Manchester United vs. Arsenal
The battle of the (former) titans is due again.
We haven’t won there in the league at least since 2006 – when a certain Mr. Adebayor scored the winner. The only other victory has been an FA Cup win on route to our triumph in 2015, when Monreal and Welbeck scored in a 2-1 win.
Clearly, there is some mental block here, but can this be the time it’s lifted?
Both sides were in a similar position last season. We were in the midst of our 22-game unbeaten run, and they were floundering under Mourinho. We sang “Jose Mourinho, we want you to stay!!” but sadly the Glazers/Woodward didn’t listen since it was a month or two before he got sacked.
We conceded two cheap goals, after going ahead in the game twice, and didn’t really capitalise on their weaknesses.
This time around, much of the same is true.
We’re doing better in the league – had a better transfer window, and have a more experienced manager. They may have signed defenders, and some good ones to boot like Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. But they let Lukaku go, and don’t have anybody on Auba or Laca’s par. Pepe even could have been a sound signing for them, as Martial and “Rashy” are good but not world-class by any stretch.
The Glazers are not really helping them – bar their record revenues (which is what they’re there to “help”). And it’s clear that since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, they haven’t had much direction bar the commercial facets.
They are clearly down. But are they out?
We were a bit arrogant last season, and it cost us a win via crap defending.
In 2016, another scenario occurred akin to now. We had beaten Leicester 2-1 with former United player Danny Welbeck scoring a late winner. It may seem funny now – but we genuinely thought we would go on to win the league. But we fell at “lowly” Man United – with Rashy/Rashford scoring a brace.
Is this third time lucky, or will United strike us when down yet again?
Our defence MUST be on point here.
I suspect Luiz will start – which he shouldn’t if I had my way.
But then I believe he will feature, and he would need to make NO mistakes whatsoever.
Sokratis has been less consistent this season – however, he still has his hardened edge and can offer something in this regard.
I personally would start Tierney. His injury was not as bad as Bellerin or Holding’s, and his positioning, pace and crossing could aid us here.
Chambers should start too, and Maitland-Niles could feature in midfield which is his wish. Surely he may get on the bench.
Chambers could do well as a right-back and should get more game time as he has much to offer.
Structure and shape are paramount, and Villa-esque slip-ups cannot happen here.
Our attack is our strength, and Auba, Pepe, and (possibly) Saka/Nelson know what they’re about.
The midfield though is intriguing.
Xhaka is now our official captain – and he surely will start here.
Torreira must start too, and be in a deeper role which is his strength. His box to box isn’t aiding anything, and Guendouzi needs to carry the ball well too.
We need to press them here.
Not give them any time on the ball, and then once we do have it use it well.
They’re shaken for confidence and will crumble if we’re aggressive.
In Emery’s time, the performance vs. Spurs last season at home, or Chelsea, are good examples here. We pressed both of them and won out on both occasions.
We don’t need to be defensive like at Anfield lately. Come on, the Mancs aren’t at the levels of the Scouse “friends”. But aggression, directness and pressing should result off the ball, and on the ball, our passing and pace can handle things here.
Pepe should take his boost penalty vs. Villa and try to take on their defence. If he can roast van Dijk – the best CB in the world arguably – then he can roast Maguire or Lindelof. Maguire is good, but not at van Dijk’s level so it’s more than possible.
The aforementioned points are detailed above.
I think 433 is our best formation, which can morph into a 4231 when needed.
I will opt for Luiz, but only as Holding shouldn’t be risked and Chambers may be the best fit at right-back.
Man United 1-2 Arsenal
They do have some players who could cause issues. James, Rashford and Lingard can. And if Pogba makes a recovery, he can on his day too.
Ole would have some gameplan to contain us. And ALL sides playing us – in England or Europe – know of our defensive frailties.
However, I think we’ll have too much for them.
If we are active, on the front foot, and can deny them space – all the better.
Our mentality must be on point too.
But I think this CAN be the time we can get our first victory.
Thirteen years ago is way too long for a league win at their place.
They are down, but let’s make them “downer”.