Mikel Arteta earned his first win as Arsenal boss as the Gunners produced a powerful first-half performance to beat a lacklustre Manchester United.
The visitors, who were without the injured Paul Pogba, actually began brightly, but the game took a different turn on eight minutes when Nicolas Pepe steered in his fifth goal of the season after Sead Kolasinac’s cross was deflected to him.
That led to a first half in which the hosts were in control and Pepe hit the post before they doubled their lead when his corner was smashed in from close range by Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s side came into the game with one loss in their previous nine games, and although they improved after the break, they rarely tested Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
It was characteristic of a stop-start season in which they are yet to win three Premier League games in a row.
The defeat leaves them fifth in the table, five points behind Chelsea, who drew with Brighton earlier in the day.
Victory for Arsenal lifts them to 10th place, four points behind United, but they remain closer to the relegation zone than the top four.
Pepe peps up Arsenal
There had been little evidence of a lift in Arsenal’s three performances since Arteta was appointed, and questions were already being asked as to whether he was the right man to take over from former boss Unai Emery, given his lack of experience as a manager.
Arteta was just an onlooker in the stands for the lifeless draw at Everton, but that was followed by a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth on Boxing Day and a crushing late defeat by Chelsea at home last Sunday.
This was a different game altogether, though. With Granit Xhaka, who has been linked with a move to Hertha Berlin, restored to the midfield, the Swiss and Lucas Torreira were quicker to the tackle than their opponents.
Pepe was also at the heart of their attacking endeavour.
After scoring early on, he sent United left-back Luke Shaw halfway down the Holloway Road with a sharp turn before setting up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who sliced a volley over.
The Ivorian then fed Alexandre Lacazette, who somehow hit his shot out for a throw-in from about six yards out, before Torreira went close from another Pepe pass.
The hosts had to withstand greater pressure from Solskjaer’s side in the second period but in contrast to the Chelsea defeat, when they conceded twice in the last seven minutes, Arteta’s side managed the game well.
Their only concerns were injuries to Kolasinac and Lacazette, who were both taken off in the second half.
Pogba-less United show further cause for concern
Manchester United improved after the break, but it would have been hard not to do so after a poor first half.
Marcus Rashford had tested Bernd Leno in the first minute, but once they went behind to Pepe’s opener, they struggled to match Arsenal’s superior energy in midfield.
Jesse Lingard, who returned to the starting line-up, was hardly involved while Nemanja Matic could not get to grips with Mesut Ozil, Torreira or Xhaka, who were often one step ahead.
It was another game where Solskjaer’s team missed the influence of Pogba, who has not started a game in three months, and the mystery over his omission continued as the United boss said he had picked up an ankle injury which could keep him out for a few weeks.
Prior to the game, it had been hinted that Pogba would be fit to play.
United did lift their game once Lingard was substituted, with his replacement Andreas Pereira almost making an instant impact as he hit the side netting.
There were also chances for Fred and substitute Mason Greenwood, but without the injured Scott McTominay, and the ongoing problems with Pogba, United looked short on creativity in midfield and need to find solutions quickly should they want to maintain a top-four challenge.
Man of the Match – Nicolas Pepe
Arsenal host Leeds on Monday 6 January in the FA Cup third round (kick-off 19:56 GMT), while Manchester United travel to Wolves on Saturday, 4 January (kick-off 17:31) in a repeat of their quarter-final defeat last season.
Goals from academy gradates Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka helped Arsenal overcome a difficult test against Eintracht Frankfurt and begin their Europa League campaign with a victory.
Willock put the Gunners in front with a deflected shot in the first half before Saka smashed in his first senior goal for the club in the 85th minute.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a third two minutes later as Arsenal ended their three-game winless run.
The Gunners had created further chances but also relied on goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to come to the aid of their fragile defence.
The Argentine produced excellent low saves to deny Filip Kostic and Andre Silva in the first half.
The second period was frantic in front of a vociferous home crowd with Arsenal’s late goals only coming after Dominik Kohr was shown a second yellow card for a cynical foul.
The Gunners, beaten finalists in last year’s Europa League, are top of the early Group F table on goal difference after Standard Liege beat Vitoria in the night’s other game.
