Tomorrow we line up against Manchester United at Old Trafford and many pundits see us departing Manchester defeated and to be fair there are many reasons to believe them but I think we can and will leave as victors.
COC against Reading aside Arsenal have struggled for goals and chances of late and some say this will make it unlikely for us to score against United.
Some say that our last visit to Old Trafford was so torrid that it will affect us tomorrow.
Some say that van Persie was the only player we had that could cause United problems and now he is their player.
Some say defeat is inevitable…. I say these people are wrong, here’s why.
When we last travelled to Old Trafford we were injury depleted and this was our line-up:
Problem number one was full-backs. Jenkinson has come on leaps and bounds since that defeat and although I confess to being a fan from his first touch of the ball in an Arsenal shirt and have championed him ever since (and am glad to see a large number of converted this season) I will not pretend that he was anything other than out of his depth in this game. Things just got worse as his (and the teams) confidence dropped and United’s soared.
Traore was clearly not physically or mentally ready for this game and was 90% out of the door and this emotionally distant from Arsenal’s plight. He also had no protection in front of him as Arshavin was playing with a level of nonchalance and disinterest that even his biggest supporters did not know he was capable of. This attitude continued for several months and led to him being loaned out.
Problem number two was Koscielny and Djourou playing together. Koscielny played on the left of the central defence which as demonstrated on Tuesday night is not a position he is comfortable in when he doesn’t have someone like Mertesacker on the right of him. The next time Koscielny and Djourou played together in the heart of defence after the 8-2 was on Tuesday night and we conceded 5 goals, 4 of them in the first 35 minutes which was a little worse than being 3-0 down against United after 41 minutes last season. Thankfully we were playing a team much poorer than United and Theo grabbed our attack by the scruff of the neck which I don’t think he would have been able to do in RvP’s shadow.
Problem three was central midfield. Rosicky hadn’t played much and probably wasn’t ready to play the “Cesc” role. Coquelin did not have the experience of Song or Arteta that he benefited from so much last season when he played and Ramsey despite his hard-working nature is not suited to a deep pivot role and especially not when his partner was so green.
Problem four was van Persie. Yes, Robin van Persie, the boy who could. Our entire game (and not just in this match) was based around getting the ball to him and in a game of that magnitude and intensity it was always going to go badly if our channels to him were stifled as they were.
This year it is going to be different. We will be playing an almost completely different team and depending on if Walcott or Ramsey start on the right we may only have one starter from Old Trafford in tomorrows line-up. The players will obviously know of the result from last year but it will not be a personal memory for many of the players.
Problem one will be solved with better full-backs and despite his detractors Santos is a decent player, definitely behind Gibbs but capable. Defensively he can seem suspect at times but in his last game he actually led in tackles and interceptions.
Problem two will not exist as Mertesacker and Vermaelen will play together and let us not forget that Arsenal have the tightest defence in the league with only 6 goals conceded whereas Man U have conceded 13.
Problem three is another story altogether. In Arteta we have one of the best pivot midfielders in the league and he has been an utter revelation this season and Cazorla offers us the sort of ingenuity, vision, passing ability and penetration that we sorely missed when Cesc left.
Problem four does not exist in one sense but it does in another. We no longer focus all our energy on getting the ball to RvP but we do channel most of our attacks through Cazorla. If we can mix things up tomorrow and not allow Cazorla to be our only channel then we have a serious chance as it’s harder to mark 4 men out of a game than 1.
I’d like to see us play a different formation tomorrow for a number of reasons. I’d like to see a two-man striker system, something I’ve championed for a long time and this recent piece by Goonerdave66 is a great read on how and why. I think two strikers would completely throw Fergie off as he has a very specific game plan against Arsenal and will set up thinking we are playing 433/4141.
This is team I think will line-up:
The problem I have with this line-up is that it is predictable and United have been able to frustrate us over and over because Ferguson knows exactly how to stop Arsenal and Wenger has yet to change the way we line-up against United in recent years.
This is what I’d like to see and the formations we can play with these players in this game:
The above team would cause United a world of hurt in my opinion. I don’t think we can reverse last years score but I think we could easily win by 2 or 3 goals with a 4-4-2 or a 4-1-3-2. United would never expect it and it would enhance our attacking prowess.
If Wenger went for this and gave Theo a shot up front against United I believe he would play with even more determination and effect than he did on Wednesday. Theo would not want to let such a chance fly by. Giroud would probably relish having a partner especially as we’re playing United. In this game his contribution will be directly compared to the contribution to the man he has replaced and that’s a lot of pressure. Cazorla would have new freedom in both roles, an unpredictable freedom on the wing or two forwards to find from CAM.
I know many of you will ask why I have left out Jack. I haven’t really left him out, I just don’t think he’ll start. We have a Champions League game on Tuesday and I just feel he is more likely to start in that game than this one. However, as Podolski is carrying in injury you could change my preferred line-up to Cazorla in Podolski’s place and Jack in Santi’s.
Arsenal have been defensively superior to United this season and with Arsenal’s attack being relatively non-threatening in the league of late Fergie will probably look to play a deep counter-attacking game which will not suit our current formation at all. However if we were to play 4-4-2 or 4-1-3-2 this would make it difficult for United to play counter-attacking football and a much open game would ensue which I think would suit our stronger defence.
Manchester United have a depleted defence and are without Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Vidic and will also lack the creative spark of Kagawa.
United will still have plenty of attacking talent on show but I think their game will mostly be based on wide-play which is why a 4-4-2 or a 4-1-3-2 suits this game better.
Our full-backs are capable of nullifying United’s wingers and our attackers capable of bullying their defence.
If we play a fast pressing game and are intelligent with our possession then we will be hard to cope with.
Apart from wanting to beat United and win every game we play there is extra incentive tomorrow to win. It will be the first time we come up against van Persie as an opposition player and new fuel has been added to the fire with a report on the web this week concerning the conversation between Wenger and van Persie in the summer and what followed.
I’ll try to summarise it for you.
- Robin not only ordered Wenger to spend big he also told him who to buy
- Robin told Wenger not to appoint Steve Bould as Assistant Manager
- Wenger reacted badly to being challenged and decided to sell
- Robin released that statement – Wenger decided this was the last straw
- Santi Cazorla signed & it was rumoured Sahin was next
- Robin seemed to change his mind and flew to Germany for the Köln game and training camp. He came on in that game and immediately made a show of grabbing the armband from Vermaelen which fuelled speculation he wanted to stay.
- The next day Arsenal agreed to sell to MU for £22m
- The next day Wenger said he wanted £24m – United agreed and the git left
I don’t know how much of this is true although it’s all very plausible. Robin is bound to get booed when he touches the ball and who can blame the fans? Nobody says nice things about the ex that left them for someone else. This report though will probably add extra spice to the heat that RvP will get because who is he to tell Wenger who he should or should not buy and who he should or should not select to be his assistant right?
All of the new players and current squad clearly like Steve Bould and will feel they have a point to prove to a man who thought they weren’t good enough to take Arsenal forward and derided the man who has given them defensive cohesion.
I don’t want tomorrow to be about RvP but I hope that our players and fans can use the negative energy towards him in a positive manner and make it difficult for United to play tomorrow.
If I’m honest with myself I couldn’t care less if RvP scored against us tomorrow as long as we leave with the three points.
Hopefully we’ll be able to spring a few surprises on United and I stand by my early season assertion that Arsenal are the stronger team. United may have a few talented individuals but our renewed defensive strength and (unfulfilled) attacking potential make us a better side.
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