue to be condescending towards views you disagree with on here.

          2. Ronay is one of the best in the business and isn’t prone to Arsenal bias, so I thought it was worth pointing out you’re not just arguing against me.

            I’m actually shocked that a 92% save rate doesn’t strike you as remarkable, especially considering his average per game of 47% the year before, and he tied the single game record for saves in a match. Those numbers are irrefutable, especially when you consider that Lacazette and Alexis had 14 of those 33 shots.

            Sometimes a goalkeeper just telegraphs shots, is in the right place at the right time wittingly and unwittingly, gets completely punch drunk on confidence and generally becomes a wall of hyper-acute reflexes and concentration: that’s what De Gea did. Admitting that doesn’t absolve Arsenal from conceding possession stupidly in their own half, from missing the goal when well placed, or from losing the game. It’s ok emphasize his great performance because that’s what was truly remarkable about this game. I am NOT shifting blame away from Mustafi but you have to admit his error was rather mundane compared to what De Gea did in this game. We could simply hammer the whole “don’t concede possession in your own half” until we’re blue in the face, but everyone knows that already so what’s the point? We made mistakes, they capitalized on them, but after that we witnessed a truly remarkable, engaging and exciting football game with a historic goalkeeping performance, and that’s what I prefer to focus on.

  20. PFo

    You are right that we wouldn’t have been in such a situation if we hadn’t made a mess of things right at the start. But what is impressive is that the team was able to put that to one side and get on with playing a really good game. It’s something that isn’t easy to do, letting go of the bad stuff, I mean even as a spectator you’re finding it difficult to do. But these Arsenal players did that. I know they are professional athletes so it’s supposed to be par for the course, but it very often isn’t.

    PS. After so much was made about Arsenal getting ‘lucky’ with the pen in the Burnley game, it was always unlikely we’d get a pen called for us. 3-2 with 5 mins of stoppage time to go? Still difficult but who knows? Not the defining moment but a big call.

    1. I completely agree. I’m really proud of the team (or almost all of them) for the way we fought and attacked and kept our composure, but with great intensity. However, I’m still sick of how we give up brainless goals like this in big games.
      And, I know I’ve been beating this dead horse all season, but *part* of the problem of us *still* not knowing how to cope with any sort of press, is that without Santi we don’t have that “release valve,” “technical security” player in midfield, and in general our midfield is simply too light on the ground. So our defenders have fewer passing options than they should have. Xhaka’s been disappointing (I’m not ready to give up on him just yet, but if we had better options on the bench I’d probably be calling for him to lose his starting place for a while). And–credit where credit’s due–although Ramsey has been excellent of late, he’s really playing as part of a front four (front five today, once Iwobi came on), rather than alongside Xhaka, meaning our back three is constantly going to be left exposed without the ball and have few passing outlets when pressured with the ball. Doesn’t excuse Koscielny, Kola, and Mustafi’s mistakes (and Monreal partly culpable for the first and Xhaka partly culpable for the third)…

      1. I agree actually, though I don’t think either of the giveaways had much to do with the press. The passes seemed more casual than panicked. But I think that casualness came from confidence(even if it was a ‘forced’ confidence), if that makes sense. Personally, I think they coped ok with the press for the most part, and have been getting better at it. It seems to me they have been practicing. A couple of high profile errors doesn’t change that. Neither does it change the fact that we need to be better.

        I think Xhaka can be what Arteta was, and more. But you are right that in the meantime we need more options including a Santi replacement. Hopefully the new backroom team are working on that.

        1. 1. Agree about the Xhaka to Arteta comparison (but he has a LONG way to go in his decision making), but I don’t think Arteta was ever good enough, on his own, to do all the things that our system at the time required him to do, to a standard that would make us PL title challengers. He was tasked with both being our defensive/shielding midfielder AND our deep lying “quarterback” type, and that’s a very, very tall order for anyone. He performed his duties admirably, but even at the time I felt that Wenger’s refusal to buy someone to replace/supplement Arteta was costing us lots of points. This is not a criticism of Mikel, who was a great captain and servant to the club.

          2. I agree that we shouldn’t give United too much credit for their press. The reason I was so angry yesterday was precisely because I felt the errors were very much self-inflicted. But I also think they’re linked–because more likely to occur–to our refusal/inability to address our vulnerability in deep central midfield, both with and without the ball. Our recent good form has come despite, rather than because of, our play in that area of the pitch (we’ve attacked down the wings and gotten the ball quickly up to Ramsey, Ozil, et al. higher up the pitch where they’ve done their damage).

  21. Perhaps if Welbeck had stayed down and rolled around a bit to give Mariner some time to think about it , Mariner might’ve given it.

    I know this type of play acting is being frowned upon around here but that’s the proffesional thing to do.

