Arsenal's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Arsenal's French striker Alexandre Lacazette (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 10, 2019. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

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Arsenal won Sunday’s marquee Premier League matchup, beating Manchester United 2-0 in a key contest in the race for the top four. The loss was interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first in the Premier League.

Granit Xhaka opened the scoring early with a wicked swerving strike that caught out David De Gea, and the United stopper couldn’t save a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty after the break.  

The win moves Arsenal up to fourth place, just one point behind rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

   

Aggressive Approach the Right Way Forward for Emery

Unai Emery surprised many with his decision to go for an ultra-aggressive starting XI against United that included Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey.

It was a lineup fans had been waiting to see for a long time:

The fact Emery picked all four against an in-form United team coming off a 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain was what made it surprising. In a crucial contest for the top four, the often conservative-minded coach finally opened up, and it worked wonders in the first half.

The Gunners caused all kinds of problems in midfield and mustered several great chances, before Xhaka opened the scoring. Per sportswriter James Benge, Emery’s tactics worked so well that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer changed his approach before the half-time break:

The Gunners will have to make up a two-goal deficit against Rennes on Thursday, and there’s no reason they should abandon their aggressive approach for that match. Ozil, Ramsey, Aubameyang and Lacazette are four of the team’s best players, and any formation that uses all four at the same time is worth exploring deeper.

The race for the top four remains a tight one, and now is the time for Emery to push ahead and be as aggressive as he can be.

   

Solskjaer Still the Man for United Despite Loss 

Solskjaer may have lost his first Premier League fixture in charge of the Red Devils, but the interim boss still made a positive impression in the contest and strengthened his case to win the job on a permanent basis.

His side were outplayed early, but the opening goal came after an individual mistake from arguably the side’s best player when goalkeeper De Gea was badly caught-out by a swerving strike.

Solskjaer noted the issues that plagued his side and changed things up in a timely fashion, per sportswriter James Olley:

The changes worked, as United mustered several chances and hit the woodwork multiple times. If things had gone their way, the result could have been very different.

Arsenal were always likely to come out strong after their disappointing loss to Rennes in midweek, while United seemed to feel the effects from the Champions League hangover after their comeback win over PSG. And despite so many things going in Arsenal’s favour, the Red Devils still lost due to an individual error and a penalty.

One loss against a top team with a point to prove won’t damage Solskjaer’s reputation too much, and if anything, the United interim boss once again made a fine impression on Sunday.

   

What’s Next?

Arsenal host Rennes in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League tie on Thursday. United face Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday in the FA Cup.

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