Another game at Wembley, another trophy for Mikel Arteta. We could certainly get used to this.
It’s been eight months since our head coach arrived in north London - and he’s made his mark on the team in just about every department. We’re stronger at the back, sharper in attack and showing a greater understanding of Arteta’s philosophy as each week passes.
One of our biggest criticisms in recent years has been our inability to grind out wins against the ‘big six’, but under the guidance of Mikel, we’ve beaten Liverpool twice, Manchester City and Chelsea - all in the last 45 days.
His record at The Arsenal now stands as follows: P29, W17, D6, L6.
Arteta’s midfield selection raised a few eyebrows when the team news dropped on Saturday - but in the end it proved to be a masterstroke. Lining up in a flat three, Mohamed Elneny was tasked with screening the backline, while Granit Xhaka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles (who often drifted out to the left) were given greater freedom to push forward and play between the lines.
The latter was in exceptional form on the day, covering every blade of grass and pressing Liverpool’s midfield at every opportunity. The 23-year-old finished the game having made more tackles than any other player on the pitch (4). He also registered three clearances, one interception and regained possession six times - more than any other Arsenal player.
Birthday boy. Man of the Match. Wembley winner. How could Ainsley’s day possibly get any better? With a first call-up to the England senior team, of course.
AUBA UNDER THE ARCH
No Arsenal player has scored more goals at Wembley Stadium than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5). If ever there was a stat to prove the influence of our No 14, that’s it - and what makes it even more impressive is that all five have arrived in the last 42 days.
Aubameyang scored twice in the semi-finals of the Emirates FA Cup back in July, sealing a 2-0 win over Manchester City, before hitting another brace in the final against against Chelsea just two weeks later. His fifth goal, a stunning curling effort against the reigning Premier League champions, is arguably the pick of the bunch.
Since the start of 2019/20, only Kevin De Bruyne (22) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (15) have more assists in all competitions among Premier League players than Bukayo Saka. Not bad company for an 18-year-old, eh?
The youngster has been one of our brightest creative sparks this season - and Saturday’s game was no different with his stunning assist for Aubameyang. When many other wingers would have felt the pressure to keep dribbling into space, Bukayo cut inside, maintained composure and weighted a perfect pass for our No 14.
The stats back up his performance too, with three key passes, two interceptions, two dribbles and an impressive pass completion rate of 91 per cent. The boy has talent.
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