Goal scorer Mustafi laments Arsenal lapses in 2-2 draw

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Shkrodan Mustafi had a front row seat for a pair of terrible errors on Wednesday, one that benefited his Arsenal and the other that allowed Manchester United to take a point away from the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Match recap | Mourinho reacts ]

Arsenal led 1-0 when Mustafi’s bounding header was coughed up into the goal by United backstop David De Gea.

The Gunners led again, 2-1, but that only lasted for about 70 seconds as Sead Kolasinac‘s giveaway allowed Lingard to zip past an unsuspecting Mustafi to make it 2-2.

“We tried everything to take the three points home, but we have to be a little more clever and sensitive to danger to avoid the second one,” Mustafi said. “But we have taken four points from two difficult games after Tottenham at the weekend. We gave 120 percent in the derby, but we are not here to give excuses. With a bit of luck we could take three points, but it is always important not to lose.”

Arsenal manager Unai Emery thought his men blew a good chance to win its first league match at Old Trafford since 2007.

“I think we controlled the game, the second half better than the first. We could have won this match in certain moments, but they equalized very quickly after both our goals,” he said. “We need to improve defensively, but we need to have balance and not lose our attacking chances.”

Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Arsenal

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  • Man Utd swept 2017-18 series
  • Arsenal last won PL match at Old Trafford in 2007
  • Man Utd leads all-time 96W-50D-81L

Arsenal’s fine form will have it believing it can claim a first Premier League win at Old Trafford in over a decade when it visits Manchester United on Wednesday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Gunners’ unbeaten run can reach 20 with a draw or win on Wednesday, but they’ll be envisioning something special after a terrific 4-2 win over Spurs on Sunday in the North London Derby.

Meanwhile, United is eight points back of fourth place Arsenal and hanging its hats on Champions League success so far this season. That’s especially true following a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday, and Jose Mourinho needs to find a way to drive motivation into his men.

Alexis Sanchez misses out on a chance to face his old team, while Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan is likely to face his.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on Man Utd’s Top Four ambitions: “Before Crystal Palace, I said my target would be end of December in that position. Now the target has changed, to close the distance as much as we can. Now we have to try to be very close to these positions. We need to not be so unlucky with problems that we have. We need some players to perform.”

Unai Emery on whether Aaron Ramsey could still stay at Arsenal: “This conversation is not for today for us or for me. It’s a situation that was closed one or two months ago. At the moment the most important thing is he’s smiling, he has the commitment, the behaviour and the performances. That’s the best for him and for us.”

Prediction

Paul Pogba has had a knack for responding after stinkers, and his Saturday against Crystal Palace was anything but good. We wager United will get a result at home, but call it 1-1 or 2-2 (There has been one 0-0 in the last 20 meetings between Arsenal and United).

Ramsey, Emery react to Arsenal’s derby win: ‘I want to do more’

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Arsenal was fired up for its North London Derby against Spurs at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, and it showed throughout their 4-2 win.

[ RECAP: North London Derby ]

The Gunners scored first before conceding twice quickly to head into the break 2-1, but left little doubt with a dominant second half to move above their rivals on the Premier League table.

To say they wanted it more than Spurs is cliche mumbo-jumbo, but there’s no debate that they wanted it plenty.

“I have been here for many many years, it means an awful lot to me and to the fans as well,” said Aaron Ramsey. “I am glad I played my part and we can all go home happy tonight. They could have gone six points in front of us but instead we’ve gone above them. The atmosphere was electric, that really helped us over the line in the end.”

Here’s Arsenal boss Unai Emery, who made some big second half adjustments in the win, via the BBC:

“I felt we needed something different on the pitch. Above all our situation is for me the reason to do that. Aaron [Ramsey] knows this derby and his spirit is important, secondly the possibility with [Alexandre] Lacazette to find when there are chances, his efficiency is very big.

“I want to do more. Last week three points in Bournemouth is the same. We need first to win three points there because we can’t play here with possibility to go above Tottenham in the table. For supporters it is a special match, for us too because we want to give them a special match. But for now I am already thinking Wednesday in Manchester.”

Arsenal is unbeaten in 19 matches across all competitions, and making it 20 against Manchester United would certainly make another statement on the culture change in North London.

Arsenal reveal why Mesut Ozil was dropped

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Arsenal left out their highest-paid player and superstar Mesut Ozil for the win at Bournemouth on Sunday and manager Unai Emery has explained why.

Ozil, 30, was left on the bench and didn’t come on as Arsenal won 2-1 in a tight, tense clash down on the South Coast.

Asked if leaving Ozil out of the team was a tactical decision, Emery explained that he was looking for more physicality and intensity from the Gunners.

“We thought about how we could be better with a very demanding match with physicality and intensity and we decided [to not play him],” Emery said. “Also, today we played with three centre-backs, like some moments in the season we will work like this and it’s another possibility for improvement, to find our best performance in the squad.”

Emery appeared to also suggest, when pressed further by reporters for an answer, that he may have a lack of trust in Ozil. 

“In the beginning of the season we were speaking every day, saying ‘we need to be competitive, we need to be organised and we need individual quality to better our performance’, it is the same today,” Emery added. 

Does this decision make sense? Arsenal won at Bournemouth, who had been flying high, to stretch their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions, so you can’t argue with Emery leaving Ozil out. Arsenal seemed better balanced than they have been in a recent run of three-straight draws in the PL against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Wolves.

But it does suggest that the German playmaker is not valued as highly by Emery as he was by the club when he was handed a new $450,000 per week contract back in January. Ozil didn’t warm up during the game and the likes of Aaron Ramsey (who will be free to leave the club in the summer) and youngsters Mateo Guendouzi and Eddie Nketiah came on instead of Ozil.

Emery has hooked Ozil off early in games so far this season and despite his status as one of the biggest superstars in Europe, the playmaker isn’t an automatic selection for Arsenal, especially in this more defensive 3-4-3 system.

That is refreshing from Emery and sends out a clear message to the rest of the squad: pull your weight or you aren’t playing.

Emery ‘had to change things’ after Arsenal fell flat under Wenger

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Unai Emery has said what anyone and everyone who watched Arsenal at any point during the final few years of Arsene Wenger‘s tenure observed: the club had lost its way under the legendary Frenchman and needed a drastic refresh.

[ MORE: Tottenham release update as injuries mount up ]

Emery feels he’s managed to do just that in a very short time — his first three months on the job — and sees the club already headed in the right direction. Particularly, it was the balance of attacking and defending that Emery noted wasn’t quite right, which undoubtedly came down to the mentality of the club and its players — quotes from the Guardian:

“I met once with him, and little else. I respect him a lot but no matter how much info he gave me, I had to change things. I told the players, ‘We started at kilometer zero.’ Even now, four months later, I still say it, ‘We are in the beginning.”

“Over time, only technical quality and offensive freedom were taken care of, and the team lost the defensive structure. What I want is to unite both essences and be more competitive. The Arsenal was in decline. We had to stop it and start climbing.”