    Ramsey did it and got his just rewards
    Earlier today New Castle defender didn’t , and Morata who had pushed him with both hands, scored on the play for Chelsea.

    Also don’t forget the Koscielny / Lukaku challenge for which Kos might’ve seen red( probably should’ve ) which could’ve resulted in another Bayern style of score line.

    1. I disagree that was a red card foul. That’s stretching the definition of clear goal scoring opportunity. It wasn’t a cynical hack down with Lukaku clear through on goal.

      You’re right, maybe if Welbeck rolled over. But I think it unlikely because the ref clearly saw what happened and made no indication that he was going to give it. I really think it is easier for refs to ignore pen calls for us because of the media narrative and people, even Arsenal fans, willing to look the other way when it comes to this, by now obvious, bias.

    2. The Welbeck foul was one of the more blatant penalties not given that I’ve seen in a long while. I mean, Mustafi on Jay Rodriguez levels of bad.

  22. So one on one with a keeper is not a goal scoring chance?
    Would you expect Lukaku to lose his way to Cech’s goal somehow , or perhaps get tired and never make it there?
    Four or forty yards from goal , if there’s no one there to catch you, it’s a goal scoring chance. Simple.

    1. The language of the rules stipulates it has to be a denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity to warrant a straight red card. That is somewhat vague but most people would agree that being 40 yards from goal you are not about to have a clear goal scoring opportunity, no matter how many defenders are around you. If we interpreted the rules that way then they would start handing out straight reds for tactical fouls on that halfway line against players that were about to dribble or be played clean through.

    2. Yes, of course you would view it like that.

      You’d have strikers diving with a tangle of legs at the halfway line to have a defender sent off if that’s how that play was or was intended to be called.

      By the way, the law states that the distance from the goal must be taken into account. So no, 4 yards out or 40 yards out is not the same thing.

    3. Yeah, even the pundits on TV, who have no love for Arsenal, mostly said it wasn’t a clear goalscoring opportunity and shouldn’t have been red (and Graham Poll too, for what it’s worth).

  23. Tom, there’s no way that that was a normal day at the office for de Gea. You’re not the only one who watches Man U games. It was a freakish performance, and the overall game has got to viewed through those lens. As I said upthread, I think that Barney Ronay, in the Guardian, distilled the game perfectly.

    PFo is right in saying that you don’t give away to two cheap, easy, early goals to the specialist in shutting up shop and expect to get something out the game. But it’s also right to say that DdG played a blinder. And it’s also correct that we played very well, and, but for de Tea, might have won or drawn. The three things can all be correct, and not tri-mutually exclusive. He’s a great keeper, but he never played that well (contrary to your assertion that he has) and he probably won’t again.

    1. Sometimes you write something in the moment and upon reflection you think to yourself ” did I really write that?” ,and then perhaps change your mind.
      This is not one of those moments.

      I stand by my original assessment and I still believe there was nothing freakish about DdG performance , other than the sheer number of saves.

      I don’t know who Barney Ronay is but I don’t need to read someone else’s opinion to form or validate mine.

      Perhaps I’m in the minority here but I don’t think you can say we played “brilliantly” ,except for defending and finishing our chances ,but I do get the impuls to attribute the latter part to DdG because this absolves Arsenal from one of their failures and gives all the credit to the keeper.

      1. “I do get the impuls to attribute the latter part to DdG because this absolves Arsenal from one of their failures and gives all the credit to the keeper.”

        You’re so concerned about attribution that you won’t give an event its proper significance. This is the clearest sign of bias there is in sports.

    2. Claude,
      I agree that all three of those things can be true, and I agree that all three of those things ARE true–though I’d add that giving up such terrible goals at the beginning means the “we played very well” claim has to come with a big asterisk, and I’d add that “DdG had a blinder” needs to be qualified with the observation that he’s the best keeper in the world (maybe Neuer at his best is in the same league, but DdG is the better shot stopper) who regularly makes saves of that calibre, it’s just that we had so many shots, which is what made his performance memorable.

      The reason I’m insistent above on focusing on the negative (the two goals) as opposed to the positive (the great attacking), is because of what it bodes for this team going forward:
      (a) we’re now certainly out of the title race, have had our momentum halted, and have had a setback in the race for a top 4 spot;
      (b) you can’t win many games in this league–against Mourinho or otherwise–if you give up goals like that, especially at the beginning of games;
      (c) thinking about the rest of the season, I think it’s reasonable to suppose that it’s more likely we’ll continue to have regular defensive lapses like that than continue to play that level of inspired attacking football (not even taking into account the potential imminent departures of Sanchez and Ozil).

