Arsenal 2 Manchester United 0
Pepe 8, Sokratis 42

Arsenal achieved their first win under new head coach Mikel Arteta, a resounding 2-0 victory over Manchester United at the Emirates. First half goals from Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis ensured that the Gunners got the new year off and firing with three points. United had started brightly and looked to capitalise on the pace of Daniel James on the left wing. Sead Kolasinac was shown an early yellow card as he tried to keep up with the Wales winger. It was from Kolasinac’s cross after some good work from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang which gave Arsenal the lead. Nicolas Pepe composed himself before taking aim to fire past David De Gea after eight minutes.

Alexandre Lacazette, Lucas Torreira and Pepe – who hit the post, had further chances to increase the Arsenal lead. Three minutes before the break, Sokratis did just that. Pepe swung over a corner which Lacaztte flicked on at the near post. De Gea fumbled the ball into the path of Sokratis who lashed it into the net to double the Gunners’ lead.

There then followed a tigerish, gusty and engaging Arsenal performance which had been missed of late. Granit Xhaka and Torreira have formed a strong midfield bond and they had the edge over United’s attackers. David Luiz, Sokartis, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac held firm and mercurial Mesut Ozil conducted the attacking prowess of Aubameyang and Lacazette. The Arsenal faithful were warmed on a cold north London night, and the crowd noise levels were continually lifted for this team which has belief and the fans have now have belief  too. That is all down to Arteta’s influence who has put his stamp on the personnel he has inherited and they have bought into his philosophy.

To get a first home win since late October will have lifted Arteta’s side who speaks of wanting to see how his team react “suffer,” as he says when they defend deep in numbers. The reason for that is the fitness levels which Arteta demands and he is open to admit that they are not there yet. The way Arsenal allowed United second half time and space caused a few minor concerns, but Leno held firm as did his defence in front of him.

 

“I am very pleased with the performance, I am even more pleased with the result, which we needed. All of the things that I demanded and wanted to see on the pitch, actually happened today,” smiled Arteta who revealed that the first win as a manger was more stressful than when he was a player. He spoke at length of how he watched the joy on fans faces when Pepe and Sokratis scored and the fans engagement was a crucial factor.

Not since the success of the Arsene Wenger years has there been optimism following just one result. Arteta is having a massive influence.

“I said to the players, ‘it is up to you, your body language and behaviour, if you are able to transmit to them, they will buy into it. If it is negative, it is a negative [reaction from the fans], if it is positive, it is positive and they are willing to help you guys. They are here to support you.’ They are fans and they want to see their team perform like they did today. Thank you so much to them because when they are right behind [the team], you can tell the confidence and the things they tried, and the energy had towards the game you could see it was much better.”

At full time, Xhaka stayed back to applaud and wave to  all sections of the Emirates stadium, was that a sign ? Arteta is clear on the matter, he wants the Swiss international who has been linked with a move to Hertha Berlin, to stay and continue in that midfield role he dominated tonight.

Something is stirring once again at Arsenal. Arteta has come in with the knowledge gleaned from three and a half years as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City, and the players are definitely on board.

“I said to them that without you guys I won’t be able to do it. You have to open that door and believe that I can bring something different to the club. We need all the staff to believe as well. If we are able to do that, day by day, it will take a long time and the process is not going to be easy and there will be ups and downs, but they bought into it. That’s my feeling. They want to do it. I think they are starting to enjoy it and hopefully it’s a start.”

 

Arsenal next host Leeds United in the FA Cup third round on Monday 6th January. Arteta won the FA Cup twice with Arsenal as a player and will now look to test his players in this season’s competition.