Arsenal still ‘evolving’

Arsenal still ‘evolving’

LONDON • Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is delighted at the ease with which new recruits Gabriel Magalhaes and Thomas Partey have settled into life in the Premier League after the duo impressed in Sunday’s 1-0 win at Manchester United.

Partey, who was signed on deadline day for £45 million (S$79.4 million) from Atletico Madrid, put in a dominant shift in midfield, while Gabriel, who moved from Lille for £23 million, expertly marshalled their defence.

The Gunners secured their first win at Old Trafford since 2006, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converting a penalty following a clumsy foul by Paul Pogba on Hector Bellerin in the second half.

On their first away league victory at a “Big Six” side since beating Manchester City in January 2015, a winless run spanning 29 games, manager Mikel Arteta said: “We’re creating expectation. We want to beat them all the time and compete for the league with them.

“We will evolve and get better at other things so we can go to any ground and be competitive which is something already positive.”

With three league losses so far, it has not been plain sailing for Arsenal this season, but Arteta’s side have tightened up considerably at the back.

They have the best defence in the top flight – just seven goals conceded from seven games – and although the Spaniard knows that the balance is not quite right with only nine goals scored, Gabriel and Partey are giving his team a spine.

“I know how tough this league is… but we try to pick certain characteristics in the profile of players that we want to find for our club,” he told reporters.

“They play with a lot of maturity and look like they’ve been here longer than they actually have.

“I know there are still some connections where they don’t have that flow, because they haven’t played much together. But I also see the spirit they are creating and the personality they are showing on the pitch.”

Partey’s display also drew praise from former United captain Roy Keane, who said the “outstanding” Ghanaian reminded him of Arsenal great Patrick Vieira.

“The more I look at him the more I wish he was in the United midfield. He’s big, strong and aggressive, and he can pass it forward,” he told Sky Sports.

“He can deal with the ball. I had my battles with Vieira and I think this kid has got a chance of matching what Patrick used to do.”

Former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp was equally enthused with Brazilian centre-back Gabriel.

“He’s a leader and the way that he wants to play, and to press high up the pitch, he loves to do that,” the pundit told Sky Sports.

“He looks like the real deal. It’s an area where Arsenal have had a lot of problems over the years.”

For United, it was quite the comedown after last week’s 5-0 Champions League mauling of RB Leipzig had raised expectations the hosts would carry over their European form to the league.

The Red Devils have now failed to win any of their opening four top-flight home games for the first time since the 1972-73 campaign when they finished 18th, leaving manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bitterly disappointed with his team.

“We never turned up in the first half, they were better than us,” he said. “We weren’t at the races.”

United skipper Harry Maguire was equally baffled at his side’s lack of urgency, adding: “It’s hard to put your finger on it. It was disappointing from us…

“We can’t find excuses, we’ve got to look within.”