Pepe and Sokratis fire Arteta to first victory as Gunners boss

Posted Thursday, January 02, 2020 by PA

Pepe and Sokratis fire Arteta to first victory as Gunners boss

First-half goals from Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave Mikel Arteta a first win as Arsenal head coach as the Gunners recorded a comprehensive 2-0 victory at home to Manchester United.

It was the Gunners’ first success at the Emirates since October 24 and gave the supporters a glimpse of what life could be like under the Spaniard.

Arsenal pressed throughout, attacked with purpose and were organised from a defensive point of view for the first time in a long while as they moved back into the top half of the Premier League with this result.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been left perplexed by the performance of his United side, who missed the chance to move within two points of the top four.

Arteta recalled Pepe and in the process started the record signing alongside Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette for the first time.

United were once again without Paul Pogba, but did have Arsenal’s nemesis Jesse Lingard in the starting XI.

The Gunners had impressed in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea and despite the defeat made another rapid start at the Emirates.

Pepe and Sokratis fire Arteta to first victory as Gunners boss
Nicolas Pepe opens the scoring for Arsenal (Matt Dunham/AP)

Captain Aubameyang combined with the returning Sead Kolasinac down the left and his cross took a deflection and dropped for Pepe to fire home after seven minutes.

It was almost 2-0 just two minutes later, but the goalscorer – after leaving Luke Shaw on the floor – saw Arsenal’s skipper volley over.

Home boss Arteta would have been delighted, but United were slow and laboured in their passing and constantly being pushed back by the hosts’ attacking foursome.

Pepe and Sokratis fire Arteta to first victory as Gunners boss
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watched his side struggle (Matt Dunham/AP)

Lacazette and Lucas Torreira fired off target in quick succession just past the half-hour mark, with the Uruguayan inches away with his strike as the Red Devils’ struggles continued.

Solskjaer’s side entered this following back-to-back wins, but were second best and making too many mistakes. David De Gea’s poor clearance in the 38th minute presented Pepe with an opportunity and his curler struck a post.

It was brief respite for United as, two minutes before half-time, Arsenal finally did add to their lead when Sokratis was on hand to thump home after De Gea had saved Lacazette’s near-post header from a Pepe corner.

Pepe and Sokratis fire Arteta to first victory as Gunners boss
Arsenal celebrate Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ goal (John Walton/PA)

Harry Maguire tested Bernd Leno with an effort before the break and Dan James did similar soon after the restart, but both were tame and the German had appeared to recover from his error in the loss to Chelsea.

The Welshman made way for Mason Greenwood with 58 played, with Andreas Pereira also summoned in place of the ineffective Lingard.

Arteta reacted with Reiss Nelson replacing Pepe, who received applause from all corners of the ground, while Bukayo Saka was needed to come on for left-back Kolasinac not long after.

United did improve following the substitutions and yet Arsenal were organised and Greenwood was limited to a mere half chance in the 72nd minute, which Leno saved well.

The Gunners’ number one had to punch away a flurry of crosses into his area, although Arsenal were by no means only defending with Lacazette smashing over with 12 minutes left after a great run by Aubameyang.

He limped off in the 82nd minute, but it was only cramp as Arteta saw his team make a positive start to 2020 with the Emirates a cauldron of noisy support at full-time.

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