The latest science can’t definitively define human emotion. On Sunday, Luke Shaw became the latest left-back to show he can’t defend against Bukayo Saka.
While fullbacks up and down the country struggle to crack the Saka conundrum, fans watching Arsenal’s thrilling 3-2 win over Manchester United on Sunday could definitely describe a fair few of the former.
Hope, expectation, surprise, shock, relief, pride, JOY…there isn’t a comprehensive list of emotions apparently. The term derives from the Latin word “emovere”; a combination of the words “energy” and “motion”. But there is a definition of the name Bukayo in the Yoruba language: “adds joy”.
Our increasingly talismanic number seven certainly lived up to his label, with a display that left Arsenal fans bouncing, but poor Shaw dazed, and with no option but to acknowledge his opponent’s superiority after the game. Like a bloodied boxer who’s just been twelve rounds, taking a brutal beating throughout the bout.
I know him, I know how good he is. He’s an unbelievable player and still extremely young. He has a long, long way to go. But for me, at this moment in time, he’s world-class and if he can continue to be delivering week-in week out then he can reach the top.
The goal in the second half, he cut inside and I couldn’t get over to him and he got past Christian (Eriksen) and it was a great strike.
If Saka and Arsenal were good in the first half, they were the embodiment of emovere in the second. A red and white blur of ball-hoggers and ball-robbers, stirring panic and frustration in their opponents, and drawing a deafening din of approval from their followers in the stadium. Relentless, ruthless, and ultimately, following a short VAR-decision delay, league leaders by five points again. With a game in hand.
Yet United were far from pushovers, with Erik Ten Hag orchestrating the visitors’ game-plan and coming into this fixture off the back of a long unbeaten run. But Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal proved too good for them; Eddie Nketiah’s brace, either side of what Saka called his best goal in professional football to date, securing the win.
Despite starting the game in what has become a trademark fast-style this season, we were actually forced to come from a goal down to go into the interval on level terms. Marcus Rashford provided a stunning reminder of why he’s the closest thing to Kylian Mbappe this side of the Channel, with his sudden, sumptuous, shift-and-shot from outside the box giving United a shock lead after 17 minutes.
But Arsenal, like so often this season, didn’t need long to restore parity. A superb team move culminated in Granit Xhaka’s inviting left-wing cross being headed home by Eddie Nketiah at the back post. With England manager Gareth Southgate watching on from the stands, Eddie showcased the remarkable development to his all-round-game. All-game-long.
He scored two, could have had another couple, but for sharp defending and an instinctive David de Gea save, held the ball up, combined well, and then showed he’s got the pragmatism to go with the poachers’ instinct, by taking the ball to the corner flag to help run down the last few seconds of injury time, as United forlornly chased an equaliser.
We took just eight minutes to take the lead after the break. Granit Xhaka aggressively won back possession from Christian Eriksen, and the ball eventually found Saka in the right channel. He played a leisurely one-two with Takehiro Tomiyasu before leaving his marker floundering as he found the bottom corner with a vicious, low strike from outside the box. Two-one Arsenal and richly deserved. When we needed someone to step up and take centre stage, Saka obliged in emphatic fashion.
There was another shock United goal to come. Lisandro Martinez stooped to score an improvised header after Aaron Ramsdske failed to claim a corner cleanly. In the end though, the vertically-challenged Argentine simply gave United’s fans false hope because this Arsenal would simply not accept stalemate.
Substitute Leandro Trossard, on for Gabriel Martinelli, fed the roaming, rampaging, piss-taking whirlwind that is Oleksandr Zinchenko, to cross into a crowded box in the 89th minute. The ball broke loose for Eddie to deftly flick home the winner. Cue a VAR check and a nervous few moments, before Emirates Stadium erupted as the goal was cleared to stand.
Goodison Park in a fortnight is the next stop for Arteta’s Arsenal as they continue this unexpected assault on a first Premier League title since 2004. Can Saka be subdued? Will Arsenal keep winning? The answers will lie in the emovere at Everton.