Will There Ever Be A Better Time To Play United?

Preview of this evening’s game at Old Trafford

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The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League match at Manchester United

Beware the wounded animal
There’s no debate that Manchester United are having a difficult season. Things haven’t clicked and their last two matches saw defeat at West Ham followed by the requirement of penalties to despatch the might of Rochdale at home in the Carabao Cup (albeit with a mix and match side for the latter game). They lie 11th after six league fixtures with eight points. However, a win this evening would take them level on points with Arsenal, so Gooners need to be wary of claiming any high ground until 10pm this evening. Can United’s patchy form continue? They have beaten Chelsea and Leicester at home this season, but they also conspired to lose when Crystal Palace visited. One thing is certain. Old Trafford isn’t the fortress of old. You just can’t tell which United will turn up this evening and the hope has to be that not enough of the players that used to raise their game against Arsenal remain at the club.

Arsenal wins at Old Trafford are collectors’ items these days
Sure, since Alex Ferguson called it a day in 2013, United have struggled to recapture their former glories. That, sadly, has not been reflected by any Arsenal victories at their stadium though, at least in the Premier League. In the last six visits, the north London side have secured a total of three points from eighteen – those via three draws. There was a win at OT in the run to the 2015 FA Cup Final, so it can be done. However, in the league, we have to go back to September 2006 for an Arsenal away win. A 1-0 victory with a goal from a certain Emmanuel Adebayor. The club had just moved into the Emirates Stadium. It’s fair to say it’s been quite a while…

So which returning defenders will Unai Emery start?
There’s no debating something needs to change in terms of Arsenal’s defending, and the most obvious one is personnel. At least the head coach now has a few more options. Having only come on as a sub last Tuesday, you’d imagine Hector Bellerin probably won’t start, given his lack of match fitness. He’s likely to come on as a sub. Rob Holding played 90 minutes against Forest and should, in theory, be perfectly capable of doing another full game almost a week later. Assuming there are no fitness concerns, Emery really has to start him, if only to see whether he can improve the solidity of the back line. One imagines Sokratis would be more likely to give way than David Luiz were this to be the case. It is ironic that it was at Old Trafford last season that Holding suffered the injury that has kept him out for months and we can only ask what if, in terms of its effect on Arsenal last season. Kieran Tierney played most of the Forest match before being subbed for Bellerin, but the fact he started indicates his fitness is believed to be satisfactory. Given the significance of this match, you’d imagine Emery will pick Tierney over Kolasinac at left back, especially after how much he impressed on his debut.

Who plays right back then?
Assuming Bellerin is on the bench, Emery will presumably choose between Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland Niles, who served his suspension last Tuesday when Forest visited for his dismissal against Villa. Chambers has looked more confortable at right back than he used to, although another option open to the manager is playing Chambers with Rob Holding in the centre, with Maitland Niles in his customary position. Is he going to drop David Luiz though? Somehow, in spite of the former Chelsea player’s error prone displays since joining, you can’t see it.

So how will Emery set his team up?
Might we see a trio of Xhaka, Guendouzi and Torreira to (in theory) give more protection to the back line? Arsenal have conceded nine goals in their last four Premier League matches. Abameyang and Pepe are near certain starters, but would Emery repeat the experiment of playing Ceballos behind them to try and link the play – something that didn’t work out at Liverpool? Maybe he’ll go for it and play three forwards, with either Saka or Nelson on the left flank, with one of Torreira or Ceballos stepping down. With the Gunners, attack is probably the only form of defence, so I can see a 4-2-1-3 with Torreira on the bench. Emery is hardly going to throw us a curved ball and not start Xhaka having finally announced him as the club captain.

Conclusion
United have injury worries with both Pogba and Rashford doubtful, and the reality is that they are there for the taking. They are unpredictable at home though, and one certainty about this evening is that it will mean a lot more to the home fans than the players, so expect an intimidating atmosphere, which could spur Solskjaer’s men to perform better then they have done on occasion this season. It’s a very difficult match to predict, but you’d have to envisage that both sides will score. I’m going to go with hope and say it’s about time the law of averages gave Arsenal a win. So 2-1 to Emery’s men, surely at least one of those coming from the in-form Aubameyang.

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16
comments

  1. markymark

    Oct 1, 2019, 06:26 #115016

    SKG - we’ll be a zero man team when Aba packs up and leaves. I can see a Unai / Aba scenario like Rioch / Wright. Player should be prioritised over the manager as per Rioch imo

  2. itsRonagain2

    Sep 30, 2019, 23:12 #115015

    Putrid wasn’t it. It’s time SKY tele departed from its agenda in promoting such shit teams as those 2 tonight and give some emphasis on teams now such as Leics who are at the moment very exciting under Rodgers. West Ham too to a lesser extent. Watching that was quite an experience in that I felt a sadness to be honest. There were some honest toilers out there and that’s about it. 2 coaches no doubt both trying hard but can only ever try to make silk purses out of sows ears. The same sadness exudes from Roy Keane who I thought was different class with his comments all night. He was my man of the match.

