Plus: why Arsenal should remain upbeat despite first loss of season at Old Trafford, Merse on why Christian Eriksen was the difference between the two sides; the 'Magic Man' also feels Gabriel Martinelli's disallowed opening goal would have made a difference to the result
Monday 5 September 2022 23:22, UK
In his latest Sky Sports column, Paul Merson discusses Arsenal's defeat at Manchester United and believes Mikel Arteta's 'knee-jerk' triple substitution lost the Gunners' the game at Old Trafford.
Arsenal's 100 per cent start to the season was ended on Sunday as the north London side lost 3-1 at United.
Marcus Rashford scored twice in the second half, with his first goal in the 66th minute restoring the home side's lead just six minutes after Bukayo Saka had levelled for Arsenal.
In the 75th minute Arteta made a triple substitution as he brought on Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Fabio Vieira for Martin Odegaard, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Albert Sambi Lokonga.
But just 90 seconds later Arteta's side conceded a third as Rashford scored from a breakaway goal to inflict Arsenal's first defeat of the season.
Read on for the Magic Man's thoughts on the substitutions, why Arsenal's performance was encouraging despite the result and how Christian Eriksen was the difference between the two sides...
I thought the triple substitution was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction from Arteta. There was another 20 minutes in the game and at 2-1 down there's another chance in the game and I just thought it was too many subs at the same time and I think they lost it there.
Man Utd went solid and brought Fred on so they were always going to give you the ball so you want your better players on the pitch. Arsenal were playing well and they lost their shape.
Aaron Ramsdale had not made a save. It was not like he was man of the match, so just keep it tight at the back and you will get a chance in the game.
They will cause havoc in the last 15 minutes, people would have got nervous here, players would have got nervous - for me it was a knee-jerk reaction too quickly with 20 minutes to go.
It's a funny game football but there's ways of losing matches and I thought there were a lot of positives.
I thought for 60 minutes - bar the opening 10 minutes - I thought Arsenal dominated it, even when they went 1-0 down.
They came out second half and it became too easy for them. It goes to 1-1 then concentration levels, they are dominating it and then they get caught with a sucker punch. After that, they did not recover.
I'm not walking away from Old Trafford thinking, 'Oh that's it, same old Arsenal', I saw enough that they can mix it there's no doubt about that. I thought they were the better team for most of the game.
I think Arsenal got excited. It went 1-1 and they thought, 'We're going to go and win this game now', instead of steadying it down.
The first 15 minutes of the second half United got ripped to shreds. Arsenal should have gone on and won it - a better team would have gone on and won it. It was so one-sided.
Eriksen was the difference. I thought he got run-ragged by Odegaard at times and Odegaard was running the show.
But the thing with Eriksen that Arsenal have not got is that ball through the lines - he did it in the first half with Bruno Fernandes for the first goal.
Arsenal have got Xhaka and Lokonga but they are not going to put the ball through the lines and that was the difference for me between the two teams. It was Eriksen's passing.
I think Gabriel Martinelli's disallowed goal in the first half would have changed the game - 100 per cent.
Man United could not have played any better in the first 10 minutes, they controlled the game, passed the ball and moved and if Arsenal went away and went 1-0 up, you would have seen the reaction.
Even though the goal was not allowed, you saw the next 20 or 30 minutes, Man United were shell-shocked. They were like, 'Woah, we've got to watch Arsenal here on the counter-attack'.
For me, if Martinelli's goal stands it would have made a massive difference, of course it would.
If Gabriel Jesus scores goals, I think Arsenal will finish above Manchester United.
But I think the next couple of weeks for Arsenal are big. You have won five on the trot, you are on a crest of a wave and now you have just lost a game.
How do they bounce back? You have got to win your next game.
Arsenal begin their Europa League journey on Thursday September 8 with a trip to Zurich, kicking off at 8pm.
Arteta will then take on his former side when Everton visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday September 11, with kick-off at 2pm.