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Arsenal's revenge mission against Man Utd: Have Arteta and his players learned from Old Trafford defeat?

1:30 PM IST 22/01/23
Mikel Arteta Arsenal Man Utd 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The Gunners have the chance to make amends for their one league loss so far this season, a 3-1 loss at Old Trafford in September that still rankles

When Arsenal fell to a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United earlier this season, they left Old Trafford amid an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

And it wasn’t because of the performance, it was because of the way they had allowed themselves to play perfectly into their hosts'hands.

"The game was there for the taking,” Mikel Arteta bemoaned afterwards.

“We haven’t won because we lacked some discipline in some moments and we weren’t ruthless enough in front of goal.”

That loss on September 4 remains Arsenal’s only league defeat of the season so far and, on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium, they have the chance to avenge that lone loss.

But if they are going to do that against Eric Ten Hag’s in-form side, then they are going to have to show that they have learned some lessons from what happened at Old Trafford five months ago.

Arteta was right when he described the game as "there for the taking".

His side dominated for large parts, playing the type of high-tempo football that has been the hallmark of their record-breaking start to the season.

Arsenal had 16 shots to United’s 10, they enjoyed just over 60 percent of possession and made 465 passes to United’s 310.

Of those passes, 182 were played into the final third, compared to just 92 from the home side.

Arsenal also sent in more crosses (16 compared to six), had more corners (five to two) and nearly three times as many touches into the opposition’s penalty area (47 to 17).

But despite all that, it was United who came out on top in the end, and quite convincingly too.

Ten Hag's team sat back, soaked up Arsenal’s pressure and then used their pace to counter attack when they got the opportunity.

It was a tactic that worked perfectly, with Arsenal leaving themselves horribly exposed defensively as they pushed on in an attempt to win the game in the second half.

Twice they gave away possession after Bukayo Saka had cancelled out Antony’s first-half strike and twice they were punished, with Marcus Rashford finishing off a rapid breakaway on both occasions to secure all three points for United.

“In the best moments, we gave the ball away in a dangerous area and, on top of that, we [Arsenal’s defenders] stepped in when we can never do that,” Arteta said.

“We suffered the goals and it’s a big lesson.”

Arteta will no doubt have been forcing his players to watch videos of that game in preparation for Sunday’s showdown in north London.

United will come to the capital with the same sort of game plan and Arsenal must not fall into the same trap.

Victory on the back of last weekend’s derby success at Tottenham would be another huge result forthe league leaders and it would take them to the halfway point of the Premier League season with 50 points from a possible 57.

“We know they beat us,” William Saliba said ahead of United’s visit. “They are the only team to beat us this season in the Premier League and so we want to beat them at home.

“We will prepare very well for this game.”

Arsenal will understandably go into the match full of confidence and will look to play on the front foot as they have done all season.

But United have shown, perhaps better than any other side in the Premier League this season, that they have the tools expose a high line should they turnover possession and counter quickly.

That’s what Arsenal will have to guard against, particularly with Rashford playing as well as he has for a long time.

The good thing for Arteta is that his side have shown time and time again this season that they can learn from previous experiences, with last weekend’s win at Tottenham a prime example.

Arsenal kept their heads amid the intense north London derby atmosphere and cruised to their first league win at the home of their fiercest rivals in nearly nine years.

Having seen second-placed Manchester City slip up at Old Trafford 24 hours earlier, Arteta’ side were under pressure to take advantage and they did it in style.

“It’s better to have this pressure when you are at the top than when you are down at the bottom,” Saliba said.

“It’s better to keep going like this. We are just focused on ourselves, not our rivals.”

Victory on Sunday would be another massive statement win for Arsenal in a season that has been littered with them.

They will, of course, be confident, but if the defeat at Old Trafford taught them anything, it’s that they must also be wary of the clear threat that United pose.

It's time to see just how far Arsenal have come since September.