Man Utd have hit a bit of form, or at least that’s what their most recent results would suggest. The 6-1 thrashing by Toots woke them up perhaps because since then, they’ve not lost.
OGS has a squad full of creativity and pace. Rashford, Fernandes, de Beek, Greenwood – the list goes on but defensively, they can be really average. They are struggling at Old Trafford, having taken just one point from their last three fixtures.
A statistic for you which beggars belief really as Man Utd top the league for penalties being awarded. They’ve had 37 since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over. Admittedly, that number comes from all competitions but even so, its way more than most. Certainly Arsenal’s grand total of 9.
37 Man Utd
24 Man City
Those attacking players I’ve already mentioned are clever in the box, or cheats and I’ll leave you to form your own opinion but with Mike Dean officiating our game this afternoon, he’ll only need the slightest of invitations to point to the spot. I can see him now, eyes bulging, full of excitement. Even if his decision is wrong, there’s no relying on VAR to intervene. Maybe he’ll surprise us, maybe he’ll be fair because that’s all I ever hope for, fairness.
If Mikel Arteta replicates the kind of tactics Arsenal deployed at The Etihad and Anfield, our players need to be careful.
What would be refreshing though would be to see Arsenal come out of the blocks with a bit of attitude. Instead of immediately switching into safe mode, get at them. Set the pace, our pace and not theirs. Put their defence under pressure instead of sitting back and allowing them all the time in the world to do as they please.
Mikel Arteta has been reflecting on history. The good old days when this fixture brought the best out of both sides. The worst too on a few occasions.
I think it’s one of the best rivalries in the Premier League. The history of this clash is huge. I remember times between Arsène and Sir Alex, and the confrontations between players. They were fighting for the league and it was always really, really tight. It was probably the biggest clash in the Premier League and I’m excited to go to Old Trafford.
I want to believe we’re getting closer to getting the win there. For sure our mindset is going to be to go there and win the game. That’s the approach that we’re going to have and the gameplay we’re going to put in place to go there on Sunday.
Are we closer to winning at Old Trafford? I’m not convinced we are. Arsenal might be better at defending so I’d like to think we won’t take a pasting but, broken record I know, in attack were static, slow and quite timid. An injection of pace is much needed and that doesn’t necessarily mean a change of personnel. Pepe, Auba and even Lacazette aren’t slow but I think the midfield need to move the ball to them quicker. Our attacking transition needs speeding up.
I’m hopeful that Thomas Partey will greatly improve this but as we’ve seen before, whoever wins the ball just outside our own box, looks up to see no out ball. The slow, sideways passing begins again and of course, any momentum we might have had, has gone. The opportunity to get at a disorganised and depleted defence gone with it. Which is probably why David Luiz so often bypasses the midfield and goes long with his pass to Aubameyang.
Perhaps Mikel will be tempted to play Auba centrally today, putting him up against Maguire who he’ll roast with his pace.
Mikel on how he adds creativity and freedom…
That structure is just to limit our opponents to certain things when we lose the ball. The other structure can flow. We have so many different patterns to try to attack these situations, depending on the formation that they play, and the value of spaces.
That will be in different things. It’s more about our aggression, when we have the ball, our purpose, our aggression, our runs in behind. When do players take someone on and think, ‘I have to make something happen’? We want them to think about themselves, not him or him, we want them to take accountability. They need to want to put the ball in the box more often, because this is what top teams do.
If the other team want to defend the box, make sure they’re defending the box all the team, and that we’re being very aggressive in the final third. It’s something we haven’t faced so much since I arrived here, but I think it’ll happen more and more
OGS isn’t going to deploy a low block, of that we can be pretty sure. If we take the game to Utd, we can win. I don’t mean go all gung ho as that would be stupid but a balanced plan between defence, midfield and attack. Defend strongly and keep the rest simple. Be less predictable and more precise. Move the ball around quickly and accurately. Win the midfield battle and the game can be ours.
That’s my pre-match waffle over..
See you in the comments.