Was Arsenal’s performance against United merely a smokescreen?

Match Report

“We were excellent tonight, I can have no complaints. Everyone can see how well we played”.

Arsene Wenger, as ever, was adamant that his Arsenal side deserved more on Saturday night against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. The long-suffering manager could well be right – Arsenal had a giant-sized portion of the ball, peppered David De Gea’s goal with countless shots and if you had not watched the first eleven minutes you could have safely assumed that Arsenal were in the box seat for three points.

But, the first eleven minutes did happen.

The first eleven minutes happens far too regularly.

Arsene may well feel that the performance has lifted some of the pressure on him. Arsenal came into the match in form, conceding few and winning big matches in difficult circumstances. Yet, as is often the case with Arsenal, you just knew a first eleven minutes like the one at the Emirates on Saturday night was just around the corner. Defensive stupidity left Arsenal chasing the game far too early and yes, they chased superbly. But why did they need to?

The simple fact is that there was no pressure on Arsenal the minute they went 2-0 down. None at all. The Arsenal players are unable to consistently perform at the highest level when they are under pressure, fact. It is typical of the modern Arsenal that they put on one of their best displays of the last decade when they were 2-0 down. And, bluntly, with the amount of clear-cut chances they created they should have won the game.

Do not be fooled by this match. The game changed completely after Jesse Lingard doubled United’s lead. Of course United were going to sit back and try to protect what they already had, this is standard Mourinho move. As United showed once more, once Arsenal had finally taken a chance and scored, they were able to pick Arsenal off at will and restore their two-goal advantage almost immediately.

Please don’t think you are seeing a new Arsenal. You are not. This was possibly the most Arsenaly of Arsenal performances imaginable.