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.
A second man has admitted trying to rob Arsenal footballers Mesut Özil and Sead Kolasinac in a moped ambush.
Jordan Northover, 26, pleaded guilty at Harrow Crown Court to attempting to steal watches from the pair in Hampstead, north-west London.
His co-accused Ashley Smith, 30, of Archway in North London, admitted his role in the crime in October.
CCTV footage showed Bosnian defender Kolasinac chasing off the two masked attackers on 25 July
In the video, that circulated on social media, 26-year-old Kolasinac is seen fighting off two men who are wielding knives.
He can be seen jumping out of a vehicle to confront the masked men who had pulled alongside the car on mopeds.
In the footage, both carjackers were seen to be armed and were filmed brandishing knives at full-back Kolasinac.
World Cup winner Özil can also be seen in his black Mercedes G class jeep before he reportedly took refuge in a Turkish restaurant.
Kolasinac and Germany midfielder Özil were left out of the Arsenal side ahead of the opening weekend of the Premier League campaign after the incident.
Judge Rosa Dean said Smith would be sentenced at Harrow Crown Court on Friday.
Northover will be sentenced at a later date.
Özil told the Athletic sports site that he was scared for his wife Amine as the attackers pursued his car.
“Sead’s reaction was really, really brave because he attacked one of the attackers,” he said.
“I tried to move the car, block them, escape, but each time they would be there. My wife was extremely scared.”
A man found dead in north-west London was killed in a drive-by shooting, police said.
The 24-year-old man was found with a gunshot wound in Malden Road, Kentish Town, late on Sunday.
CCTV revealed two people on a moped had pulled up to the victim, pulled out a gun and fired at close range. The man died at the scene.
An eyewitness described how he tried to perform CPR on the man with the help of a 999 operator.
Will, who did not want to give his full name, said: “There were a number of people around him when I got down there, but nobody was doing anything.
“With the aid of the operator on the phone, I performed CPR. But I think he was already dead then.”
Officers said they were keen to trace people who had been in a Toyota Prius, a Ford Focus and a motorbike in the area at the time.
The man’s next of kin have been informed and post-mortem tests are due to be held on Tuesday, police said.
Det Ch Insp Simon Stancombe, from the Met Police, said: “Everything we have found out so far points to this being a drive-by shooting.”
He urged eyewitnesses or anyone with dashcam footage to contact the force.
The killing was the second fatal shooting in less than 12 hours in London.
A man in his 20s was shot dead in Sydenham, south-east London, on Sunday afternoon.
They say every dog has its day, and some quick thinking from the Leyton Orient kit man ensured canine Pavo would live to fight another day.
The League Two side’s team coach was travelling to Mansfield for Tuesday’s game, on a slip road joining the A12, when Ada Martin spotted a dog racing across the busy road.
Pavo darted in front of a truck – which thankfully came to a halt – allowing the O’s kit man to run out, call to his furry friend and pick him up, with “tail wagging”.
A call to the number on Pavo’s collar found his family, with an Orient fan looking after it at a nearby hotel until dog could be reunited with owner.
Martin, a former club groundsman and mascot, will be hoping Pavo is Orient’s new lucky charm as Ross Embleton’s side look for a first away win of the season at Field Mill.