Arsenal overcame Manchester United in a thrilling 3-2 victory in the 90th minute thanks to a goal from Eddie Nketiah, moving the team one step closer to winning the Premier League for the first time since 2004.
In a thrilling match at the Emirates, both teams exchanged leads until Lisandro Martinez's equalizer for United early in the second half seemed to be heading for a tie. However, Nketiah won it for Arsenal in the dying seconds to maintain the Gunners five points clear of Manchester City at the top of the standings as he erased Marcus Rashford's first-half goal with a first-half header. Here are a few short observations about Sunday's outstanding Premier League game.
Arsenal passes a crucial test in their championship defense.
The month of January was meant to be the actual test of Arsenal's surprising bid for the Premier League championship, but Mikel Arteta's squad keeps defying the odds with impressive victories, none more vital than this 3-2 victory over Manchester United.
The Gunners were halted by Newcastle at the beginning of the month, but they defeated Tottenham last week before exacting revenge on United for their lone loss this season. And in defeating United, Arsenal showed what it takes to win. After giving up an early goal, they rallied, took the lead, and then scored the game's winning goal after the visitors tied the score at 2-2 midway through the second half.
The match against a revitalized United was the toughest test for Arteta's squad because Arsenal still needs to face defending champions Manchester City this year. They defeated Erik ten Hag's side by responding to all of the questions posed to them.
At this point in the season, Arsenal had played 19 games and accumulated 50 points. The pressure is on City to rein them in, but this Arsenal team is playing without fear or worries. Even if they slow down from that fantastic speed in the second half of the season, they will still complete the campaign with a large point total.
Both may arrive, of course, but for the time being, they are displaying the same carefree form that helped Leicester win the championship in 2016. And it will become harder and harder to see how anyone can stop Arsenal from winning the title unless City can defeat them in their first league matchup next month.
Weghorst improves things, but United still lacks an offensive edge.
While Wout Weghorst does not solve Manchester United's goal-scoring issues, he does provide Erik ten Hag's squad with a new option up front. The Netherlands international has been added to United's offensive options in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo's mutually agreed-upon exit in November. He is on loan from Burnley till the conclusion of the current campaign.
The 6-foot-6 Weghorst started his second straight game at the Emirates since Anthony Martial is still out with a hamstring injury, and much like in his debut at Crystal Palace, he posed little threat to the opposition's goal. However, Weghorst has increased United's directness and given them the ability to strike the ball far when necessary. But to say that he is just a target guy would be inaccurate.
Weghorst is a skilled footwork who connected effectively with his offensive partners. He also attracted defenders to mark him anytime the ball was in the air, creating space for Marcus Rashford and Antony, among others. In addition, he has a far stronger work ethic than Martial and is willing to continuously pressure the defense of the enemy. However, he is ultimately constrained in his ability to defeat his marker, and opponents are aware that they can easily hold Weghorst at bay.
Rashford's goals are now saving United, who currently have the lowest goal total in the top six. They must be more effective since they cannot last forever. They have another choice in Weghorst, but he won't score enough goals to elevate United to the level of genuine championship contenders.
Although Mikel Arteta has done wonders to transform Arsenal into a championship contender, his club still has weaknesses, particularly at right-back.
Ben White had a terrible first half and failed to make Rashford's life tough. Additionally, Bruno Fernandes consistently outperformed him when United attacked down their left-hand side.
The former Brighton defender is typically a center-half, but due to Gabriel and William Saliba's outstanding play in the middle of the Arsenal defense this season, he has also played right-back. White lacks the skills necessary to play right-back. He makes poor judgments frequently because he thinks like a center-back.
Takehiro Tomiyasu was switched for White by Arteta at halftime; nevertheless, the Japanese defender was no better than his partner and may have even been worse. It may have been an injury, but there was no sign of such.
Any player would find it difficult to defend against Rashford in this type of form, but there are other outstanding wide players in the Premier League, and Arsenal will meet them during the race for the championship.
Arteta must come up with a remedy right now to prevent their obvious weakness from being exploited.