Arsenal 3-0 Man Utd: Gunners need consistency for title challenge

Match of the Day 2 analysis

The way Arsenal took Manchester United apart on Sunday showed why they should be serious title contenders this season but the Gunners' problem is they do not play like that often enough.

Arsenal forward Theo Walcott came out after the game and said they had sent out a message that they are going to have a real go at winning the Premier League.

But Walcott also said the performance was for the fans after what happened at Emirates Stadium in Tuesday's Champions League defeat by Olympiakos.

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Our pace surprised United - Wenger

That illustrates Arsenal's problem. We saw a reaction against United but, to be honest, it came five days too late.

I was expecting that kind of display against Olympiakos after Arsenal were beaten by Dinamo Zagreb in their opening game in Europe and I was amazed we did not get it.

Instead, they were poor against the Greek side. It should not have taken another defeat to bring that sort of reaction from the players.

A springboard for more success?

When Arsene Wenger's side are in full flow and getting men forward fast like they were early on against United, they are a joy to watch.

Average position of Arsenal players vs Man Utd after 20 minutes
The average position of Arsenal's players after 20 minutes vs Man Utd, when they were 3-0 up, shows how Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both looked to get forward and support Theo Walcott
The average position of Arsenal's players after 20 minutes vs Man Utd, when they were 3-0 up, shows how Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both looked to get forward and support Theo Walcott

This performance and result should be a real springboard for them, as well as a huge confidence boost going into the international break, but I would have my doubts whether it will be because they have been so inconsistent in the past.

Part of that is their own doing. As I said on Match of the Day 2, they should always pick their best available team, and that means picking their best goalkeeper.

They did that on Sunday and, although Petr Cech only really had one save to make in the first half, it was a vital one.

Cech made a brilliant stop from Anthony Martial which meant the Gunners went in at half-time 3-0 up, not 3-1. The second half would have been a different story if that had gone in.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech celebrates at the final whistle on Sunday

United's pressing game did not work

I would put United's performance down to a bad day at the office rather than any serious flaws in their team but, as good as Arsenal were, United were terrible.

United's patient approach had taken them to the top of the table but the first few minutes at Emirates Stadium were a reminder of how effective it can be when teams go for the jugular like Arsenal did.

The Gunners were 2-0 up after seven minutes and, at that stage, United had only touched the ball three times in the opposition half, other than at kick-offs.

Man Utd touches after 7 mins vs Arsenal
Man Utd's touches against Arsenal after seven minutes, when they were 2-0 down
Manchester United only had three touches of the ball in Arsenal's half in the opening seven minutes (excluding kick-offs)

That sums up how dominant Arsenal were and how United's high pressing game did not work.

I was surprised they even tried it but, to me, it looked like United were full of confidence and thought Arsenal would be damaged by what happened to them against Olympiakos so decided to take them on rather than sitting back.

If that was their game-plan then it was an even bigger surprise that United appeared so badly prepared to execute it.

They went looking for the ball in ones and twos instead of as a team and Arsenal picked them off with ease because they were too quick and too sharp for them.

Arsenal attacking trio run riot

The passing and movement we saw from Arsene Wenger's side was outstanding, as was their finishing.

They basically blew United away in the first 20 minutes, and at 3-0 the game was over then.

United ended up just looking confused, and I was not sure what Bastian Schweinsteiger's position was meant to be.

Michael Carrick was sitting in front of the back four but sometimes Schweinsteiger was United's furthest man forward and others he was the furthest one back and collecting the ball from the back four or even the goalkeeper.

Average position of Man Utd players vs Arsenal after 20 minutes
The average position of United players after 20 minutes, when they were 3-0 down, shows how more advanced Schweinsteiger was in comparison to his central-midfield partner Carrick
The average position of United players after 20 minutes, when they were 3-0 down, shows how more advanced Schweinsteiger was in comparison to his central midfield partner Carrick

Yes, the game finished 3-0, the same score as at half-time, but that was not a surprise either.

I have been in United's shoes and it is pretty embarrassing to be that far behind at the break. Your priority is not to concede anymore, because you do not want to end up on the wrong end of a five or 6-0 thrashing.

Arsenal could relax after the break because the job was already done.

United were very poor and were left embarrassed really, but a big part of that was down to the way Arsenal passed the ball so quickly.

That, plus their pace and their desire to get in behind United in those opening minutes, was what won them the game and Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil were unstoppable.

The Gunners need to find a way to do that on a regular basis whereas, if United try a pressing game again, they need to do a lot more work on it on the training ground beforehand.

Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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