When Arsenal next journey home from Manchester, they will have a far clearer idea of where they stand. United was their first big test away from the Emirates Stadium and in less than a month’s time they travel to Manchester City. If Arsene Wenger is talking the language of fight and resilience after that game, perhaps it might be their season after all.
This was a fortuitous draw against a Manchester United side that is a long way from its peak but such is Wenger’s record against Jose Mourinho (no wins in 14 attempts) and at Old Trafford (one league win since 2002) that it felt like something more.
“I hope it strengthens the belief inside the squad that no matter what happens we can always come back,” said Wenger. “The resilience was the main thing and we kept our composure as well – even at the end. I believe there is great harmony in the squad.”
When it was pointed out to him that it was his substitutes – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud - who had grabbed the equaliser, the Arsenal manager denied it was a tactical masterstroke. But he added: “The players who do come on make a difference every time and that is not a coincidence. That is down to attitude and overall I took some gambles as well. But the gambles only work if the players have the right attitude.”
Giroud, who now has the uncomfortable distinction of having scored more Premier League goals from the substitutes’ bench than any other Arsenal player, might wonder when he will be starting games. Given that Wenger admitted that Alexis Sanchez had been playing for Chile “on Wednesday morning”, he might have expected to start this one.
Sanchez had scored twice in Santiago as Chile came from behind to beat Uruguay and had returned to London injured. Under normal circumstances, Wenger would not have considered him against Manchester United. Instead, Sanchez played with heavy strapping on his leg.
“It is very unusual,” said Wenger. “But I did it because Sanchez is a guy who can take people on, he is good in counter-attacks in short spells and he is a player who is not scared of anybody.
Manchester United vs Arsenal player ratings
Manchester United vs Arsenal player ratings
1/22 David de Gea - 4 out of 10
With Arsenal scoring their only shot on target, it’s not been the best day for the Spaniard. He had very little to do throughout.
2/22 Antonio Valencia - 8 out of 10
Performed exceptionally today, looking strong going forward and defensively.
3/22 Phil Jones - 5 out of 10
Did the simple stuff well at the back, but looked slow defensively at times.
4/22 Marcos Rojo - 6 out of 10
Defended well throughout proceedings, played safely and used possession well from the back.
5/22 Matteo Darmian - 5 out of 10
A mediocre performance from the Italian. He was lunging into challenges, despite already being armed with a yellow card.
6/22 Michael Carrick - 5 out of 10
The skipper played a very standard performance today. He played his role well and stuck to his position.
7/22 Ander Herrera - 7 out of 10
His work rate was faultless and he influenced play in the middle of the park – good overall performance.
8/22 Paul Pogba - 6 out of 10
He appeared to patrol the middle of the park in the first half, but in the second half he seemed to go off the boil. He did not make many chances and lacked any attacking prowess.
9/22 Juan Mata - 8 out of 10
An exceptional performance from the Spaniard today. His goal was an example of his immense technical ability and he created chances throughout.
10/22 Anthony Martial - 6 out of 10
A somewhat quiet performance from him today, but he showed glimpses of brilliance in the first half with a number of strikes that tested Cech.
11/22 Marcus Rashford - 6 out of 10
Despite being caught out for the late Arsenal goal, his performance throughout was positive. He attacked confidently and his crossing was inviting problems for the Arsenal defence.
12/22 Petr Cech - 6 out of 10
He made a number of important saves in the first half, but was out of position when Mata broke the deadlock.
13/22 Carl Jenkinson - 4 out of 10
It was a somewhat uncomfortable performance from him today, as he looked slow and unable to keep up with the pace of the United strike force.
14/22 Laurent Koscielny - 6 out of 10
He did well in the air today, but the United attack got the better of him at times as he was caught out of position.
15/22 Shkodran Mustafi - 5 out of 10
It was an incredibly mediocre performance by the German. He did well in possession, but that wasn’t enough at times.
16/22 Nacho Monreal - 5 out of 10
A questionable penalty call in the first half was the main incident for the Spainard. He failed to show his defensive ability against the quality of United going forward.
17/22 Francis Coquelin - 6 out of 10
Made a number of important tackles, but it wasn’t enough to stop his opponents running the midfield battle.
18/22 Mohamed Elneny - 4 out of 10
The Egyptian made a few unneeded and mistimed challenges and failed to show any sign of threat when going forward.
19/22 Aaron Ramsey - 5 out of 10
He had very little of the ball throughout, and when he did he failed to do much with it.
20/22 Mesut Ozil - 5 out of 10
Taking into account his huge talent, it was a rather dim performance. He failed to create chances and feed Sanchez which resulted in Arsenal having no spark going forward.
21/22 Theo Walcott - 4 out of 10
A very quiet performance from the winger today. He saw very little of the ball and was regularly caught playing too narrow which left Arsenal with no width to their attacks.
22/22 Alexis Sanchez - 6 out of 10
He looked dangerous when in possession, but a lack of service did not allow him to make a real impact on the game.
“Overall, for a guy who played a decisive game on Tuesday – or basically Wednesday morning – travelled home afterwards and had jet lag it is remarkable.” As for Giroud, he said: “As long as you play many big games, you can give big games to everybody. Sometimes, a player does not feature in October and plays every game in January.”
By the end of January, Arsenal would have played at Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea, away games with a rather greater degree of difficulty than their opening matches outside the Emirates Stadium. Aside from a goalless draw at Leicester, trips to Watford, Hull, Burnley and Sunderland were not formidable obstacles, which is why a snatched point at Old Trafford felt like so much more than a draw. However, Wenger knows that there will come a time when draws are no longer enough.
“We can accept a point here but we are getting too many draws at the moment,” he said. “You cannot afford that too many times.”Reuse content