Friday, 18 November 2016

Arsenal's Trip To Manchester United Previewed

Arsenal haven't won away to Manchester United in far too long and they have passed up a few good chances to do so in that time. The last time they managed the feat it was Emmanuel Adebayor who got the goal and Cesc Fabregas who set him, but their stars have long since faded for Arsenal fans. In the 10 years since that 2006 victory Arsenal have drawn twice and lost seven times at Old Trafford and that run has to end some time.

Last season provided one of the best opportunities in a long time, but a poor performance on the day helped a sub standard United team to a 3-2 win. Marcus Rashford was a star born on that day as Arsenal neglected their defensive duties and enabled to score two goals and make the other one. He hasn't looked too bad since then, but he will have to do an awful lot more to become the world beater we made him look like in that game.

The draw at home to Spurs in our last game was an opportunity to go to the top of the table missed and now Arsenal have to try to keep pace with Liverpool and Chelsea who are the in form teams at the moment. On the face of it Arsenal have the best away record in the Premier League with 13 points from five games and they have the best defensive record away from home too. Those 13 points have mostly come against teams who Arsenal would be expected to beat though and a trip to Old Trafford is a completely different prospect.

From a team perspective the absences of Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla will be sorely felt, but at least it looks like Alexis Sanchez will be fit to play. He played for Chile on Tuesday night despite apparently carrying a hamstring injury and he scored twice too. It would seem he has come through unscathed and will be available to play which is a huge boost and we can only hope his injury doesn't come back to haunt him and us too.

The biggest question will probably be who fills in for Bellerin and Carl Jenkinson seems the most likely to get the nod. There are other options though with Gabriel Paulista being one of those mentioned as a possibility and I think Shkodran Mustafi might be an even better option. He has played as a right back before and he plays on the right side of the centre of our defence. Of the three of them I think he offers the most going forward and I think he would be defensively stronger too.

Of course if Mustafi moves to the right it would mean Gabriel would have to come in to play alongside Laurent Koscielny. The partnership between Koscielny and Mustafi is developing nicely and I don't think Gabriel is as good as Mustafi, but I would be worried to see Jenkinson in the team as I think he might struggle. Not only is he just back from a long term injury, but I'm not sure he's quite good enough to play at this level.

The rest of the team nearly picks itself at the moment whether you agree with Arsene Wenger's choices or not we all have a pretty good idea of the players he will opt for. Midfield could give him a dilemma with Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny all vying for the two spots available. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ramsey and Coquelin chosen, but I think the other two might be a good fit for this game. I wouldn't be unhappy to see two defensively minded players in front of the defence as there will no doubt be a battle that needs to be won in midfield.

The media is of course full of the Wenger against Mourinho aspect and our boss certainly has a bad record against United's latest manager. The world is waiting for Mourinho to fail at United and things haven't gone too well for him so far this season. It would be fantastic if we could heap even more pressure on him by winning this game and bringing him even nearer the failure I think he will be at United.

We don't want to win just to get one over on Mourinho though and the best reason for wanting to win is to show we are genuine title contenders. I'm still not sure about that myself, but three points at United would certainly improve our chances. I still think the players need more belief in themselves and this could well be the way for them to build that confidence.

Who knows how United will approach the game with that man in charge, but he will certainly set his team up in the best way he sees to win. He won't be afraid to park the bus despite being at home and they're sure to put the boot in at every opportunity as well as trying every trick in the book to try to influence the referee. Arsenal will surely know what to expect though and they need to be strong enough to deal with it.

I have no doubt the boss will send the players out to play their own game as he always does. I think it's a great opportunity to get the first win at United in 10 years and I hope the players can find a performance to really go for it. I would be happy with a jammy three points, but I would love to see the players set down a marker and get the win with a commanding performance.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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