The Frenchman was named among the substitutes, but came on to score a late equaliser at Old Trafford to extend the Gunners’ unbeaten run.
“You’re not special anymore” was the chant being sung by Arsenal’s away contingent at Old Trafford shortly after Olivier Giroud headed in a late equaliser against Manchester United. While Mourinho’s fall from grace may be slightly overstated, this was a performance which had nothing special about it until Juan Mata turned up with his excellent second-half strike.
Questions over Arsene Wenger’s team selection were immediately asked by supporters who felt that the Frenchman had set up his side too defensively. The central midfield partnership of Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny lacks cutting edge and the Frenchman, in particular, struggled against his compatriot Paul Pogba throughout.
Giroud was named among the substitutes and his arrival on the pitch late on unsurprisingly posed problems for United’s vulnerable defensive pairing of Phil Jones and Marcus Rojo.
He popped up with the 89th minute leveller and Giroud has now scored more Premier League goals as a substitute than any other Arsenal player (10) to justify the suggestions that he should have been on the pitch from the off.
It was the Gunners’ first shot on target and, while it is a decade since Arsenal’s last victory at Old Trafford, there is no doubt that Wenger’s men got out of jail in the end. Similarly, it’s taken nine years for a Wenger side to score a goal against a Mourinho team – something that rarely looked like changing until Giroud’s superb header.
Indeed, lethargic displays by Arsenal against Mourinho sides have become customary over the years and the decision to field a defensive-looking team without a physical threat up front played into the Portuguese’s hands.
Theo Walcott admitted after the game that he should have tracked back for Juan Mata’s goal and his contribution was limited throughout.
Arsenal have come a long way since that opening day defeat to Liverpool in August and 17 games unbeaten in all competitions is a mark of their improvement and ability to grind out results.
But they were fortunate to come away from Manchester with a point on Saturday and, while the performance does beg questions over whether Wenger’s men can keep up a consistent challenge, he will know that a point under these circumstances was an excellent result.