Arsenal Analysed | The reasons we beat Man Utd

Arsenal celebrate beating Manchester United

We turned the history books on their head on Sunday when we won at Old Trafford for just the fifth time in the Premier League era to keep our championship hopes alive.

Leandro Trossard netted the all-important goal, but what were the other reasons why we managed to put in such an assured display to return us to the top of the table? Adrian Clarke has gone through the stats and footage to discover the keys to this crucial victory:

Record shutout

Once again, our defence was rock-solid to comfortably achieve yet another clean sheet on the road. This was our 11th of the season, setting a new high for Premier League away shutouts in a single campaign (11).

We kept United at arm’s length by setting up in a deeper-than-normal 4-4-2 out of possession. Perhaps wary of Rasmus Hojlund, Garnacho and Amad Diallo’s pace, we aimed to slow them down and deny the hosts space in behind. Thomas Partey dropped in between our centre-backs on occasion to make up a back three, as we looked to protect the spine. 

This freeze frame from early in the first half shows how we packed the box, with Partey acting as a supplementary central defender. Seven yellow shirts in a confined area made it hard for the hosts to fashion clear-cut opportunities.

A frame showing how many defenders we had in the box at times against Manchester United

That was a key reason why it was ourselves who created the better chances. The average distance of Manchester United shots was over 20 yards, while we were able to get much closer to Andre Onana before firing off attempts from an average of just under 12 yards:

Shot Map – Arsenal (left) 

The shot map from our game against Manchester United

Livewire winger Garnacho was the only United player to register a shot inside our box. By the time the final whistle blew at the end of a tight contest, Erik ten Hag’s men had an xG of just 0.51, compared to our 1.52. Our deeper defensive block comfortably held them at bay.

Saliba shines

Our man-of-the-match at Old Trafford was William Saliba, who produced an imperious defensive performance. The Frenchman was calmness personified throughout, always in control of his positioning and decision-making.

Saliba won all seven duels he contested, and he also came out on top in 100 per cent of his aerial duels too. Snuffing out danger with towering clearances and well-timed tackles, the 23-year-old dominated Manchester United’s forwards with minimal fuss:

Saliba v Man United Total 
Passes  84
Duels Won  7 (100%) 
Aerial Duels Won  3 (100%) 
Clearances  6
Tackles Won  3

Saliba’s most eye-catching intervention came in the 58th minute when he produced one of the best tackles of the season. Garnacho carried the ball at pace into the danger zone, but our centre-back was unflustered as he stood his ground, watching the ball and timing his challenge to perfection. Stopping the youngster in his tracks he whipped the ball away cleanly.

William Saliba's tackle during the game against Manchester United

White passes examination

I was impressed with the way Ben White handled his duel with the tricky Garnacho. It wasn’t easy for him at times, with the winger putting him on the backfoot with forceful ball carries, but at no stage did our right back look nervous or fazed.

Consistently getting his body position correct, he made sure the Argentine could not hit a single shot on target, and despite having lots of the ball, United’s youngster only created one chance.

In possession White was also one of our very best players. Getting forward well, he probed with quality inside the final third and his measured pass to Kai Havertz for the goal was excellent, but throughout this scrappy affair he was technically excellent. At no stage did his distribution become loose.

Most Passes in Final Third Pass Accuracy % in Final Third
Odegaard 17 70.6%
White 14 92.9%
Saka 13 76.9%
Havertz 11 45.5%

Delivering in the moment

Havertz and Trossard combined in sublime fashion to score the only goal. With much of our build-up play going down the right, Trossard was largely on the periphery of the game, but he came up trumps when required with a well-executed move.

While Casemiro has to be apportioned blame for failing to squeeze up for offside, the clear-mindedness of Havertz was impressive. Biding his time to get towards the byline, playing with his head up and waiting for Trossard to time his run, the German’s assist was fabulous. 

The move leading to our goal against Manchester United

Trossard’s dynamic run across Aaron Wan-Bissaka was also a thing of beauty that led to him scoring his fourth goal in his last five appearances. The timing of the Belgian’s sprint, and that of the pass that found him, was marvellous, and could prove crucial in the final shake-up.

Have a go at your analysis by digging deeper into the numbers or building your own chalkboard with our revamped Stats Centre.

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