Arsenal produced one of their best performances in recent years as they registered a comfortable 2-0 triumph over Manchester United in the Premier League on New Year’s Day.
Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos were on the scoresheet for the north London side as they registered their first Premier League victory at home after 87 days.
Three things we learned from the New Year’s Day clash:
Nicolas Pepe coming into his own: Pepe has struggled to produce a consistent level of performances for the Gunners since his record move to the club over the summer. After featuring on the bench for the past three games, the Ivorian was handed with a surprise start against the Red Devils and he made it count with a goal after just seven minutes on the clock. Pepe only lasted for 60 minutes due to a minor knee concern he has been carrying, but he was thoroughly impressive. He managed four take-ons, one tackle and won two aerial duels, as per whoscored. The forward could have quite easily scored a brace but his curling effort rattled against the woodwork.
Arsenal quickly learning the Arteta philosophy: The Gunners performed impressively during the first half against Chelsea last weekend but there was a drastic drop in the fitness levels after the break as the Blues sealed a late 2-1 comeback win. Against United, the players were much better in terms of the workrate and they were able to counter-attack on multiple occasions in the second half which kept the United defence on their toes. Moreover, they were able to curb any defensive mistakes during the closing phase and goalkeeper Bernd Leno was able to avoid any unnecessary errors unlike the derby. The German was commanding under the high ball in the box and even made a key block towards the end to prevent Marcus Rashford from having a free attempt on goal.
Manchester United’s away woes continue: The Red Devils have endured a frustrating period on the road this season and following the New Year’s Day result, they have won just three of their 11 league matches away from home. Moreover, they have struggled against teams, who are prepared to sit back and nullify their counter-attacking option and the same was the case during the second-half at the Emirates Stadium, where the Gunners backline comfortably dealt with the United players. The lack of a creative attacking midfielder is definitely a concern for the Mancunian giants and it remains to be seen whether they can make a suitable signing during the ongoing transfer window.
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