Arsenal show tireless brilliance as Saka and Nketiah put Man Utd in their place

By Sports Desk January 22, 2023

The dancing feet of Bukayo Saka, the coming of age of Eddie Nketiah, the groans from Manchester red and blue. If this is to be Arsenal's season, then this was a day they'll not forget in a hurry.

A 90th-minute winner from Nketiah, his second goal of the game, settled a modern classic in this great rivalry. Manchester United gave so much to the game, but Arsenal were outstanding and truly worthy winners. It was 3-2 in the end, and the roars of "Eddie, Eddie" were music to the ears of Nketiah and his manager, Mikel Arteta.

What spirit it was that carried the home players. Feeding off a crowd that believes in them, that senses a championship is incoming, the end of a 19-year wait, Arsenal never stopped driving forward, and finally United cracked.

With a 3-1 win at Old Trafford in September, United had already seen to it that this Arsenal cannot follow in the footsteps of the 2003-04 'Invincibles' and go unbeaten through the Premier League season.

But that remains the only defeat the Gunners have had through 19 games, while this was a fifth loss for United, for whom the title is probably now out of reach, their resurgence having hit a bump in the road.

This was the day when Cristiano Ronaldo made his Al Nassr debut, and we witnessed again how United are better off for being without him, Marcus Rashford hitting another exceptional goal for them. Yet United's newest central striker, loanee Wout Weghorst, was largely quiet, while Antony on the right flank flattered to deceive, and you did not need to look far for a stark contrast.

Nketiah, trusted now by Arteta as a frontman for the big occasion, prowled and hassled United's defence and got his rich reward, while Saka's twinkling toes had Luke Shaw in trouble all afternoon long. Saka hit the goal of the game, while Nketiah poached twice from point-blank range.

Saka became only the third Arsenal player to score in three consecutive Premier League appearances against United, after Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry, those Gunners greats of yore, heroes of Highbury.

They've not celebrated a Premier League title since moving to Emirates Stadium, and this particular race is only half-run, but 50 points from 19 games is some start, putting Arsenal five points clear of Manchester City, and they have a game in hand to boot.

Saka had begun to prowl with intent before the breakthrough came, and it went to United, with Rashford sidestepping Thomas Partey and driving a stunning 20-yard shot into the bottom-left corner.

That was a ninth Premier League goal of the season for Rashford, and he has nine in all competitions since returning from England's World Cup campaign, the most of any player from Europe's big five leagues.

United had not lost after scoring the opening goal in a Premier League game since October 16, 2021, when they went down 4-2 to Leicester City, so this boded well. Yet the 26-game unbeaten streak in such games would soon be in peril.

Nketiah got in front of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to head Arsenal level in the 24th minute, with Granit Xhaka's cross from the left giving the Swiss midfielder his fifth assist of the season.

Arteta, furious Shaw was not booked for a challenge on Saka as that battle heated up, later took a yellow card for his troubles.

Arsenal then roared ahead in the 53rd minute, and it was Saka at his majestic best, one-stepping with the ball at his feet on the right, teasing Christian Eriksen before letting fly with his left foot from 25 yards and fizzing the ball into the far bottom corner.

It was Saka's seventh Premier League goal of the season. He'll be going some to better it.

Up to this point, the watching Gareth Southgate would have been enjoying the contest, but England's manager would not have liked the sight of Aaron Ramsdale flapping at a corner soon after, giving Lisandro Martinez the chance to loop in the header that brought United level in the 59th minute.

"This is retro Man United-Arsenal," bellowed Gary Neville on Sky Sports.

Manchester City must have been loving the look of the 2-2 scoreline between their top-four rivals, with City's earlier 3-0 trouncing of Wolves closing the gap at the top, but Arsenal weren't finished. Saka went close, his strike flicking off Eriksen and clipping the outside of the right post.

Arsenal had 69.9 per cent of possession from the 60th to 75th minutes, staking out their prey but unable to make the kill.

They summoned Leandro Trossard in the 82nd minute, the new arrival from Brighton and Hove Albion entering the fray in place of Gabriel Martinelli.

Shaw was booked in the 83rd minute for getting close enough to Saka to stand on the winger's left foot, and from the free-kick Arsenal developed a glorious chance. The ball came through a thicket of players before reaching Nketiah, whose shot was brilliantly pushed wide by David de Gea.

Heads might have gone down in a previous season, but this time Arsenal kept pressing forward.