  3. Pauljames

    Sep 30, 2019, 21:27 #115014

    Not great but we are 4th having already played 3 of the top six, I’d have taken that back in August.

  4. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Sep 30, 2019, 21:12 #115013

    Sorry 2 clapped out teams incapable of fashioning enough skill to win a raffle let alone a football match. I feel sorry for Aba - we are becoming a one man team.

  5. markymark

    Sep 30, 2019, 20:18 #115012

    Xhaka ducked out the way ? What a class act he is

  6. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Sep 30, 2019, 17:50 #115011

    United will think it is a good time to play Arsenal - it is a meeting between 2 teams who no longer frighten any Premier league sides and have their best days behind them.

  7. John F

    Sep 30, 2019, 17:09 #115010

    I thought Arsenal was the better team in all 3 games last season and it was only the bad luck with injuries to 4 of the players that stopped a clean sweep.Poor weather conditions in Manchester should make it an interesting game but if he starts the same line up as he started the Villa game then I can only see Utd winning.

  8. Exiled in Pt

    Sep 30, 2019, 17:06 #115009

    Thanks Tony & Ron, got me fondly remembering the 8-2 game drove to that one so unable to drown my sorrows on return home. Perfect example in that game of the fear was Van Persie stepping up to take the penalty at 1 nil.

  9. itsRonagain2

    Sep 30, 2019, 13:32 #115008

    Tony - yes, you have to be a practising masochist to attend either venue. Best way to attend OT is park yr car approx 2 miles away from OT to avoid it taking 2 hours to escape that area, but importantly remove yr coat and shirt and self flagellate as you walk to the stadium, slow chanting with yr friends 'help me , ooohhh help me'.

  10. Colonel Blimp

    Sep 30, 2019, 13:26 #115007

    I will venture 2-2 or 3-2 either way. Cannot see us keeping a clean sheet unless some miraculous new tactical set-up is in place.

  11. TonyEvans

    Sep 30, 2019, 13:02 #115006

    Hi Ron - rarely ventured further than the Midlands on my Arsenal travels; seen some great games at Villa, Coventry, Stoke, Birmingham etc. Never been to OT or Anfield - obviously missed some spectacular wins over the years but more often than not we would come away with nothing and I was glad not to have been up there. Nothing like it though after a win on the road is there - I miss those days in some ways but heh ho things have moved on and there is no point clinging on to something that is just not there anymore for me.

  12. itsRonagain2

    Sep 30, 2019, 12:42 #115005

    Hi Tony - its the way we always lose there that gets to me. Going right back down the years you can always tell that (to quote Steve Waugh - Aussie cricketer) that 'mental disintegration' has occurred even before the kick off. Not sure how often youve gone to to OT and Anfield down the years, but you can actually read the body language as they emerge. As often as not its as clear as day that ' we dont fancy this ' is the mindset. Players playing for Arsenal in my book, even if going to such places with a weaker team should have the opposite mindset. Theres been the odd game of course when past Gunners teams have gone to those grounds convinced of their ability to win, but so vary rare. Back in the day, the Stretford End and the Kop could intimidate teams but its many years since thats been the case. Its as if the only time an Arsenal side gets a result at OT in particular is when Utd have a bad off day. Lets hope theyre more anaemic tonight than theyve been all season so far.

  13. TonyEvans

    Sep 30, 2019, 11:41 #115004

    If there's one team virtually guaranteed to F it up when everything seems to be pointing to a win it's Arsenal. That has been my experience down the years, even during the good times. Let's hope Emery get's the selection right tonight (wish I had more faith that he will) and we get a long overdue win at OT.

  14. itsRonagain2

    Sep 30, 2019, 09:59 #115003

    ps if we lose tonight it ll be the 100th loss to Man Utd since the games started.

  15. itsRonagain2

    Sep 30, 2019, 09:47 #115002

    Hi Kev. Ive just checked the stats at OT GAMES. 9 wins since 1964 inc the FAC win in 03. Dismal isnt it.

  16. itsRonagain2

    Sep 30, 2019, 09:39 #115001

    Morning Kev. Im not sure theres ever a good time for an Arsenal team to go to OT. You would think tonight offers a bett chance than normal as you say though. However, though ive not checked my stats, Arsenal wins at OT are like hens teeth and always have been. Ive followed the club since the mid 60s and cant recall many victories there, even in our better periods. Its a graveyard for Arsenal, largely defeats punctuated with the odd draw every few years or so. Thats period that AW gave us from 1998 to about 2003 was a rare period where OT didn't create the usual meltdown. To be honest, i cant see much changing tonight unless the front players have a purple night.