Manchester United Vs The Arsenal – It will be won in the middle of the pitch


After serious doubts were raised over Arsenals trophy credentials this season, Arsenal have silenced their critics and have done so with big back to back victories. After breezing past Liverpool at a canter Arsenal travelled the fortress that is the Westfalenstadion and put in a typical European away performance and return to England with the three points & being restored to the top of their Champions League group. There is no time to look back and admire however as we travel to Old Trafford in what is most likely the biggest game we’ve had all week. Not in terms of the quality of the team but in one respect only, the psychological affects that come with it.
Three points against Manchester United at Old Trafford is a feat that we haven’t managed to achieve since 2006 and from then to now, it’s been fairly obvious that United have been far better. This season however marks a turning point and thus far Arsenal have been superior not only to Manchester United but also to most other Premier League teams and with 8 points already between United and us, 3 more points for would be monumental. Ending up victorious against a side like United’s however is always a hard job and with us being unsuccessful in our last 6 times, how should an Arsenal team flying on form enter the game on the weekend?
With Micheal Carrick ruled out injured we have the perfect opportunity to play our natural game. With two central players posing as wide men, Cazorla and Rosicky on either flank will be looking to come in and without the retention services of Micheal Carrick factored in, the midfield is not a battle Manchester United have any hope they can win. Giroud will have his starting place nailed on but the attacking three behind him would be difficult to guess and that is the biggest problem for United defenders. With Ozil, Rosicky, Cazorla & Wilshere are all central players however two of them will end up playing wide and though they might start the game on the flanks they most certainly won’t end the game there. Whilst extremely frustrating to watch from the fans point of view it does make it extremely difficult to mark, coupled with Fellaini being the most defensive player of Man United’s midfield it doesn’t bode well for them that their central midfielders will be outnumber by 3-2.
Specific to the way United play, especially against Arsenal, traditionally they attack down either flank. In his time Alex Ferguson would flood the midfield and hope to hit us on the counter and expose the weakness of the team defensively. Today however United cannot do that now for a number of reason, firstly because Arsenal’s team have worked collectively to shut out opponents and if you look at the games against the big teams they haven’t conceded many. In a way it’s seems easier to defend against bigger teams because mentally you are more focused, you understand that it’s a game of fine margins and that any mistake at any time can cost you. However without seeming disrespectful, playing some of the smaller sides in the Premier League you can always rely on your attacking talent to bail you out. Another reason quite simply is United wingers aren’t what they used to be, the fall in quality from last season to this season is a big gap despite not losing any players and if you compare them to 3 or 4 seasons ago the drop in quality is monumental. It’s a simple enough defensive job for our full backs and supporting midfielders and that is to keep Januzaj & Valencia quite and the game is ours to dictate how we want.
If we do manage to be successful in nullifying their threats, Moyes may result to his old tricks against Arsenal and going back for the physical approach and after making Fellaini his first signing as United manager they have a player they can knock the ball long to. Whilst I think the myth that we can’t deal with physical sides should be dispelled by now, it does at least give us problems and slows us down. The only problem that would hinder Moyes in carrying out such a style of play is that United players have no competence in playing this way. It’s difficult to adjust to a big mans knock downs and runs as we have found out with Giroud last year and manufacturing an understanding as big as this in the middle of a game is never going to work. We need to make sure we’re on top of every ball and that every second touch is an Arsenal players, it’s imperative players such as Rosicky, Arteta and Ramsey keep up a high intensity for as long as it’s needed.
With Flamini returning to the team we suddenly find ourselves with two options at defensive midfield and whilst a player retrained will never quite have the same nature as a real defensive midfielder, Arteta should be preferred to Flamini in this game. With everything mentioned above the game will most probably be finely poised and one thing that Arteta brings that Flamini doesn’t is calm and composure. If you scroll up and see what Arsenal need to do, there’s not a single thing that Arteta couldn’t handle and out of the two is less likely to be walking a tight rope or be sent off. Despite all the preparations however football doesn’t always pan out the way it’s meant to and all the preparation and tactics in the world can’t prepare for a mistake, or a world class 30 yard goal and tomorrow may be just about riding our luck. However any which way we win as long as 3 points is the outcome that’s all that is important.


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