Manchester United v/s Arsenal – Preview
Day/Date/Time: Sunday/01‐Nov‐20/10:00 PM IST
Venue: Old Trafford
As Arsenal head to the red side of Manchester, one always feels nostalgic about the glory days of Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger when the meeting between these two sides would have a big impact on the
Premier League destination – Manchester or London. Now it has lost most of its significance.
Forget about the title, this fixture hardly impacts the top4 positions now. A very grim reminder to the two footballing giants of English football that if they don’t arrest the slide (in their on‐field performances) they might soon start drifting towards the mid table mediocrity of premier league.
United usually have had an upper hand in this fixture over a long period of time in recent past. However in the last two seasons, Manchester United have not beaten Arsenal in the premier league. In both the seasons, United drew the home game at Old Trafford and lost the away game at
Emirates. However there was one solitary win in last 2 years for United and that was in the FA Cup last year.
These are two sides under transition and both have hired ex‐players are managers last season. While United appeared to be slightly ahead of the transition curve under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the end of the last season (as they reached few semi‐finals and finished the season strongly among the
top4), they seem to have taken few backward steps in the transfer window. Man United have signed a good midfielder in Donny van de Beek but for some reason don’t seem to find a way to play him inthe midfield.
Solskjaer seems to have plenty of midfield options at his disposal, he now has to figure out how to make best use of them. Arsenal on the other hand seems to be settling nicely under the management of Mikel Arteta. The
FA cup final victory over Chelsea last season and Community Shield win over Liverpool have given hope of a brighter future.
In the further boost, Arsenal was also able to tie down their best player and top goal scorer Pierre‐Emerick Aubameyang to a new contract. Also going by the limited evidence so far, they seem to have signed a good player in Thomas Partey. They have also signed Willian from Chelsea who has plenty of experience in the league.
How will United approach this game?
There are few approaches that United can take. Being the home team, the onus is on United to take the game to the gunners. This means Ole can play with a more attack minded 4‐3‐3 with Cavani/ Greenwood as the central striker flanked by Rashford and Greenwood/James. However this may
make United susceptible to being overrun in the midfield. Also other issue is that Cavani may not be able to play for the entire game and James doesn’t inspire confidence after his unconvincing display against Chelsea.
This brings me to the 2 nd approach, which is playing with 3 defenders and 2 wing backs, ceding possession to Arsenal and counter attacking with pace. This strategy has yielded good results for United under Solskjaer in past and if not for Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy’s heroics last weekend, this strategy would have worked last weekend too. Another interesting approach could be to deploy a diamond in the midfield which worked fantastically well against the German league leaders RB Leipzig in the Champions League.
How will Arsenal approach this game?
Although Arsenal has already lost 3 league games this season but barring the loss to Liverpool (where they were thoroughly outplayed) they seemed to have given good account of themselves. They played well against Manchester City and were guilty of missing a number of chances against
Leicester City, which ultimately cost them the game. Arteta has also shown a tendency to go with 3 centre backs in the games against big teams and it will be interesting to see whether he chooses to match United’s shape (of back 3) or decides to go with 4-3-3, playing the triumvirate of
Aubameyang, Pepe and Willian.
What does form guide suggest?
Arsenal come into this game on the back of 2 back to back league defeats and a trip to Old Trafford has always been a daunting one for them. United on the other hand seemed to have picked themselves up after getting thrashed at home by Spurs. Away wins at Newcastle and PSG (against
the mighty Neymar, Mbappe & co) and the home draw against Chelsea (where they dominated the game in the 2 nd half and had better chances) must give them confidence.
The recent big win against RB Leipzig will do wonders to the confidence of the squad. United’s star forward Marcus Rashford seems to be on fire whereas there are some muted concerns in some corners about Aubameyang’s recent goal draught. United also has the added advantage of an additional day’s rest. So overall looks like United may be going with slight advantage into this fixture.
I expect a very close game with United just about to nudge Arsenal by a solitary goal.