It’s rare that you can look back on a goalless draw in the Premier League and feel content.
So often nil-nil is associated with drab, attritional football that plays out exclusively in midfield as neither side is willing to risk too much in attack, wary of the consequences of defeat.
On Saturday, however, it wasn’t so.
Neither Arsenal or Manchester United were shot-shy, lacked ambition, or were content to pass the ball aimlessly around the midfield. It was as lively a 0-0 draw as you’re likely to see.
For the most part, that was no bad thing for Arsenal. I’d though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might play safe in this fixture and sit his side deep, in hope the Gunners’ desperation to score might leave them exposed to the counter-attack. And, while there were elements of that strategy in play from the visitors, they certainly couldn’t be accused of failing to show some forward thinking when in possession. This was no Mourinho masterclass.
Likewise, Arsenal produced some of their best football on the counter-attack but were also perfectly prepared to take the ball forward through midfield. It all made for for a see-saw tussle as both sides enjoyed good chances and periods in the ascendancy. It had a nostalgic feel, like a memory of our gladiatorial best.
For Arsenal’s part, they will be left to rue a few excellent moments that might have snatched success. Alexandre Lacazette clattered the bar with a superbly-struck free-kick, while Emile Smith Rowe saw his effort from close range well saved by David de Gea. Willian was denied a certain goal by a remarkably-timed challenge from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Nicolas Pepe also came perilously close with some deft attempts in either half that were worthy of winning any game.
Given that we were without the services of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka, and Kieran Tierney – three players who you would probably consider among our best this season – you have to consider yourself content that we were able to produce a genuinely positive performance. There were occasions towards the end of the first half in which we conceded possession too readily in dangerous areas, thereby creating a lot of problems for ourselves, but a second-half tweak seemed to iron that out.
That aside, it was a worthy effort from a side that had makeshift elements to it. Great credit must go to David Luiz and Cedric Soares, while Pepe showed flashes of his swashbuckling best. Willian too performed at a level much more akin to his talents when he came out for the second half. After the Fulham result on the opening day, this was probably the Brazilian’s best effort and it is well for him that it arrived in as big a game as this one.
By any measure, it was a game that should have seen plenty of goals but, in the end, we can both find comfort in the result. The opportunity to launch ourselves into the top six may have slipped by for now, but our recent league run remains in tact and, hopefully, the run of injuries that have been hurting us for a week or so may begin to ease.
Above all else, at least our Sundays aren’t ruined!