Give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the Manchester United job, he’s clearly a genius.
After all, what other manager would have the foresight to wait for Arsenal’s centreback pairing to get injured before seizing the game. It was a demonstration of genius tactics.
Why United would look elsewhere for a permanent manager is beyond me.
Yes, that’s what Arsenal fans woke to on Saturday – discussions of OGS’s genius. He’s won eight in a row which is, admittedly, better than anything Jose Mourinho managed to do before he collected his £18m for blowing up the club. As a side note, his pay-off also came with a gag clause so it’s probably money well spent and football should thank United.
Solskjaer is getting the best out of Alexis Sanchez who scored his first ever goal away from Old Trafford and even removed his gloves. He’s transformed the team’s fortunes and now he’s put Arsenal, recently buoyed by their humiliation of Chelsea, back in their place.
What’s not to love?
It’s a nice narrative, but in terms of Arsenal v Manchester United, it’s bollocks. Their win was less to do with Solskjaer and more to do with Arsenal literally falling apart. Again.
Let me explain…
Arsenal had this game well under control until Sokratis jumped and his ankle gave way. One injury shouldn’t be enough to derail a team, but this wasn’t one injury. This was another on top of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding, season-ending events that have been brushed off by a media keen to wail at the loss of Deli Alli for a few weeks instead.
It was no coincidence that Arsenal went behind just 10 minutes after the Greek defender was replaced by Shkodran Mustafi. After 12 they were two down.
Arsenal fans knew they were in trouble when they couldn’t work out which was worse –Sokratis coming off or Mustafi coming on. In the end, it didn’t matter because it all panned out exactly as we expected once the German was on the pitch.
You can tell a lot about how your team played by how you feel at the final whistle. As Arsenal collected yet another defeat to Manchester United, I can’t say I was that bothered. If ever there was a result that could be put down to ‘extenuating circumstances’ then this was it. Arsenal fans have experienced many defeats at the hands of United, but this one doesn’t even crack the top 10 in terms of trauma.
United’s form and position this season is deceptive. They have a far superior squad to Arsenal, valued at around £697m compared to Arsenal’s £543m. £150m will buy you three top-class players (or one player from Liverpool or Spurs). At this level, that makes a massive difference yet it would have been imperceptible had Arsenal kept Kos and Sokratis on the pitch.
Arsenal have far deeper problems than worrying about dropping out of the FA Cup. Like who they will play in defence against Cardiff on Tuesday night, for instance.
As I wrote following Arsenal’s win over Chelsea, “Although Arsenal enjoyed a 22-game unbeaten run this season, there were very real concerns that neither Emery nor the players knew what they were doing as we waited for Chelsea to rock up at Ashburton Grove this weekend.
“[After beating Chelsea] There is, of course, now the concern that Arsenal are a side that only gets up for the visits of top six sides, like Wolves but less Brexity, but after years of being humiliated by the same sides, I’ll take it especially as the next game is against Manchester United.”
This was no humiliation for Arsenal, although some will try and spin it that way. But it does point to the Chelsea and Spurs games being false dawns.
How Emery copes against the Bluebirds will, in some ways, be the biggest test he’s faced so far as Arsenal head coach.
This article was originally written for Paddy Power where Daily Cannon can be found regularly.