Arsenal v Manchester United and the implication of the tactics and the team

By Bulldog Drummond

Because Untold is based in the East Midlands and because of the kick off time of today’s game we’ve just got time for one more article before we head south.

And what is getting us rather excited here is that just as it was the figures for tackling that made us think there was a revolution going on in the first third of 2020/21, so it is the figures for the way we attack that makes us think that there’s now a second revolution happening.

But we also remember that when the radical change in tackling was made, so Arsenal sank to 15th in the League, it seems that Arteta has been doing everything to try and keep Arsenal in the top four while making the current radical changes. 

Certainly, during the reworking of the defence, all the commentary was negative and there was talk of Arteta being sacked, but in the last two-thirds of that season we were (as you will have read so many times before) the second-best team in the league.

In this revolution, just as the defence were the key players, now this time, it is Ødegaard who is now creating more chances than any other player.  Indeed as the Telegraph has pointed out in its review, “When he is able to perform at his best, he kneads the game to his will and sets the tone for his side. In recent months he has also produced a series of match-defining moments for Arsenal, many of which have encapsulated his influence on the team.”

But I think, just as with the early stages of the “cut tackling” programme, it takes the rest of the squad a while to get used to the revolution – hence the erratic results.

In fact what we have got here is something that Ødegaard learned at Real Madrid – something that is drilled into all their players: scanning.  It was also something that Arsene Wenger was very keen on and which he managed to get his title-winning teams to do.  You can see it if you go back and look at videos of those games.

What Ødegaard does is forget the ball and instead look for the space – which is what you see time and again in the videos of Wenger’s glory years.  Indeed it was what Henry did by playing on the wing.  He wanted space to get the ball and run at the defence.

Of course, these are early days of the second Artetan revolution, both for Ødegaard and the team around him, but what is making this work already is the Ødegaard-Saka connection.  And I suspect that as Martinelli and Smith Rowe grow in stature and assuredness similar connections will be built there.  But for the moment it is Ødegaard drifting right and Saka drifting inside.

And so having predicted how we will play the issue is who will play.

The Evening Standard yesterday did its strange new thing of running a headline saying “predicted lineup” and then only giving the prediction for the opposition.  Of course, there is no telling whether they will have changed that by the time you read this.

Sports Mole are more reliable however and offer


White, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares;

Xhaka, Elneny;

Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe;


PainintheArsenal annoyingly spread their prediction across several pages in order to increase their number of page hits, but the essence of it all is, 


Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tavares;

Elneny, Xhaka, Odegaard

Saka, Nketiah, Smith Rowe;

That counters to some degree what we have been talking about in these preview articles, but it does still allow Odegaard to play in front of Elneny and Xhaka and fulfil his new funciton. offer 


White, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares;

Xhaka, Elneny, Odegaard

Saka, Nketiah, Smith Rowe

which is much the same as the Pain, although with Xhaka and Elneny changing places.

So that’s about it.   We shall, as they say, see.


26 Replies to “Arsenal v Manchester United and the implication of the tactics and the team”

  1. As has been pointed out in several commentaries to previous articles concerning this match, we have a referee and VAR man whose previous decision making looks dubious, to put it politely. Hopefully the constant talk between Arteta and Odegaard will pick up on this and work to find ways around whatever PGMO have in mind for us.

  2. Official lineup

    Soares, White, Gabriel, Tavares
    Elneny, Xhaka
    Sako, Odegaard, Smith-Rowe

    Subs Leno, Holding, Tomiyasu, Swanson, sambi, Lacazette, Pepe, Martinelli, Azeez

  3. That was one heck of a half of football. Neither team good defensively, both look like scoring every time they attack. More goals to come I think.

  4. how the hell Bruno got away with that red card offense is beyond me. yes, some players is treated differently

  5. This team going somewhere. Tight, taut, structure gelling determination and trust. A tough game to watch. The lads come out with the result!

  6. Great result for thesecond time in the week. Six hard earned points and, maybe only for a short time, fourth place in the league

  7. Look what happens when VAR is applied with a balanced hand.

    There were quite a few VAR reviews and they nearly all could of gone either way.

    Soares hand ball:

    Definitely hand ball in the box. But the only reason his arm was out was to stop his fall. I’ve seen them given. But no penalty was the correct decision.

    Tavares hand on the shoulder:

    Again I’ve seen them given, by this VAR man in the Man City game I think. Could of been given but would of been extremely harsh. Definite 60/40 that correctly went our way.

    Nketiahs disallowed goal:

    Very very close but correct decision.

    Saka penalty:

    Again this could of gone either way but it was a foul, nether the less I’ve seen them NOT given. Again, at least a slightly debatable, that went our way.

    Obstruction of the keepers line of sight by an Arsenal player when Xhaka scored:

    To me this is the tightest call of the lot. If it wasn’t for the fact there was also a United player in De Geas line of sight I think it would of been disallowed. That factor was enough to create an element of doubt. A 50/50 that went our way.