And then, in the 90th minute, came their reward. Zinchenko's cutback found Martin Odegaard, and with Fred for close company the captain bundled the ball on for Nketiah to toe in from four yards.

Alex Ferguson and David Beckham had taken their seats at Emirates Stadium in the hope of watching United's rejuvenation gather pace, but instead Arsenal put them in their place, clinching a sixth win in their last eight home league games against the Red Devils.

United are perhaps a season behind Arsenal in terms of emerging from years of gloom.

Erik ten Hag's team are not far away, but here they encountered something approaching a finished product. A north London derby win has been followed by victory over United, and it won't be easy street for Arsenal from here on, but once you clear those hurdles, why fear anything?

Which is one way of saying: it's Manchester City next, on Friday, in the FA Cup. Pass the popcorn.

Related items

  • Mikel Arteta loves Arsenal’s attacking mentality during ruthless goalscoring run Mikel Arteta loves Arsenal’s attacking mentality during ruthless goalscoring run

    Mikel Arteta insists there is no secret to Arsenal’s recent success as he praised his side following victory over Newcastle.

    The Gunners eased to a 4-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday night to move two points off the top of the Premier League summit.

    A Sven Botman own goal set them on their way before goals from Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Jakub Kiwior rounded off another fine display from Arteta’s men, although the returning Joe Willock’s late header ruined another clean sheet.

    Arsenal may have laboured to a narrow 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie in Porto on Wednesday – but their domestic form has been imperious.

    Asked what has clicked in a run that included 6-0 and 5-0 away wins at West Ham and Burnley, respectively, before beating Newcastle, Arteta said: “We’re in a good moment. Players are performing individually, it is not any secret.

    “Things are flowing. We’re scoring goals in different ways and especially we want more. When we score one, we want two, or three, or four. I love that mentality from the team.

    “We train every day the best possible way and look after ourselves. First of all though, belief. Belief in yourself that you can improve and always get better. Also getting players back.

    “The more players we have back, the more competition there will be in the team, the more alternatives to impact the game. Especially we have to make sure we believe we can do it.”

    Jorginho returned to the Arsenal side for the game against the Magpies and put in a man-of-the-match display.

    The Italy midfielder has impressed in most outings this season, but was only on the bench in Portugal.

    “He’s a top player,” added Arteta. “Especially when opponents have certain behaviours and set-ups, the way I imagine the game, he was going to have a big impact.

    “After, you have to do it at this level. When he’s not playing consistently, credit to him because he was magnificent again.”

    Newcastle were not at the races and have now shipped 23 goals in their past eight league games.

    “It is a concern,” manager Eddie Howe conceded when asked about the recent defensive record.

    “Of course, we are working on things behind the scenes, but that probably was not evident in today’s performance.

    “It is a combination of things, we didn’t do well from corners, knew how good they are in those situations and the third goal as well.

    “We were the dominant team and we’d have been right back in the game if we’d got that goal, so difficult moments defensively.

    “I don’t think we truly got going in the first half, they put us under pressure, I thought that would be just the start of the game, but at no stage did we really come out of that moment.

    “We did not compete well enough which is not like us. It is something to learn from.”

  • Ashley Westwood rejuvenated by good Charlotte move Ashley Westwood rejuvenated by good Charlotte move

    Ashley Westwood was on the brink of retirement at Burnley but the rejuvenated midfielder now wants to play into his forties as he lives the American dream with Charlotte FC.

    In April 2022, the distraught 33-year-old suffered a devastating ankle injury as he challenged for the ball with West Ham’s Nikola Vlasic.

    For a while Westwood’s 286th Premier League appearance looked set to be the last match he would ever play.

    The gruelling journey back to fitness took its toll on the usually upbeat midfielder, who did not play again for Burnley before leaving last January.

    Westwood took a calculated gamble by moving to Charlotte, playing in what was their second Major League Soccer season, and could not be happier with the outcome.

    “It’s incredible,” the smiling Charlotte skipper said. “Even last year I was close to retiring, very close.

    “I broke my ankle, made a mess and then it got to halfway through the rehab and I was like ‘I’ve had enough, I’m done’.

    “Even before that I was getting fed up with it. With what Burnley did, it was just constantly trying to stay above the relegation.

    “I had like 10-12 years of it, and it gets a lot. Mentally it gets tough, so then I fell out of love with it.

    “But then (came) the opportunity to come here and it’s just the best thing I’ve ever done.”

