Manchester United vs. Arsenal preview
After the glorious win vs. the Scum, we have another rival to play. This time, it’s Manchester United, and a certain Mr. Mourinho, with whom we have an interesting history.
Jose hasn’t had the best of times this season. Much has been made of his “third season syndrome”. From antics between the players and himself to bad tactics, to fans wanting him out, and to disputes on transfers, he has had a rough time of it. He clearly is presiding over the banter club of this season.
And oddly enough, United seemingly are suffering from the same issues that we were a few seasons ago – or last season, for that matter.
They lack direction on the pitch. They have no senior footballing executive knowledge. Their top players aren’t performing. The fans want the manager out. The club’s owners/board only care about money and not progression. Sounds familiar? It’s ironic and funny that United fans were mocking us for the things they’re experiencing now.
Our stellar win vs. the lily-white mob has got the football world talking – is this a new Arsenal? Is Arsenal back? Will Arsenal demolish Man U? Is Emery the man to take Arsenal back to the top? Is Arsenal outside title contenders?
It’s understandable that we would be feeling confident, especially since Spurs are a good side, with some stellar talent, and we smashed them hard. But there are some key areas to note ahead of this game:
- Bad record
Our record at Old Trafford is very poor. Our last win there was in 2006 when Emmanuel Adebayspurs (Adebayor….but he played and scored against us for Spurs, so I don’t deem him an Arsenal player…) got the winner late on. Since then, it’s been a mix of Fergie “out-tacticting” us, and bottling it vs. Moyes, van Gaal, and Mourinho.
I’m not sure what to think of supposed “bad records” at grounds. I think it should be something to overcome, though it can be an admitted psychological barrier. It’s almost when the media cite this, it takes on a near supernatural quality – which they often invoke when they say “hoodoo”. A team may have a “bad record” historically at a ground since the opponent is superior, and has been for a time. Why have Spurs only beaten us twice at our place in PL history? Because we’ve been the better team, largely, since 1992. Why do we generally beat sides like Southampton or Everton at home? Because, again, we generally have been the superior side over many years.
If we can overcome this mental block, then it would become a statement. There is no reason why we cannot, and there is nothing at all “supernatural” about it. Our bad record at OT is in my view a mix of bad luck, weak tactical planning, and at least under Sir Alex, them being better than us. Now is the time to change this.
- Jose will have a plan
There is a reason why Wenger seldom ever beat Jose, bar the Community Shield and 16/17 home game. It’s because he was able to out-manoeuvre Wenger, since his style is more inherently meticulous. Either that, or there was some extreme luck, like Drogba’s winning goal in 05/06, or Gabriel getting sent off in 15/16 (after Costa pushed Koscielny to the ground no less…)
But Wenger is out, and Emery is in. This isn’t to disrespect Wenger, but if he were still here, Mourinho would relish this. Emery, however, as the footballing world is realising, is an expert tactician. We’re slowly erasing the mistakes and mishaps that have been plaguing us for several years and have cost us reaching our potential as a side. Arsenal have become known as a team with technicality and no plan B. But Emery has not only a plan A, but can readily devise plans B, C, D, and E.
Mourinho is not a fool – he may do and say crass things, but we all know he’s an intelligent man. He would know this, and as an adept planner, he may actually enjoy having to figure Arsenal out for a change. This could actually be to our advantage, since Mourinho’s on the pitch options are limited, and his team are short on confidence. How well Jose adapts to Emery’s tinkering will be crucial in us getting the win.
He also needs the points, and a win vs. us would be a signal that he’s still got it. United’s top four hopes are slim, but a win vs. us would be a boost. Especially since they have Liverpool to come later this month. Liverpool is to United as Spurs are to us, and if they can beat us and them in quick succession, it could boost their season. Now is not a time for complacency.
- Cards in our favour
United has injuries, and more importantly a loss in form. Pogba hasn’t been performing well enough, and our old friend Alexis is injured. Their defence is weak, with the overrated Smalling and Jones, though Martial will be a threat. He’s been arguably their most consistent player at the moment, despite supposed issues between him and Jose.
We’d have to watch for de Gea too. He won the game at our place in 17/18, and is the best GK in the PL, and possibly the world.
In contrast, we would have to carry our Tottenham form into this game, and Emery must work his tactical magic to boot. Auba is on FIRE, and Laca too is looking sharp. Our defence is better in goals conceded, and in man for man quality compared to theirs, and our midfield is looking sharper and better balanced. Leno is not to de Gea’s level yet but has looked very good overall.
The cards are in our favour, and it’s how well we utilise them that is paramount. If we do it well, we can get “21” and not a pathetic score (if referencing blackjack) like a 1 or 2.
What we cannot allow is complacency, since whilst United are down, they surely aren’t out. And they will see a win or an otherwise good performance against us as a boost.
However, we must capitalise on our overall stronger position, and show the league we mean business. In most areas of the pitch, we have strengths over them. But we must anticipate Mourinho’s plan (since it’s foolish to think he won’t have one), and not allow the fever from Sunday to affect us.
I believe what Jose will do is the flood the midfield, and try and stop us supplying our forwards. However, we can counteract this by playing Laca slightly deeper than Auba, and isolating their weaker defenders (like Young or Smalling) in one on ones. Neither is blessed with pace, and with Bellerin and Kolasinac in good form, we can overload them in that area.
- If we win, are we “back”?
The media are starting to take note of us – at least in that we’re rectifying long-held errors and mishaps that have cost us leagues and titles.
Tim Sherwood made a point in that whilst he sticks to his Spurs/Arsenal combined XI (of all Tottenham players) that Arsenal is improving, and Tottenham are lacking Arsenal’s new-found tactical efficiency. The Merse, as seen in this vid, is more charitable, but then at least both acknowledge Torreira is better than Mr. “shush the crowd, cause a fight”:
A win for us here at Old Trafford, even given Manchester United’s weak state, would be a marker that the old Arsenal of a few years back is gone. And a new Arsenal is developing in its wake.
Man U 1-2 Arsenal
I don’t think we’ll slap them, nor dominate them. But I think we’ll have too much for them in attacking and midfield terms, and a win here would do well for our top four chances.