It took three games to get there, but Mikel Arteta has finally nailed his first win as the Arsenal manager. Speaking after the 2-0 win over Manchester United, he revealed it was a much more stressful experience than winning as a player.
It has been a long time since we’ve seen Arsenal play as well as they did in the first 45 minutes of that game. It feels fair to say that the likes of Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will probably be having bad dreams about it for a long while.
After the game, Arteta spoke about the intensity, and slightly lamented the indisputable fact that his team weren’t able to maintain its level for the rest of the game. He said it wasn’t his plan to sit back and allow United to dominate in the second half; it was more to do with the apparent lack of fitness as the visitors did their best to hem Arsenal in and hit back, being two goals down.
That, in itself, points to another positive to take from the encounter – Arsenal defended, and defended well. There weren’t any howlers from any of the back four, or Bernd Leno in goal this time. They were doing the business in their own half with determination and confidence, and that, unlike intensity, was present through the whole 90 minutes, front to back. As was the case with defending in the second half, confidence was oozing from Arsenal’s attackers in the first.
It was really nice to see the team fighting like that, as a well-drilled unit. It was also the case in the previous game, where the Gunners eventually succumbed to a defeat at the hands of Chelsea, but it seems the lessons from that day have been learned and the next step taken.
Let’s not overdo the enthusiasm just yet, it’s still early days, but there is now a glimpse of hope that things will actually turn for the better. There will certainly be fresh setbacks, other Bournemouth and Chelsea games, but there finally seems to be a clear idea about how Arsenal are supposed to be playing. That’s a hugely important aspect of any era at its inception.
It’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park next on January 11, and the time between now and then will seem like a year as we wait to see some more from this team and the new boss.