A clean sheet against Manchester United on Sunday was only Arsenal’s second in the fixture since May 2011.
The clubs have played each other ten times in the past four and a bit seasons, with the Gunners only keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw in 2014 and on Sunday. Arsenal have conceded 18 goals in the other eight games, but Sunday was different.
Gabriel lined up next to Per Mertesacker in defence, with Petr Čech in goal behind them. The ‘back five’ was completed by the outstanding Nacho Monreal and Héctor Bellerín, and everyone played their part.
“We had a good understanding [defensively],” Arsenal vice-captain Mertesacker said after the win. “I think a lot clicked.
“If one of us won a duel, the other would be there and that was the same in the second half. If he [Anthony Martial] ran past one of us, which can happen, someone else would be there straight away.”
Martial had managed three goals and an assist in his first three Premier League appearances heading into Sunday’s game at the Emirates Stadium, but barely had a sniff with Arsenal defending resolutely.
An early three goal lead helped Arsenal take control of the game and gave the team the breathing space and defend resolutely.
“It went well from the start and that’s always crucial,” Mertesacker added. “When you take your chances and are strong defensively, that’s a clear indicator that you feel good.”
Sunday saw Mertesacker start a Premier League game with Gabriel for the first time, and the pair certainly impressed. More performances like that and the seemingly undroppable Laurent Koscielny may be looking over his shoulder.
It’s nice to know that Arsenal can win big games without important players and have the depth to make up for their loss.