Terrace Talk: The unrelenting spirit we’ve been waiting to see

While most Gooners would’ve bitten your hand off for a draw in advance of last week’s encounter, there was no escaping the huge sense of disappointment, coming away from Wembley, having failed to capitalise on such a prime opportunity to silence our increasingly noisy neighbours.

Terrace Talk: The unrelenting spirit we’ve been waiting to see

While most Gooners would’ve bitten your hand off for a draw in advance of last week’s encounter, there was no escaping the huge sense of disappointment, coming away from Wembley, having failed to capitalise on such a prime opportunity to silence our increasingly noisy neighbours.

We were fearful too of the possible recriminations of Torreira’s needless last-minute red card and the potentially significant impact of the absence of our Uruguayan pocket-rocket to patrol the middle of the park and snuff out Man United’s rampant goal threat. Even if Torreira has struggled in recent to exert the sort of influence that we witnessed early in the season.

But instead of Emery focusing on trying to compensate for our porous defence, there was an almost tangible elevation of the mood of positivity around the Emirates yesterday with the announcement of the team news an hour before KO, with this rare instance of Unai having the cojones to select his best available XI.

There was always the hope United might arrive at our place suffering from a hangover, following the emotional toll of their midweek triumph and it was a relief that Herrera remained unfit, considering how their midfield of Herrera, Matic, and Pogba has swept all before them since Solskjaer rocked up.

However, with Chelsea joining Spurs in wasting precious points in advance, in some respect this seemed to take the pressure off. Aided by Unai’s offensive selection, it felt as if this damage limitation insurance provided us with the liberating confidence to go toe-to-toe with our guests, in a concerted effort to put a spoke in Solskjaer’s bandwagon.

You can’t have watched the Gunners over the past few decades without having heard Maria’s cacophonous “come on you Gunners”. It was fitting that the club made a presentation to one of our most devoted fans, in celebration of her 80th birthday, and it would’ve been downright embarrassing if we’d gone on to poop Maria’s party, by failing to replicate the same undaunted vigour witnessed in the octogenarian’s pre-match pep talk.

Sure, we gifted United a few glaring opportunities, during a fairly even first half, as has been our most problematic failing all season long. Yet there was a most pleasing determination to our last-ditch defending. It’s this evidence of a concerted team spirit, an unrelenting will to win, that we’ve been waiting to see made manifest (on a more consistent basis!) under our new management.

With the lumbering Mustafi limiting any threat down our right flank in recent weeks, it was a massive relief to see Emery give Maitland-Niles a rare run out. Where in the past Ainsley hasn’t exactly performed as if he truly relished being asked to do a job at full-back, against United it appeared as if the penny had dropped. In producing what was arguably a man of the match performance, perhaps for the first time it felt as if the youngster had grasped the nettle to make the most of his opportunity to nail down a first-team berth.

Doubtless United fans will moan about the contentious penalty decision, but no one was more surprised than us to get anything out of ref Jon Moss. Following the fortuitous turn of events in Paris, surely they have to accept the rough with the smooth?

Credit to Aubameyang for having the courage to step up against a keeper of De Gea’s calibre, after his miserable failure last weekend.

In the past we’ve grown so accustomed to drawing a blank against De Gea that we all stood gawping at the replays of Granit Xhaka’s first-half strike on the big screens to try and comprehend how he’d been undone.

Although our attacking triumvirate of Ozil, Aubameyang, and Lacazette failed to truly click, I pray Emery persists with starting all three of them as they’ll only improve with more game time and it should make for a highly entertaining climax to such an unpredictable season. Hard to believe it was only 16 days ago that we were 10 points behind Spurs, without a hope.

“Tottenham Hotspur we’re coming for you.”

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