Manchester, England – Paul Pogba left the field only after having played a central role in the downfall of Manchester United. A pointless foul by the French midfielder in the 68th minute. A minute against Hector Bellerin resulted in a penalty kick fired by Pierre Emeric Aubameyang to secure Arsenal’s victory in the first Old Trafford League since 2006.
Pogba, who has always lacked defensive skills, missed another 6-1 penalty in their home defeat against Tottenham last month when an equally reckless challenge against Ben Davis resulted in a penalty for their opponents.
That’s the problem with Pogba. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can only count on a £89 million player to let him down. The question therefore arises as to why the United manager continues to entrust him with his place in the team. The defeat of Arsenal United is not the story of Pogba, but it embodies the reason why Solskjär is still around after 100 races for the lead, and why Gunners boss Michael Arteta is pushing his team more convincingly instead.
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When Artem took charge of the Emirates last December, he inherited a talented but unreliable midfielder in the form of Mesut Ozil. In less than a year Arteta threw Ozil into the desert and built a plan without the Germans. This decision underlines the confidence and conviction of the Spaniard, who is now also visible in his team.
As for Solskaer, no one knows where United is going, and Pogba sums up how the team is drifting away in silence.
Yes, they defeated Pari Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig this season in the Champions League, but today United 15th is in the Premier League with seven points from six games and, for the first time since the 1972-73 season, they have not won any of their first four home games. Cheerleader Solskaer can celebrate Champions League victories as much as you like, but the bread and butter is the Premier League. United are already nine points behind the leaders in Liverpool, so forget the title for another year.
Not so long ago, United vs. Arsenal was a game that played a role in the Premier League. Between 1996 and 2004, two teams won nine titles in nine seasons. Those days are long gone – Arsenal hasn’t won the title since 2004, United since 2013 – but they’re such big clubs that they both need to be a lot closer to the top than they are now.
But despite the fact that Arsenal has been with United Solskjär less than half the time, Arteta is clearly on track for recovery by implementing a coherent plan that includes signing players with clear goals. For the first time since Manchester City’s victory in January 2015 – a series of 29 games – Arsenal won an away game against the Big Six, and Arteta’s fingerprints were all over the win.
His two big signing sessions of the summer – defender Gabriel and midfielder Thomas Parti – were decisive for that victory. Gabriel’s aggressiveness and organizational skills have strongly supported the Arsenal and silenced Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood. And the party dominated midfield, even though it was against United, who fought for their diamond formation.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Michael Arteta’s arsenal is growing, but the same cannot be said of Ole Gunnar Solsker’s unit man. Getty
Until 11 months ago, when Arteta Unai replaced Emery, the problems of the Arsenal at the back and in midfield turned into a shame, problems that Emery and Wenger could not solve. But Arteta already did both, and his strategic summer set was the key.
On the contrary, Solskjär and United have once again paid for a summer window sample. Dutch midfielder Donnie van de Beek, who was bought by Ajax for £40 million, may not be in the league yet, but with Pogba and Bruno Fernandez already playing in his favourite position, why sign first? United, like Arsenal, needed a command center and a defensive midfielder, but also could not make a decision.
Arteta got what he wanted and what he needed, but Solskjaer ended up with a midfielder he wasn’t aiming for and two gaping holes remained empty.
But it’s not just about signatures. Tactically, Solskjaer was sent back to school by Arteta, who made extensive use of the winged backs of Bellerin and Kiran Tierney to exploit the latitudinal disadvantage of United’s diamond formation. The contrast between the rearguard Luke Shaw and Aaron Van Bissauka was striking and Solsker was in his arms when United shouted for a different approach.
But Solskjaer as an individual manager has never shown much self-confidence and concentration, so it’s no wonder that his team plays in the same way. As far as Arteta is concerned, Arsenal plays positively for their image and their team is in good shape.
Both clubs will eventually put everything back in order, but the smart money goes to Arsenal first.
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