Sunday, 4 October 2015

Arsenal v Manchester United Preview

It's been an up and down season so far for Arsenal with four wins from their seven league games and a disastrous start to their Champions League campaign. Despite their far from convincing league form they are still very much in the title chase and they have a chance of going second in the table if they win this game. City's win yesterday put them on 18 points and an Arsenal victory would give them 16 points.

Of course it's not going to be easy for them and United were the league leaders before this weekend and will go to the top again if they win. They have had a fantastic record against Arsenal for more years than is good for us with the exception of Arsenal beating them in the FA Cup last season. The way this season has gone so far this is a game Arsenal need to get something from and a defeat would open up the gates of hell among an already divided fan base.

The defeat on Tuesday night brought back all the old failings of Arsenal and not for the first time this season either. The second half of last season was so good with a couple of exceptions that us fans had genuine hope for this season. The failure to add to the squad during the summer was a gamble by Arsene Wenger and it hasn't paid off so far with a few injuries leaving the team genuinely short of attacking alternatives.

When Arsenal beat United in that cup quarter final it was Danny Welbeck who made the difference, but injury will deprive us of him for the next few months. In this fixture last season Jack Wilshere missed a magnificent opportunity to put Arsenal ahead and his drive and enthusiasm would be a real bonus for Arsenal at the moment. Tomas Rosicky's contributions have been all too infrequent in recent seasons, but again he's a player who can turn a game for Arsenal if introduced from the bench and he's out too.

It means Arsenal's team is all so predictable today and there's a hardly a person out there who doesn't know what team the boss will pick. It's more or less the team which started the FA Cup final against Villa with the exception of Gabriel Paulista for the injured Laurent Koscielny. Gabriel looks the most likely to partner Koscielny in the center of the defence when everybody is fit with Mertesacker probably missing out.

Of course the other change from that team will be the inclusion of Arsenal's only summer purchase with Petr Cech playing in goal. We were told Cech missed out on Tuesday's debacle due to a slight injury concern, but I have no doubt he will take over from David Ospina today after Ospina's howler against Olympiacos. He's the goalkeeper this team has needed for far too many years and he has to play in all but the FA Cup and Capital One Cup for me.

In this fixture last season Arsenal totally dominated and missed chance after chance before United got two goals. A late reply from Olivier Giroud was no consolation as a very average United team took all three points in a game Arsenal could and should have won. It's a regular occurrence which has led to so much frustration among the fan base and the boss still seems unable to find a remedy.

United may have been top of the table coming into this weekend, but I have been far from impressed by them this season or under Louis van Gaal at all. They have being getting results though and they seem to be the masters of getting a result against Arsenal when they don't put in a great performance. We well and truly owe them s defeat and it's about time we delivered.

To say United have been unconvincing this season doesn't mean Arsenal have been convincing. They have rarely looked as good as they did in the second have of last season and have struggled badly in front of goal. They did put five past Leicester last week, but they were far from good in defence in that game and that defensive ineptitude continued on Tuesday night.

They cannot afford to be so poor at the back today or they will pay a price for it again. Arsenal's best tactic against United could be their pace on the break, but they need to draw United out first or they won't get to exploit the space behind them. The way Arsenal play encourages teams to defend in depth and then Arsenal become the ones who are vulnerable on the break with vast amounts of space available between the defence and the rest of the team.

I think they need to be more conservative today and not over commit players into attack. If it means the game is far from entertaining that's something we can live with as the result is all important. A win would be a fantastic result, but for me it's very important that Arsenal don't lose.

They have already lost away to Chelsea aalthough Mike Dean's crucial decisions which had such a huge influence on the outcome have all since been overturned. The 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool was a different matter with Arsenal coming back strongly in the second half after being completely outplayed in the first half. They are yet again in danger of getting a paltry return from the other supposed contenders this season and it's something which needs to be addressed.

The ideal way of course would be to win today's game and put their United bogey to bed. As I said already though a draw wouldn't be the worst result either heading into the international break. A win and they're two points off the top while a draw would leave four points behind and a defeat six. 

don't think a lead like that is insurmountable with neither City or United looking too convincing so far, but the consequences of a defeat could be hard to swallow. It's clear that the Wenger out argument is growing by the week and the only way he can counter it is to get things right on the pitch. The problems have to be of his own making after failing to spend the money available in the summer to strengthen a squad which had so much promise last season. 

Another reversal would only add fuel to the fire and they will come a time when that fire cannot be put out. A win would quiten the critics for the moment at least and give the boss some breathing space for the next two week. I don't think the performance on the day will matter one bit if the team get the right result just as a great performance will count for nothing if they lose.

I do think they can win though and if anyone is going to win it for them Alexis Sanchez is the man to do it. Sometimes I wonder if he thinks he made the wrong decision joining Arsenal when all of his efforts come to nothing and others around him fail to show his attitude and commitment. I'd love to see him score the winning goal today and hopefully he will to get some reward for a player who is a dream to have at our club.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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