    So lets be clear here, we didn’t get anything we shouldn’t of got, but unlike so many times before, at least we got a fair share of the tight calls.

    Another factor is we also had a bit of luck. Another thing that we have been sadly lacking over the season.

    Another great day !


  8. Another immaculate performance from Elneny. I really hope he does not leave in the summer, he is such a reliable squad member and often an unsung hero, doesn’t complain and performs to the best of his ability when called upon.

  9. mick shelley

    Great call.

    The thing is, he’s not just a great stand in, he’s a great player. Whenever he plays he very very rarely puts a foot wrong. I would go as far as saying he is a ‘class’ player.

    Also I just want to say how pleased I am for Xhaka. Other players would of capitulated under the abuse he’s had from the media, and on the back of that some, (way too many actually) of our own fans.

    Whatever anyone says about him they cant deny he has balls !!

    Tight between the two of them for MOTM actually.

  10. @Bushido I agree….For the life of me I can’t see why Fernandes was still on the pitch. His studs up challenge on Tavares was clear. He wasn’t lucky…it was incompetence or corruption.

  11. Bushido and GoingGoingGooner

    Yep, have to agree. As much as I thought VAR (and the ref) were okay today, that was a big miss, especially by VAR, because despite the commentators banging on about how Slow Motion makes it look worse, it was ‘worse’ !! It was a bad challenge.

    It was a late with studs up. It should of been a red.

  12. Just as he deserved a red at Liverpool in the 0-4 defeat.

    Horrible little man.

    Great that missed the penalty.

  13. Listening to SKY’s build up for the Spurs match you’d think they were a big club. They’re banging on about their nice new toilet bowl. How important top 4 is if they want to buy big players, yada yada yada. Which is all very well until you actually look at what Spurs have actually achieved.

    They haven’t won a trophy for for 13 years.

    They’ve only won 2 League cups, otherwise known as the 2nd string cup, since 1991.

    Not being rude but basically they have been crap and if they’re honest the biggest thing they’ve achieved over the last 30 odd years is finishing above Arsenal, and that’s it.

    At the end of the day, SKY Sports fawning over them makes little difference to what they actually are, it just bugs me when I have to listen to the ridicule we get on a weekly basis, despite us being infinitely more successful than them, even when we’re crap !!

    Any way, come on Brentford !!

  14. Just back home in the midlands from watching the match – absolutely wonderful day out. This is what life is about. Good friends, interesting conversation pre-match, great result for my team.

    Absolutely superb fun, and an excellent game, brilliant result, great to see friends again. Worth the 190 mile round trip!

  15. What a great week to be an Arsenal supporter. After 3 disaster results the team has stood up and perfomed in a great way with great results. With such a young team you will have ups and downs. All I can do from afar is support the team in good and in bad days. Today certainly a good day. No, a great day!

  16. well, looking back at the season, we could not stand up to Pool! or Citeh, but now we’ve beaten each of the so called top 6, have we not ?
    So we are definitely going somewhere and it looks up.

    Funny to see Sp*rs unable to have a shot on target for 2 games in a row. Have they not the best striker in the galaxy ?

    Anyway, we are seing a team being built game after game and it is one heck of a show.

  17. Watched part of the Brentford match…Sp*rs were pants…no real opportunites on goal.

  18. betis 1 valencia 0; made in hale end – hector’s perfectly timed run and wonderfully chipped cross tore valencia’s defense apart

  19. The Foster foul on Gabriel Jesus was IDENTICAL to the Ederson foul on Ødegaard at the Emirates. Man. City got a penalty, we didn’t. That tells you a lot about the PGMOL and their worship at the altar of financial doping. Now Newcastle appear to be benefitting from this relationship since the arrival of PIF cash reserves.

  20. Just goes to show how subjective VAR is .
    Not just VAR though , watching MOTD last night I didn’t realise hoew lucky we were to get away with everything yesterday . The way that they cut the coverage of the match and the after match discussion , were I an independant watcher I would have concluded that United were hard done by.
    I came away from the match quite bouyed up but must have watched a different game to the one on last nights screen .
    Any how as I said at the finish . 3 – 1 , 3 points lets go home.

  21. Amazing how the incidents which went our way have been subjected to scrutiny and the general conclusions were that we were lucky to have got away with two or three of them.
    The other side of the coin nothing that I have seen about Man U getting away with one for the Bruno Fernandes red card late studs up tackle on Tavares I think.
    How many times have we seen Xhaka (and other Arsenal players) sent off for far less dangerous things.

  22. Well, just no one I have read has signalled the fact that Arsenal have within 3 days beaten both Chelsea and ManU….ain’t that something we were not used to see ?

  23. WOO HOO , HOO ! Again ! Against a top 4 contender at that !
    Missed most of the match , but was lucky enough to see Bruno miss his penalty , and we wrapping it up ,with a great strike . From one of our best and consistent performers .
    If Chelsea had drawn , it would have been almost perfect !

    Up the Gunners !

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