Youngsters star in attack
Manager Unai Emery opted for a mix of youth and experience for the game in Germany, despite it arguably being Arsenal’s toughest test in Group F, and it was their young players who stood out.
Eighteen-year-old Saka, playing for the first team for the first time this season and fifth time in total, was excellent on the left flank, scoring once and setting up the other two goals.
He created Willock’s goal by beating his marker with fine skill in midfield and was the main threat for the Gunners in the first half.
The only criticism was he spurned a number of chances to increase Arsenal’s lead but he silenced those doubts with an emphatic finish from the edge of the area late on.
Willock played as the Gunners most advanced central midfielder and offered a goal threat but also linked play well, notably with a fine driving run in the second half which ended with Martin Hinteregger excellently blocking an Aubameyang shot.
The scoreline flattered Arsenal in the end but the game will be most memorable for the performance of their youngsters.
Defensive issues remain
The Gunners came into the game on the back of their disappointing 2-2 draw against Watford, after which their defensive display was heavily criticised as they spurned a two-goal lead.
Although Arsenal kept a second clean sheet of the season, they still looked uncertain at the back and allowed Eintracht 24 shots on goal – seven fewer than the Hornets’ 31 on Sunday.
Arsenal’s deeper midfielders Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira failed to control proceedings with the second half end-to-end until Kohr was dismissed.
Eintracht, who reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last season before losing on penalties to Chelsea, lost strikers Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic to West Ham and Real Madrid respectively in the summer and had either been in their line-up on Thursday, Arsenal’s slack defence may have been punished.
Kostic caused right-back Calum Chambers significant problems but was wasteful, as was AC Milan loanee Silva, who shot well wide in the second half when given another good opportunity.
That said, Martinez, brought in for first-choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno, impressed with key saves in the first half and assured handling when called upon.
Man of the match – Bukayo Saka
‘A dream come true’ – reaction
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka: “I’m so happy to score for Arsenal, it’s a dream come true – I have been dreaming of this moment since I was a kid.
“I just want to keep working hard to make sure I can feel this feeling again.”
Arsenal manager Unai Emery: “We knew tonight was going to be difficult, they fell back very deep and caused us problems early on.
“We recovered the ball well and the young players showed the confidence to take their chances.
“Everybody can be happy and continuing in this competition is important, so it was good to get a good win, especially away from home.”
Eintracht coach Adi Hutter: “It’s a bitter defeat for us, because the performance does not reflect that result.
“When it was still 1-0 for Arsenal, we tried to score the equaliser but then conceded another one.
“The important thing is for us to create chances, I have seen enough of those. A goal can help open some doors, give you a boost, that did not happen today.”
Aubameyang’s goal-scoring run – the best stats
- Arsenal have only lost one of their 13 group stage games in the Europa League (W10 D2), while this was their sixth consecutive clean sheet in the group stage of the competition.
- Arsenal picked up their first European away win against German opposition since November 2013 (1-0 v Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League), having failed to win on any of their previous five trips (D1 L4).
- Eintracht Frankfurt suffered their heaviest home defeat across European competitions – in what was their 74th such game on home soil.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has netted seven goals in his last seven Europa League appearances for Arsenal, with four of those coming away from home.
- Bukayo Saka is the youngest player to score for Arsenal in the Europa League/Champions League since October 2008, when Aaron Ramsey (17y 300d) netted against Fenerbahce.
Arsenal staged a stirring comeback to earn a point in a chaotic, thrilling north London derby against Tottenham at Emirates Stadium.
Spurs looked to be in complete control when Christian Eriksen pounced to put them ahead in the 10th minute after Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno pushed out Erik Lamela’s shot.
Leno then saved superbly from Son Heung-min before the South Korean was senselessly hacked down in the area by Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka to allow Harry Kane to score his 10th goal in 11 derby games.
Arsenal started the revival when Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back on the stroke of half-time before they laid siege to Spurs’ goal after the break.
Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris saved superbly from Matteo Guendozi’s low shot and from substitute Dani Ceballos before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed the poacher’s instinct to turn home the equaliser with 19 minutes remaining.
