Arsenal and Manchester United went into Sunday’s clash hoping to close the gap on the top four.
It wasn’t a classic by all means, but Arsenal and their fans won’t mind after a 2-0 win leaves them with a glimmer of hope in the battle for a Champions League place.
It also marked the end of United’s long unbeaten run, but Jose Mourinho did not seem bothered, fielding an under-strength side so he can concentrate on winning the Europa League.
So what, if anything, did we learn?
Aaron Ramsey is important to Arsenal
Aaron Ramsey’s performance was a big plus point for Arsene Wenger, the Welsh international fitting well into the 3-4-3 formation. His runs into the box caused United lots of problems and was denied a deserved goal by a superb De Gea save early on. The performance was such that Gunners fans and Wenger will be left wondering what might have been if the Welshman had been fit all season.
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) May 7, 2017
Wenger finally beats Mourinho
The hoodoo is over. No longer can Jose Mourinho boast that Wenger has never beaten him, but with just one win from 13 meetings in the Premier League Wenger will probably not want to make a big song and dance about it. And even though Man United were shorn of a whole host of talent that first win will mean a lot to Wenger after being tormented for years by Mourinho.
Jose Mourinho played his reserves
Mourinho has already made it clear that he thinks United’s only chance of getting into the Champions League is by winning the Europa League. This is why he fielded a second-string team against Arsenal. He’d better hope that his strategy pays off, because giving up the fight, even in a dead rubber, is not really the United way.
Granit Xhaka makes it 1-0. What a goal! pic.twitter.com/A0eeUASfrh
— – (@WengerTactic) May 7, 2017
Xhaka could yet prove to be the answer
It’s been a disappointing first season in London for the Swiss international, but the £34 million man is finally showing glimpses of what he is capable of. Against United he had more touches and completed more passes (70 of 74) than any of his teammates, and linked up well with Ramsey and Mesut Ozil. He also scored from range, with the aid of a deflection, but if you don’t shoot, you don’t score. Now, if only he can learn to control his temper…
Welbeck needs to stay fit
Danny Welbeck brings something different to the Arsenal front line with his power and pace that the other forwards Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud don’t. On Sunday Welbeck scored the crucial second goal with a towering header and repeatedly used his pace to put the United defence on the back foot. He may not be prolific (with a career average of a goal every five games) but he always looks capable of causing problems when he plays, the only problem is it just doesn’t happen enough.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 7, 2017
United missed Pogba
Jose Mourinho rested Paul Pogba against the Gunners and he was sorely missed. Has come in for a lot of criticism this season, saying that he wasn’t worth the money or is overrated, but Mourinho rates him and there was a gaping Pogba-sized hole in the middle of the park. Next season will prove just how important he is to United.
Arsenal’s Champions League hopes still alive
If Arsenal had lost, their season would have been over bar the FA Cup final, which is a nice distraction and a back door route into Europe if all else fails. But this win means they’re still in the hunt. They now need to win all their games and wait for either Liverpool or Manchester City to collapse, but it is not beyond the realms of the impossible. Arsene Wenger’s position is precarious, but if the Gunners do manage to sneak into the top four then that contract extension may not be the most ridiculous thing after all.