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Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United: Pepe and Sokratis on target in Arteta's first win

By Stephen Creek
Pepe

London, January 2: Mikel Arteta tasted victory for the first time since taking charge of Arsenal after Nicolas Pepe's third league goal of the season put his side on course for a 2-0 victory over Manchester United at Emirates Stadium.

Ivory Coast international Pepe capitalised on a nervous start to the game by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, who lost for only the second time in 10 league games after failing to expose Arsenal's flaws in the way Chelsea had done in a 2-1 win on the same ground three days earlier.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos doubled Arsenal's lead just before half-time and the hosts' improvement was testament to Arteta's impact on a squad that has appeared disjointed for much of this season.

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The revived performances of Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka in the Gunners' midfield will have particularly pleased the coach, who delivered Arsenal's second victory in 13 gruelling Premier League games that had seen them drop into the bottom half of the table.

Results | Points Table | Fixtures

The result lifted them back up to 10th and offering cause for optimism at the start of 2020.

Marcus Rashford sent a shot dipping into Bernd Leno's arms from 25 yards in the first minute as United showed their threat on the break.

But Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's trickery set Sead Kolasinac free in the United box after just eight minutes and his cross deflected into the path of Pepe, who swept into the net from 12 yards to get the hosts off to an excellent start.

Pepe went agonisingly close to doubling Arsenal's lead seven minutes before half-time when David de Gea's careless clearance fell to him 20 yards out and he curled a shot onto the post with the United goalkeeper flailing.

But Arsenal kept the pressure on an embattled United defence and got their reward when Alexandre Lacazette flicked a corner into a crowd of defenders before it bounced to Sokratis, who lashed it high into the net from close range.

Fred tied his luck with a rising shot from 25 yards 10 minutes into the second half, but Leno claimed it comfortably as United struggled to create the space they needed to trouble Arsenal.

Nemanja Matic did carve out an opportunity with a clever ball into the area a few moments later but substitute Andreas Pereira hit the side-netting with his angled effort.

A foot injury to Kolasinac was the only fly in the ointment for Arsenal, who will hope this victory marks the beginning of a push towards a place in the top six that only recently looked very much beyond them.

What does it mean? The end of a long wait at the Emirates

Arsenal's previous home victory in the Premier League came all the way back on October 6, when they beat Bournemouth 1-0, but the way Arteta's men stuck to their task and bettered United all over the pitch will have satisfied fans as much as the result.

Attack the best form of defence for Kolasinac

Kolasinac's surging runs gave United no rest as Arsenal attacked with an extra man throughout the first half, and he kept up his all-action display down the left flank to ensure Ozil always had an option out wide.

Martial goes missing

The service directed towards him was intermittent, but when Anthony Martial did receive the ball in dangerous areas he was too often slow to react and opted to isolate himself in an advanced position rather than dropping deep to help his toiling midfield colleagues.

What's next?

Arsenal are at home again on Monday when Leeds United visit in the FA Cup, following the Red Devils' trip to Wolves in the same competition on Saturday.

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Story first published: Thursday, January 2, 2020, 3:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Jan 2, 2020
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