Arteta presses for intensity

Gunners boss expects his team to keep up work rate after dominating United in 2-0 win

Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos celebrating with Lucas Torreira after scoring Arsenal's second goal against Manchester United in the Premier League on Wednesday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos celebrating with Lucas Torreira after scoring Arsenal's second goal against Manchester United in the Premier League on Wednesday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The Gunners can expect tougher training sessions, with Mikel Arteta admitting he likes to see them "suffer together" on the pitch after a 2-0 Premier League home win over Manchester United.

The Spaniard clinched his first win as Arsenal manager on the back of a dominant first half but saw his team struggle a little with their work rate after the break.

"I am very pleased with the performance, I'm even more pleased with the result," he said after his third game in charge on Wednesday.

"Everything I wanted to see, I saw tonight. But at the moment we are suffering to maintain that level of intensity of the first halves.

"That will come but I really liked the resilience they showed. I liked to see them suffer together. When they have to defend deeper, I want to see that reaction."

Arsenal kicked off in 13th place, four points above the relegation zone, and another home defeat would have made it four in a row. But their first win at the Emirates in 87 days has hauled them up to 10th on 27 points and within four points of United in fifth.

Arteta has advised supporters not to look at the table, merely to judge the performances, but it does look a little less gloomy now, with Arsenal back in the top half.

Moreover, the collective performance was good, built on spirit, hard work and sound game management, even if it came against a team who were loose at the back and bankrupt in creative terms.

They might have scored more in the first half but goals from Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave them more than enough to defend.

Arteta has made intensity a priority and his men started positively, just as in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea on Sunday, taking an early lead after eight minutes.

It was a big moment for Pepe, the £72 million (S$128.15 million) record signing, who profited after Sead Kolasinac's low cross had flicked off Victor Lindelof's heel.

  • 1st 

  • The victory was Arsenal's first Premier League win of the season against a team in the top half (P10 W1 D4 L5).

That upset a game which felt well set for United, given their preference to sting on the counter-attack against teams who play on the front foot. But they never got going. They were simply too predictable, with their only ploy being to play balls up the channels for their attackers.

Arsenal had horrible United defending to thank for their second goal, which came from a Pepe corner.

Marcus Rashford was statuesque as Alexandre Lacazette darted in front of the near post to flick on and, although David de Gea reacted to save, the ball came off Lindelof again, and Papastathopoulos lashed home.

In the continued absence of the injured Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played Fred and Nemanja Matic in central midfield and they were sluggish, to put it mildly.

In front of them, Jesse Lingard was anonymous as the No. 10. He had no league goals or assists last year and there were no improvements in those departments.

Solskjaer was determined to concentrate on the players who were at his disposal but, inevitably, Pogba's absence provided a subplot amid the constant rumours of him wanting a move away from United.

It was revealed after the game the midfielder needs surgery on the ankle injury that has wrecked his season and the operation would rule him out for the rest of the month.

The Frenchman's absence is still evident in United's inability to create when denied the chance to counter-attack.

"After they scored the first goal, it seemed like they got loads of energy," said the United boss. "They were the better team. They were aggressive, they regained the ball and it was hard to get the ball off them."

United could now be forced to recruit midfielders during the ongoing transfer window, with Solskjaer saying the club are looking at "one or two" signings.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2020, with the headline 'Arteta presses for intensity'. Subscribe