Why Mikel Arteta shouted at Thomas Partey as Arsenal achieve title aim at Old Trafford

There was a lot Mikel Arteta didn’t like about his side’s performance at Old Trafford. The Gunners were uneven, nervy and passive.

Against arguably the worst Manchester United side in Premier League history, a side who have conceded an average of 21 shots this calendar year, Arsenal managed only 12.

Instead it was the hosts who had some of the biggest chances, particularly as Thomas Partey handed the ball to Scott McTominay, who duly played in Rasmus Hojlund, only for the Dane to fluff his lines. As his side prepared to take the subsequent goal kick Arteta could be seen shouting to the Ghanaian, frantically flapping his hands to tell him to calm down.

“We started the game well and we scored the goal but I think that goal touched something, especially with the duties and the things we have to do in ball possession,” Arteta said after the game. “We started to play too safe, not respecting any structure and not with enough purpose. I did not like it and we had to change it but we struggled to do it.”

Ultimately though, none of that matters. It was not the performance Arsenal needed, but the result.

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This is a ground where Arsenal’s title winning pedigree is storied. In both 1998 and 2002, crucial 1-0 victories set the Gunners on the road to Premier League glory. Who honestly remembers the scoreline from those games though? All that matters at this stage of the season is the scoreline.

With three points Arsenal have earned the right to play a part in the final day of a title race for the first time since 1999.

“We wanted to open that box of dreams to live the last day of the season in front of our people with the opportunity to win the Premier League,” Arteta said.

Just like in ‘99 Arsenal find themselves in the curious position of hoping their fiercest rivals win, in order to secure title glory of their own. Kai Havertz has said he will be the biggest Tottenham fan ever on Tuesday night, and Arteta wasn’t too far off echoing those sentiments.

But regardless of what Spurs do on Tuesday night, or West Ham there can be little criticism of what Arsenal have done this season. They have now managed more wins and more goals than in any Premier League season so far. As Arteta rather eloquently put it “that’s not progress, that’s history.”

This points tally would have been enough for Arsenal to win 18 Premier Leagues since the competition switched to a 20-team format. They’ve kept more clean sheets than United have won games this season.

And yet, it still might not be enough. Arteta couldn’t help but smile in disbelief when this was put to him after the match. He knows all too well how relentless Manchester City can be when they get a title in their sights.

But a smile will surely be the expression on his face no matter what happens this week. If Arsenal win the league it will be a remarkable achievement. Even if they don’t though, the same description applies.