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Monday, May 27, 2024

Neal Maupay’s s***house history with Arsenal explained

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Before each game, Neal Maupay clears his mind by reading for half an hour while sat in his studs and shin pads.

That quiet figure studiously hunched over in the corner of the dressing room is the same frenzied individual that ignites on the football pitch, hounding after opposition defenders with an assault of limbs and words for as long as he is unleashed. Perhaps he’s flipping through Sun Tzu’s best work.

Since arriving in England as a 20-year-old half a decade ago, Maupay has endeared himself to the fanbase of each of his clubs almost as quickly as he has infuriated the rest of the league.

More than any other team, Arsenal have borne the brunt of Maupay’s unique brand of sh*thousery. But where was this rivalry sparked and how has Maupay continued to antagonise the Gunners so effectively?

Neal Maupay

Neal Maupay was only given a brief cameo for Brentford against Arsenal in 2018 / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Brentford lured Maupay across the English Channel in the summer of 2017 after a breakthrough campaign in the French second tier. During his second season in west London, Dean Smith’s Bees drew Arsenal in the third round of the Carabao Cup.

With a first promotion in seven decades the priority, Smith left his top scorer on the bench until late in the second half. By the time Maupay game on with 15 minutes left, Arsenal were already 2-1 up at the Emirates before Danny Welbeck sealed victory.

By the end of the match, all of the component parts of Maupay’s personal vendetta against Arsenal were on the pitch but it would be another 18 months before the fuse was lit.

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Bernd Leno makes his feelings about Neal Maupay crystal clear / MIKE HEWITT/GettyImages

On his second trip to the Emirates, now as a Brighton player, Maupay nodded in an 80th-minute winner for the Seagulls in December 2019, consigning an Arsenal side led by interim manager Freddie Ljungberg to a 2-1 defeat. However, this still is not the ignition point.

In the reverse fixture at a sun-drenched but spectator-less Amex Stadium, Maupay nabbed another late winner against Arsenal, waiting until the fifth minute of stoppage time to poke the ball past Emi Martinez. Yet, the Argentine understudy was not the goalkeeper that started the game for Arsenal.

Bernd Leno was Arsenal’s number one at the time but had to be stretchered off after Maupay collided with the goalkeeper while he leapt to catch the ball. Leno jarred his knee painfully upon landing and was forced off on a stretcher, angrily jabbing a finger in the direction of Maupay who shrugged in innocence.

At half-time and after the match, Maupay apologised for his role in the injury. Although, his comments regarding other members of Arsenal’s contingent overshadowed his clear remorse.

“Some of their players need to learn what is humility,” Maupay pointedly pointed out post-game.

Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi wrapped his hand around his compatriot’s throat at the final whistle, sending Maupay to the turf. Reports emerged after the match that Guendouzi had taunted Brighton’s players about their inferior wages.

“One of them was talking the whole game and saying really bad things,” revealed Maupay. “When I scored I just had to say: ‘Listen, that is what happens when you say bad things on the pitch’.”

Arsenal did the double over Brighton the following season with Maupay involved for a grand total of 23 minutes but that didn’t stop the Frenchman mocking the Gunners from a distance.

Cartoonishly rubbing his hands in front of his eyes, Maupay’s crying goal celebration was inspired by the dramatic reaction of Guendouzi and Arsenal’s fanbase.

“I remember the Arsenal fans were really, really mad at me because I scored but also I was involved in their keeper’s injury, so I would say they were not happy with me,” Maupay remembered. “So when I scored my next goal it was to give them a shout really.”

Brighton’s media team fanned the flames by using Maupay’s celebration when advertising the Seagulls’ home game against Arsenal in October 2021.

Maupay may have swapped the south coast for Merseyside during the summer but the joy he gets in antagonising Arsenal has scarcely subsided.

Coming on for the final half-hour of Everton’s spirited 1-0 victory against the Gunners on Saturday, Maupay used what little time he had efficiently. Only one Everton player committed more fouls than Maupay (two) despite taking just eight touches in 29 minutes. Squaring up to both Granit Xhaka and Oleksandr Zinchenko, Maupay emphatically knocked Arsenal out of their stride as the league leaders tried and failed to find an equaliser.

Mikel Arteta lamented Arsenal’s lack of “emotional composure” after the match, an aspect of the game the Gunners have continuously struggled with when up against Maupay’s textbook sh*thousery.

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