Some days, a striker will have a game where he only gets once chance, and he takes it to score a crucial goal. And then there are days like Saturday, where Alexandre Lacazette had chance after chance, and even got his goal, but still lost his personal duel with Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Lacazette will wonder how he didn’t score more, and indeed, slightly more clinical finishing would have helped Arsenal avoid the 3-1 loss they suffered to United. But it’s hard to fault the striker’s performance, given De Gea’s inspired form in goal on the night.
Here’s an in-depth analysis of how Lacazette fared against United.
Goals – 1
Assists – 0
Shots – 7
Shots on target – 4
Pass Accuracy – 62%
Key Passes – 2
Touches – 63
Dribbles – 4
The only thing missing from Lacazette’s performance on Saturday was more goals. He led the line well, making the perfect runs for his talented teammates to find him, and was too much to handle for the United defence. However, when he beat them, he had to face the last obstacle of an inspired De Gea in the United goal, and the keeper came out on top more often than not.
19th min, CHANCE: The first of many times it took a miracle to stop Arsenal from scoring. Granit Xhaka flicked on a corner and the ball fell to the stretching Lacazette, who got enough contact to divert the ball towards the goal at a decent pace. De Gea got into a good position but didn’t know much about the save he made, as the ball deflected off his knee, back onto Lacazette, then wide of the post.
33rd min, SHOT: Yet again, the question was, how did he not score? Lacazette found himself with the ball just yards out. De Gea came out to smother his shot, and the Arsenal striker tried to dribble past him or at least create some space to shoot. Instead, it ended up being brilliant keeping from the Spaniard, as he stopped Lacazette’s shot, which then bounced onto the woodwork.
49th min, GOAL: Finally. Alexis Sanchez‘s clipped ball found Aaron Ramsey clean through on goal, but the Welshman decided to cushion it back to Lacazette. You’d say it was a chance he couldn’t miss, but given what had transpired in his duel with De Gea up to that point, credit to the Frenchman for putting this one away.
56th min, SHOT: And then, normal service resumed. Lacazette created space for himself to shoot and fizzed a strike low towards the bottom corner, only to see De Gea pull off another stunning save. For good measure, the keeper then kept out Sanchez on the rebound with another brilliant stop.
VERDICT – 8/10
On another day, Lacazette will play worse and score a hat-trick. It was his misfortune that he came up against the best goalkeeper in the world in top form. David de Gea looked like he wasn’t going to be beaten at all, and although it’s fair to say Lacazette could have been more clinical with his finishing, in truth there wasn’t much more he could’ve done.
The Arsenal striker was a nightmare for the rest of the United defence, and it was his goal that gave the hosts a chance at a comeback, although it was not to be.
Paul Pogba has been silencing the critics this season, but he was yet to deliver a truly signature performance, a dominant showing in a crucial game against a top side.
Unfortunately, what people will remember most of Pogba from this game is the red card he earned late on, with a careless, reckless tackle on Hector Bellerin undoing his good work leading up to the point.
Here’s a look at how Pogba performed overall.
Goals – 0
Assists – 2
Shots – 1
Shots on target – 0
Pass Accuracy – 82%
Key Passes – 2
Touches – 37
Dribbles – 1
Until his sending off, Pogba played his role to perfection.
He was the link between United’s defence and attack, the conductor of their counter-attacking play.
His two assists in a big game away to a top six rival showed his newfound confidence as a United player, the sort of performance people have been waiting for him to deliver.
And then he threw it away with a careless challenge which will see him miss United’s crucial clash against Manchester City next week.
While there was the mitigating circumstance of being down to 10 men, United reclined into a defensive shell without Pogba’s creation.
His influence is immeasurable and his qualities exceptional as the Frenchman made the incredibly difficult look incredibly easy.
Although he clearly didn’t mean the challenge which earned him a red, it unfortunately overshadowed a quintessential Pogba performance.
4th min, ASSIST: The moment that set the course of the game. Arsenal may have dominated after United went 2-0 up, but the two early goals were what determined how the game would be played, and this was the first of them. Antonio Valencia pounced on a loose pass from Laurent Koscielny and played it into Pogba. The Frenchman took the quickest of moments to weigh his options before returning the ball to Valencia, who beat Petr Cech with a superb low finish.
63rd min, ASSIST: This sealed the game for United. A quick counter saw Jesse Lingard run at the heart of the Arsenal defence, then lay it off to Pogba. The midfielder’s skill and strength were enough to see off Koscielny, and from there it was just a matter of laying it across to Lingard for the simplest of goals.
74th min, RED CARD: One of those unlucky but also undebatable red cards. Pogba went on a run with the ball, took a heavy touch, kept running and thus ended up going studs up on Bellerin. Clear red which means he’ll miss the crucial clash against Manchester City next week.
This would have been a 9, had it not been for that red card.
It was careless, but it definitely falls under the category of dangerous play, and Pogba should know better.
Take that red card out of the game and this is almost the signature Pogba performance United have been waiting for.
Composed, skillful, and powerful in midfield, and the link that made United’s attacks work.
Two assists and a dominant display in midfield, tempered by a moment of stupidity.
Here, we rate the Arsenal players.
PETR CECH: Denied Jesse Lingard early in the second half at 2-1, but could do little about the goals. 6 (out of 10)
SHKODRAN MUSTAFI: Terrible error in being caught for United’s second and limped off with an ankle injury immediately afterwards. 4
LAURENT KOSCIELNY: Awful mistake led to United’s opening goal which left Arsenal to chase and then beaten by Paul Pogba for United’s third. 4
NACHO MONREAL: Exposed with Arsenal chasing the game on a difficult afternoon. 5
HECTOR BELLERIN: Covered plenty of ground, but United enjoyed space down the Arsenal right. 5
AARON RAMSEY: Set up Alexandre Lacazette’s goal with a well-timed run and cushioned pass. 6
GRANIT XHAKA: Shot just wide in the first half, but did not offer the protection Arsenal’s fragile defence needed. 5
SEAD KOLASINAC: Could do little about the opening goal when Koscielny’s wayward pass did not reach its target. 5
ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE: Scored and was denied by David De Gea on more than one occasion as he showed his ability. 8
MESUT OZIL: Linked with a reunion with Jose Mourinho in the summer, the Germany playmaker had few chances to shine. 6
ALEXIS SANCHEZ: Denied by De Gea in the second half and provided the pass which led to Lacazette’s goal. 6
ALEX IWOBI (for Mustafi, 15 minutes): Troubled United with his direct running. 6
DANNY WELBECK (for Xhaka, 70): Had a shot blocked and might have had a penalty. 6
OLIVIER GIROUD (for Kolasinac, 76): The France striker was unable to have his usual goal-scoring impact off the bench. 5