Arsenal verdict: Xhaka and Lokonga’s performance in Man Utd defeat shows why Arteta was desperate for new midfielder

    SO, this is what defeat feels like for Arsenal.

    After five wins in a row to start the season, Mikel Arteta’s side were finally beaten.

    Granit Xhaka struggled in midfield as Arsenal were beaten at Old Trafford

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    Granit Xhaka struggled in midfield as Arsenal were beaten at Old TraffordCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
    Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga went missing at times in the defeat

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    Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga went missing at times in the defeatCredit: Getty

    Despite the Gunners dominating for large periods of Sunday’s encounter at Old Trafford, they found themselves on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline.

    Bukayo Saka got Arsenal back in it after £85million United signing Antony opened the scoring on his debut in the first-half.

    From there the Gunners looked well placed to kick on and secure a third comeback win in a row.

    But for some reason it all fell apart, with United cutting through the Gunners twice in nine minutes to pick up a fourth win in a row of their own.

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    The problems for Arteta today stemmed from the midfield, and showed exactly why three desperate bids for Douglas Luiz were launched on deadline day.

    Both for Antony’s opener and Rashford’s first goal, the midfield pair of Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga were nowhere to be seen.

    For the first goal, Christian Eriksen was allowed the freedom of Old Trafford to pass through the middle into Bruno Fernandes’ feet.

    Gabriel Magalhaes then came charging out of defence because of Xhaka and Lokonga’s failure to close the Danish playmaker down.

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    That drew Oleksandr Zinchenko infield, leaving space for Marcus Rashford to slide the ball out for Antony to score.

    And for the second, which came from a Fernandes pass from the centre circle in behind for Rashford, Zinchenko was the closest to the United man.

    The problem there being Zinchenko was playing left back, but he was forced to come inside because both Xhaka and Lokonga had once again deserted their posts.

    Lokonga was lucky to go unpunished after a nasty studs-up challenge on Fernandes in the first-half.

    And while the 22-year-old had an afternoon to forget, losing the midfielder to suspension would plunge the Gunners even further into crisis.

    Boss Arteta said before the game that Mohamed Elneny will be out for “months”, while fellow crocked midfielder Thomas Partey is facing “weeks or even shorter than that” on the sidelines.

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    Gunners fans will be sweating on how many weeks that is, because they were overwhelmed in the middle of the park today.

    And while Partey on his own might not be the answer, he offers more protection for the defence than either Xhaka or Lokonga did today.

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