As football games go, Arsenal’s first home defeat since losing to Bayern Munich last spring was almost a classic. An entertaining game in which the Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea made an incredible 14 saves tells you all you need to know.
But if you wanted to know a little bit more,the first stats you might look at would be the fact that despite Arsenal taking 33 shots to United’s eight, Jose Mourinho’s side came away with a 3-1 win. Perhaps that, more than anything else, tells you the pattern of play.
Arsenal were unlucky in some ways: unlucky to come up against De Gea on such imperious form, and unlucky to have hit the woodwork, had 12 shots blocked and 14 saved. And yet, far from dumb luck, it was two awkward mistakes in the wrong areas of the pitch in the first half which really sealed their fate in the end.
And yet, despite losing at home to traditionally bitter rivals, Arsenal should at least take some positives. They dominated a game that, on another day, they might have won and maybe even won handsomely, and it’s also encouraging that the battling performances the Gunners have shown of late have been extended.
On Saturday evening, Aaron Ramsey’s impact on the game against the best defence in the Premier League was impressive, despite the result.
The Welsh midfielder was, admittedly, playing against a team who were ahead for most of the game and sat deep, conceding most of the midfield. That might explain why Ramsey was able to make 93 touches of the ball, play 77 passes and keep his accuracy so high, with 91% finding their targets.
And yet, there’s a big difference between passing the ball around without penetration and actually making a dent in the opposition. Ramsey made things happen: with five shots and three key passes, he made one of the biggest impacts of any player on the pitch. Only Alexandre Lacazette had more shots than the Welshman, whilst just Sanchez and Ozil made more key passes to create chances.
Despite his primary job being to recycle play and keep Arsenal’s possession in the right areas against a defensively solid opposition, Ramsey also managed to create chances for his team which, on another day, could have salvaged a point or maybe even all three.