Manchester United vs Arsenal – Tactical Analysis: How Did Ten Hag Beat The Gunners?

Manchester United vs Arsenal – Tactical Analysis: How Did Ten Hag Beat The Gunners?

  • Tactics
  • September 6, 2022
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League leaders Arsenal visited Old Trafford hoping to continue their 100% record. However, the home side were simply the better team as they came away with a deserved 3-1 win.

Big money signing Antony was in the starting eleven for United and the Brazilian opened the scoring in the first half. Arsenal equalised in the 60th minute, but two simple counterattacks from United saw them finish the game with a two-goal lead.

Interestingly, during both of United’s second-half goals, Arsenal were on top of the hosts, but lack of focus in defending and Rashford’s ruthlessness in finishing proved to be the difference in the end.

Also read: Winners and Losers: Premier League Gameweek 6

What was Eric Ten Hag’s Plan In-Possession?

Over the course of the game, Manchester United had 40% possession which suggests their primary plan was to hit Arsenal on the break using the pace of their attacking players. However, in the first half, United had 46% of the ball and were dominating Arsenal in certain areas of the pitch.

When the ball was in United’s defensive third while build-up play, McTominay was pushing higher and taking one or two Arsenal players deeper to mark him, this movement was creating space for Eriksen to receive the ball in deeper positions and enabled him to break Arsenal’s lines.

United used an eye-catching and effective pattern of play which was instrumental in their first goal.

Manchester United overloaded the left side and squeezed the Arsenal players on United’s left flank.  Rashford, Sancho, Malacia, Eriksen and Bruno were all moving the ball on the left flank and attracting Arsenal to press.

Manchester United using the left side to keep possession. [Pic credit – Sofascore]
Manchester United’s dominating the left side to create space for Anthony and Dalot on the right side. [Red – Manchester United, Black – Arsenal]

As you can see in the image above, this was forcing Arsenal’s players to shift towards their right to cover gaps. The defensive movements from Arsenal players were leaving Antony and Dalot in massive space, which was exactly what United aimed to execute.

After keeping the ball on the left flank for some time, United quickly switched sides, either through quick short passes or a crossfield pass towards Anthony or Dalot for the pair to combine and create.

This troubled Arsenal’s defenders on plenty of occasions, and Anthony’s debut goal also resulted from a similarly executed pattern of play.

In the second half, however, United turned into a typical counter-attacking side as Arsenal were now dominating possession in all areas of the pitch.

Both of Rashford’s goals came through excellent attacking transitions with Arsenal’s backline were extremely high as they were aiming to score their second goal. Rashford is one of the best players at exploiting high lines, and the Arsenal game was another example of his explosiveness and composure in front of goal.


The scoreline might not reveal the actual story of the game. Arsenal dominated the majority of the game and pegged United in their own half but simply couldn’t make it count as Varane and Martinez were once again excellent for United in defence.

As for the home side, it’s another great result and their fourth win in a row, but if it wasn’t for Rashford’s ruthless finishing and the Arsenal defence going to sleep, it could have easily been a draw for the Red Devils.

It wasn’t an outstanding performance as the scoreline suggests. However, it was a tough test that Eric Ten Hag passed as he defeated an Arsenal side who came into the game with 5 consecutive wins on the trot.

Also read: Other Leagues Watch – Bundesliga(GW5), Serie A(GW5), Ligue 1(GW6) 2022/23

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