    Westwood says Burnley “still hold a special place in my heart” and returned to visit Vincent Kompany and his former team-mates over Christmas.

    The Crewe youth product is eternally grateful to the Clarets for allowing him to join Charlotte – somewhere he sees as his long-term home having been unable to place it on a map until not so long ago.

    “It’s given me a massive boost, a new lease of life,” the former Aston Villa midfielder said of life in the Queen City, where Dean Smith was recently appointed head coach.

    “I could have some regrets because I asked to leave Burnley and Vinny (Kompany) was brilliant, he let me go.

    “I was honest with him. I went in and said ‘listen, this has come about’ but they needed to get me on a free because of the wage structure.

    “So, I spoke to Vinny and he said ‘we don’t want to lose you but I respect the decision’ and he sent me on my way.

    “And it has given me a new lease of life. It’s been the best thing for me and my family – the kids are thriving, the wife’s enjoying it.

    “Hopefully I’ll be going until I’m 40. I want to stay here a long time.”

    Westwood moved to MLS at an exciting time for the sport in North America, with the 2026 World Cup following on the back of Lionel Messi’s blockbuster move to Inter Miami.

    Little wonder some former team-mates, from England internationals to Premier League regulars, have expressed interest in following him across the pond.

    “You’ve got Messi, (Luis) Suarez and even now I get texts from mates saying ‘what’s it like? I’d love to do it’, so it’s getting more appealing,” Westwood added.

    “They’ve got the World Cup here and if they get that right it could take off. There’s a lot around the budgets and the way the wage cap is.

    “Our owner is willing to do it (and pay more), he wants to go for it, but it’s just about getting all the other owners on board. If they get right, it can take off.”

  • Mauricio Pochettino says he has no issue with Jurgen Klopp ahead of final clash Mauricio Pochettino says he has no issue with Jurgen Klopp ahead of final clash

    Mauricio Pochettino insisted there is nothing personal between him and Jurgen Klopp ahead of Chelsea’s Carabao Cup final meeting with Liverpool on Sunday.

    The pair faced off in the 2019 Champions League final when the Argentinian was in charge of Tottenham, losing 2-0 in Madrid to hand his opposite number a first trophy at Anfield.

    The game is remembered for controversy after Spurs’ Moussa Sissoko was penalised for a contentious handball inside the opening minute, resulting in Mohamed Salah giving Liverpool the lead from the spot.

    More recently the Reds were 4-1 winners against Chelsea in the Premier League at the end of January, when Pochettino’s side were outclassed by their hosts and fell well short of expectations set by the more than £1billion it cost to assemble their squad.

    Since then there has been a notable upturn in performances, with three impressive away results including a 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium a week ago.

    As he seeks his first silverware in England, the 51-year-old said neither he nor his players are motivated by revenge against their Wembley opponents.

    “It’s nothing against Jurgen Klopp or Liverpool,” he said. “We love to compete with the best teams and Liverpool as a club, and Klopp with his coaching staff and the players, I think they are amazing. You love to compete with this type of organisation.

    “It’s not personal against Klopp or against Liverpool to have revenge. It’s a challenge for us to say ‘we have the possibility to write history, winning a trophy’. That is our biggest motivation. That is my motivation.”

    Chelsea followed the loss on Merseyside with a dismal 4-2 defeat at home to Wolves that saw sections of the home support boo the team off.

    Since then, the atmosphere around the club has improved significantly, with the draw at City preceded by consecutive 3-1 wins at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace that have injected renewed hope into the team’s season.

    “We didn’t compete (at Anfield),” said Pochettino. “If you see the first two minutes, we didn’t match them in the capacity to compete. We created some chances and there (should have been) a penalty after five minutes with (Conor) Gallagher that may change the situation.

    “But the most important thing now in this process is to challenge ourselves to be better. If you want to challenge another person, but you are not ready… You need to put your body and your mind in the best condition. If we are in the best condition, we are going to challenge.”

    Pochettino rejected the suggestion that victory on Sunday would prompt critics to move on from the huge transfer outlay expended by co-owner Todd Boehly since he took control in May 2022.

    “It’s not easy in football,” he said. “It’s not an ordinary business. People know that it’s not only about spending money. It helps, but it’s not only.

    “You need time if you want to build something. That is the process that we are involved in now.

    “You cannot buy victories. You cannot buy trophies. Money helps, but it doesn’t give trophies.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.