Kane struck the inside of the post and Sokratis had a goal ruled out for offside but neither side could make the decisive breakthrough and this entertaining encounter ended with honours even.
The result lifts Arsenal to fifth in the Premier League with seven points from four games, while Tottenham head into September’s international break four places behind their rivals in ninth on five points.
Arsenal show fighting spirit
Arsenal showed real character amid the mood swings of this north London derby to fight back from a precarious position to earn a point.
Unai Emery’s side found themselves in big trouble at two goals down but never felt sorry for themselves, fighting their way back to parity and pinning Spurs back for most of the second half.
The Gunners were guilty of poor defending and moments of carelessness but no-one could question their heart.
Lacazette’s goal with seconds left of the first half was vital, lifting the spirits of Arsenal’s players and supporters and setting the perfect platform for a second half that was low on moments of high class but full of fervour and entertainment.
The action swung from end-to-end but Arsenal looked stronger after the break with 20-year-old Guendouzi performing with great maturity in midfield.
Guendouzi certainly showed greater composure than his captain Xhaka, who was guilty of a moment of crass stupidity when diving into a sliding challenge on Son to concede a penalty.
The young Frenchman almost scored only for Lloris to make a brilliant save and it was his intelligent, probing ball into the box that was diverted in by Aubameyang.
It is already becoming clear the title is a two-horse race between Liverpool and Manchester City but Arsenal will feel they can make a serious top-four challenge – although once again questions must be asked about their defending.
Spurs still looking short
Spurs will be disappointed at only getting a draw after establishing such a position of strength at 2-0 but in the end there was almost a sense they should be grateful for a point.
It continues an indifferent start to the season as they have five points from their first four games, with just one win at home to Aston Villa.
Spurs, to give perspective, have also had tough away assignments at Manchester City and Arsenal and come away with points but they are not yet back to their best.
The experiment of using Davinson Sanchez at right-back was not an unqualified success and on several occasions manager Mauricio Pochettino could be seen showing his exasperation, both at moments of poor defending and also when Spurs were wasteful in attack.
Spurs were grateful for a superb display of shot-stopping by Lloris but Pochettino will be frustrated that his side looked to have Arsenal where they wanted them before the break, then ended hanging on for long periods in the second half.
‘A great job’ – what they said
Arsenal manager Unai Emery, speaking to BBC Sport: “It was an amazing match. We are proud of our work and our supporters. The result isn’t the best for us.
“The key was the first goal to give us confidence and give us more chances in the second half. We deserved it. We did a lot of good things. We made some mistakes in the first half and they have good players.
“Before their first goal we were playing well. Sometimes our heart is more strong than our head.”
Tottenham striker Harry Kane, speaking to BBC Sport: “I feel like were coming off disappointed. We expect to see the game out. The goal hurt us with momentum just before the break. It was an end-to-end game, especially last 10-15 minutes but the players left everything on the pitch.
On his late penalty shout: “As a striker, if it is on halfway it is a definite foul. In the box you don’t always get them. He’s come through the back of me but it is 50/50. VAR would probably have backed the ref in this.”
Man of the match – Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Spurs continue to stutter on the road – stats
- Tottenham have dropped 42 points from winning positions in the Premier League against Arsenal – 11 more than against any other side in the competition.
- Spurs are winless in their last eight away league games, drawing two and losing six. They last endured such a run on the road in their eight games between December 2011 and April 2012.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League home games against Tottenham, a 2-3 defeat in November 2010 after being two goals ahead.
- Since his Premier League debut in August 2016, no player has conceded more penalties in the competition than the five by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka.
- Arsenal have recorded 13 errors leading to goals in the Premier League since the start of last season – the most of any club in the competition. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno is responsible for six of those errors.
- Spurs’ Christian Eriksen has now scored 50 Premier League goals – the first Danish player to reach this landmark – whilst also becoming the first Spurs player to register both 50-plus goals and assists for the club in the competition.
After the international break, Tottenham resume their Premier League season with a home match against Crystal Palace on Saturday, 14 September (15:00 BST).
A day later, Arsenal travel to Watford in the late Sunday kick-off (16:30 BST).