Saturday, 9 November 2013

Arsenal's Trip To Manchester United Previewed

Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the Premier League with 10 games played after taking 25 points in those games. They are eight points ahead of reigning champions Manchester United and face a trip to them this Sunday afternoon. It's a mouth watering prospect and promises to be a very good game for many reasons.

Arsenal have being playing some great football this season and haven't been beaten away from home in any competition in over eight months. They started this week with three really tough games ahead of them and go into Sunday's game having won the first two of those games. With Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund both beaten already the only team who stand in the way of a perfect week are United.

There have been some great games between Arsenal and United and Arsenal have had their share of famous victories away to them. The ones that immediately spring to mind are in 1998 and 2002 when the away victories over United were accompanied by Arsenal winning the double. It's been far too long since Arsenal won a trophy, but the way the team are playing at the moment has really raised expectations for this season. 

There is no doubt that Arsenal are the in form team in the Premier League so far this season and United have struggled to find any real form in defence of their title. United have been almost irresistible at home since the inception of the Premier League, but this season they seem decidedly vulnerable. They lost at home to West Brom, drew with Chelsea and Southampton and just about beat Stoke and Crystal Palace.

With Alex Fergusson leaving in the summer United are in transition and it could be just the right time for Arsenal to play them. They failed to add any real quality to their squad in the summer, but Arsenal pulled off the transfer coup of the summer when they captured Mesut Ozil. He has been added to their already incredibly talented midfield and they are a handful for any team.

When comparing the midfield of both teams there is a huge gulf in class between them and it's an area where Arsenal have to dominate United. The advantage to United is in their striking options with Arsenal only really having Olivier Giroud and United having a choice of four quality strikers. I imagine both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will start for United and they are more than capable of causing problems for any defence.

No matter how much of the ball Arsenal have United are bound to make chances as they always do at home. I'm not too sure who makes those chances for United as their midfielders never seem to do well when it comes to assists. When you compare Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini to the players Arsenal have it's hard to see how they can compete.

When Arsenal have gone to United in previous seasons in better form than their hosts and with better players United have always reverted to putting the boot in and or cheating. Who can forget the treatment the Neville sisters were allowed to hand out to Jose Antonio Reyes or Wayne Rooney diving to end the Invincibles run of 49 games unbeaten in the league. In Ashley Young they have another player who is very fond of falling over in the opponents penalty area and hopefully the referee will be aware of that.

There's the added spice Van Persie facing the team who sold him to United when he decided he wanted out and wanted to join United. His claim was he joined them to win trophies and he now has a Premier League title to his name, but it would be so sweet if Arsenal can go on and win some trophies without him. The Arsenal fans are sure to give him a really hard time all day long and nobody deserves it more than him. The Arsenal travelling fans are absolutely fantastic and can always be heard signing loud and proud. It would be such a sweet day for them if the team can manage to grab a victory. 

In team news it looks like both Mathieu Flamini and Jack Wilshere will be fit to return to the squad, but they might not find a place in the team. I wouldn't be surprised to see Arsene Wenger play the same team which won away to Dortmund on Wednesday night, but he might be tempted to play Flamini alongside Mikael Arteta in the cente of midfield. If he does I can only imagine Tomas Rosicky will be the man to miss out and I think he would be sorely missed if that's that case.

"Little Mozzart" has been in fine form recently though and the energy he shows in midfield is fantastic. His desire to run at opponents with the ball is a joy to watch and his desire to win the ball back when Aesenal lose it is magnificent. He loves to slide in on opponents and it leads to a few yellow cards for him, but it puts opponents under loads of pressure.

United's defence has been far from good this season and Arsenal have the players in Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla to open up any defence. The form of those three in particular has been a joy to watch and it was no surprise when they were the three players involved in the goal against Dortmund on Wednesday night. It will be interesting to see what tactics United use to try to stop Ramsey and Ozil in particular.

I think Arsenal are going to outplay United and take the game to them, but it's important that they don't over commit players in attack. They learned at home to Dortmund that you cannot over commit players in attack against the best teams or you might pay a very high price. If Flamini plays I expect him to sit very deep and add the extra cover the back four needs.

United will have to try to contain Ramsey and that's in easy feat against the best play in the Premier League on current form. He is scoring goals for fun right now and looks like he will score every single time he plays. He has well and truly shaken off the effects of the horrific leg break a few years ago and Arsenal are reaping the rewards for the faith they have shown in him.

I can only imagine it's going to be a very close game and it could take a moment of individual brilliance to win it. No matter what players United may have I have a feeling it's one of the Arsenal players who will produce that moment. I hope to see the name of Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla or Giroud added to those of Marc Overmars and Sylvan Wiltord who scored winning goals at United when Arsenal won the league.

A win away to United is a rare thing for any club and I think Arsenal have a great chance of achieving it tomorrow. If they can get that win it would another huge boost for the confidence of the players in a season which just keeps getting better and better. It's by no means a certainty though and the players will have to give their all for every minute of the game to have a chance of achieving it.

If the worst was to happen and Arsenal were to lose tomorrow they would still be on top of the league and on top of their Champions League group too. At the end of a week which is supposed to tell us what they're really made of that would be a very acceptable outcome. I don't think they will lose though and I think a win is there for the taking if they can just go out and grab it.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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