      The bottom line is that, as admirable as the fightback was, to lose a big game in that manner should be COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE and that fact should overshadow everything else. It’s not use crying over spilled milk during the game, but afterwards the players should be absolutely disgusted with themselves for defending like that, and Wenger should do everything in his power to ensure that sort of implosion NEVER happens again. But we know that won’t happen, because we’ve seen this script too many times before.

      1. Arsenal’s defensive lapses were significant. So was the game the followed them. Both are true! It’s clear that you’re very upset by this, even though you’ve seen this kind of thing over and over… maybe because you secretly hoped we might still catch Man City? As much as some people might peg me for a relentless optimist, the reality is my expectations were low going into this match, and they hit rock bottom at 0-2, so maybe I would be feeling differently about this game had the script gone the other way and we conceded the two goals at the end rather than the beginning.

        Also, I apologize if you felt condescended by me, it was not my intention.

      1. Oh! Sweet! Thanks. This means life is good for me right now. Thanks for saying words that jive with my hopes.

  24. Perhaps I’m in a unique position from everyone else on here because like said before I kinda stopped caring what Arsenal do or don’t do anymore.

    I still watch them play and want them to win but without much emotion.
    Maybe that’s why when I see a Pogba challenge I can say red card, but then I can also admit Koscielny got lucky with his challenge on Lukaku. and Welbeck failed to act professionally as an Arsenal player to win the penalty.

    It’s kinda liberating to be able to do that but I totally get why others who are emotionally involved can’t.
    People will scoff at this and say it’s possible to be emotionally involved and not have a bias. I find that this is rather difficult to do.
    Just ask Shard 🙂

    1. Hey, you can be an involved fan AND rational. A good many guys who comment here (me included) don’t do rose-tinted. Don’t think you can say that you see things differently from us because you’re detached and we are not. We just disagree. That’s all. And that’s fine. That makes it more interesting. As for Barney Ronay, I don’t hold him up as some kind of oracle. In fact I think that though he’s sometimes capable of an original turn of phrase, he tries too hard. I cited his analysis as one that pretty much nailed it.

    2. Tom,
      I’m on your side, for the most part, regarding yesterday’s match, but I think it’s a bit rich suggesting that the difference between you and those with which you disagree is that their emotion makes them biased whereas you’re entirely dispassionate and rational. Just observing your posts over many months (I have no idea what’s really in your heart and mind), I’d say you have your own biases (as do I)–whether it’s backed by strong emotions or not only you know–namely that you’re frustrated with and sick of Wenger and Wenger’s Arsenal culture, which makes it difficult for you to be generous and positive about the team, even when there are arguably aspects of our performances that deserve generosity and positivity.

      Not trying to be insulting. You know best the perspective from which you’re looking at things. It just looks, from the outside, like you are as prone to negativity on here as others like Shard are prone to positivity.

  25. I have to admit that when United scored their second goal, I switched the game off because I knew it was game over. After reading reports of the game and knowing the result, I have watched the remainder of the game and my thoughts are that while our response to going down 2-nil was rousing, ultimately it shows how 80 minutes of good play can be undone by two moments of inexplicable carelessness.

    Goals and injuries change games. Mustafi was injured in the buildup to the second goal. If United had failed to score, would Wenger have substituted an attacking midfielder for a central defender down only a goal? I doubt it. We probably would’ve brought on Mert and stuck with a more cagey approach. Instead, the scoreline forced Wenger’s hand and Iwobi came on and we switched to the 4-2-3-1 of old. And we saw that in that formation, with the added attacker and Ozil restored to a central role, we can be a very potent attacking force. And we also were reminded how vulnerable we are in that formation to counterattacks. United had a few dangerous counterattacks in the first half and ultimately made one of them count.

    Carelessness in possession cost us the game. It has been a hallmark of this team for at least a couple of seasons and it is why teams have been emboldened to press us. The press doesn’t even have to be active or very good. The opposition merely have to around the ball when we inevitably make a careless pass or take unnecessary risks in possession. The turnovers which led to United’s opening goals were strictly of our own making.

    Finally, de Gea was United’s MOTM. The double save in particular was quite amazing and frankly I can only tip my hat to the only keeper who can give Nauer a run for best in the world.

  26. “Carelessness in possession cost us the game“

    No it didn’t.

    It resulted in us turning the ball over in dangerous areas, but what cost us was our defenders not being able to complete simple tasks of basic defending like staying with your man after he releases the ball, communicating with your teammates and directing traffic.

    You play silent when attacking. You become vocal when defending.

    How can four Arsenal defenders all converge on Pogba while leaving Valencia and Lukaku totally unmarked for United first goal is a question someone should ask Wenger or Steve Bould at the next presser.

    I can’t stress enough how basic this is.

    Teams lose possession in dangerous areas all the time and still are able to defend properly afterwards when they have the numbers as Arsenal did.

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