Arsenal steal march in top four race as tactics pay off

Soccer Football - Premier League - Arsenal v Manchester United - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - March 10, 2019 Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shoots at goal REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Unai Emery praised his team after finding the winning formula against visitors Manchester United on Sunday, boosting the Gunners' Premier League top four chances and hopes of catching third-placed rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

For most games this season when Arsenal forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have started together the latter has been played out of position on the flank.

Such a ploy has been successful, with Aubameyang's 17 league goals bettered only by Liverpool's Mohamed Salah this term, but usually it has been one or the other playing as a lone striker.

The last time both forwards started a league game together Arsenal slipped to a 1-0 defeat at West Ham United in mid-January, with Aubameyang deployed out wide once more.

Against United, though, with Aubameyang and Lacazette both central, the former scored and the latter got an assist in a 2-0 win, while causing a normally resolute United lots of problems.

Along with playmaker Mesut Ozil, who is back in favour and creating chances -- five against United, more than anyone else on the pitch -- Emery may have found the recipe to maintain Arsenal's push for a Champions League qualifying spot.

"It is important to play a different system, different players and keep the same performance," he told reporters. "I think we're improving, we're feeling better with big confidence.

"I don't know if it is the best performance this season, we are improving. We are being competitive in different matches.

"We are being consistent and that is very important."

On another day, United would have extended their fine record against Arsenal -- three defeats in their previous 17 games in all competitions -- having hit the bar and post in the first half, while having more shots on target than the hosts.

Nonetheless, Arsenal ensured a defence that has conceded just three goals in their last eight away games in all competitions had an uncomfortable afternoon and they can start to aim higher after leapfrogging United in the table.

The celebrating Arsenal fans were keen at fulltime to warn Tottenham, "We are coming for you", given their team now trail Spurs by one point, having been 10 points adrift last month.

Since Arsenal have none of the top six left to play this season, while two of Tottenham's next four league opponents are second-placed Liverpool and leaders Manchester City, both away from home, the supporters' confidence is not without foundation.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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