Manchester United Preview: Lacazette Absence Mars Attack

Speaking after the World Cup draw, Gareth Southgate reflected on a comment about wallcharts. It was a time of the “purity” of football. League ladders, stickers, cards from bubble gum packs; you think of all those things and then find, as Isaac wrote yesterday, that the press room teaboy had a brain fart moment and declared tonight’s game, the ‘Billion-dollar Match”.

The Championship Playoff Final is the ‘£100m match’ with hyperbole playing its’ role. This is ten times that, but only in the most irrelevant way.

Surprisingly, no-one linked it to the managers; it’s ripe for the label ‘Mouger’ or ‘Wenrinho’ derby. Or with Mourinho involved, perhaps the ‘Monger’ derby is a better sobriquet?

Football’s obsession with pigeonholing everything surely reached the nadir when Wednesday’s meeting with Huddersfield became the ‘Chapman derby’?

Perhaps the press can just leave labels to supporters; we managed to categorise these games for years before the cathode ray tube products needed selling.

If we hated a team – and even during their lean years, there was plenty of that for United – their geography came into play. United were ‘northern c*nts’. It suited Manchester’s geography and most of their supporters lived in the northern home counties. Or the south west of England. Anywhere but Manchester.

But football has changed. The cult of the manager always existed but Don Revie is the only one I remember as being genuinely despised. David Pleat found himself on the wrong end of Arsenal wit, found in what is best described as the wrong place at any time. Clough, you either loved or hated but either way, his achievements and the manner in which his sides played football, demanded respect.

Mourinho? He plumbs the well of hatred deeper than anyone else and in United, found his perfect club.

You Got a Police Record, Son?

For Arsenal, the game changed when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drilled home the winner in the 2015 Community Shield. A high-profile friendly but it eroded Mourinho’s mental grip over Wenger. Last season’s league win made the stat irrelevant; it’s no longer a mental failure, just a bad record; a ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ if you like.

For the two clubs, the backdrop to the game could hardly be more different. United are ready to sign everyone, and a pulse is considered an optional extra. Arsenal can’t even get their best two players to sign new deals. Mesut Özil wants to go and “revealed he is still in contact with a European manager”.

It’s Zinedine Zidane before you ask, not Arsène at training. The German is the focal point of today. Injuries bit on Wednesday; Alexis appears to be recovered from his hamstring twang but Alexandre Lacazette’s groin-gah is set to keep him out until Liverpool.

The question for Wenger is who replaces the club record signing. Would Lacazette have played anyway? I think so; the starting XI against Tottenham is the one Arsène has his faith in and it’s why he didn’t rotate the side as expected on Wednesday.

Giroud with two goals against Huddersfield might expect to be the man. It’s the least disruptive change, leaving Alexis in the freer role of supporting striker. However, Danny Welbeck’s return to the matchday squad offers an alternative vision.

To be honest, I’m struggling with that one. The former United striker isn’t, in my view, an ideal central striker and while he is quicker than Giroud, he lacks the predatory instincts or rather, the finishing we need.

Magic Moments

With Alex Iwobi doubtful, Wenger’s options are limited on the left. Alexis moving into the centre will bring either Wilshere or Welbeck into the XI. As much as I’d like to see Jack back in the team, that switch will only result in Welbeck starting.

We’re football fans though, and we do like to cling onto moments in matches, extrapolating them across a career. Welbeck in our eyes has the ‘Indian sign’ over United. A couple of goals makes it that way, especially the one which confirmed their FA Cup exit at Old Trafford. You can never get enough of those moments from players.

Welbeck in United eyes might not be such an issue as Giroud. Bailly, their most impressive defender, is out and to be honest, seeing the way United wobbled at Vicarage Road, the more robust Giroud can unsettle them.

In midfield though, it’s Aaron Ramsey who is in the limelight. His form has been excellent in recent weeks and like Özil, the performance against Tottenham brings with it hope. While you can’t ignore the performances against Huddersfield, I expect good games from that calibre of player against smaller clubs.

Today is the match where they earn their corn as far as reputations are concerned. The pair lead the stats with 5 assists each – Sead Kolasinac is third with four – and the attacking freedom is paying dividends for the Welshman. However, the concern is Granit Xhaka’s habit of dropping a ricket into (almost) calamitous situations. The Switzerland international needs to dig deep and rediscover the consistency which made Arsenal sign him in the first place.

A Traditional Four-Pointer

It’s a match we can’t afford to lose. While a win brings us a point closer and gives us an immeasurable confidence boost, it also keeps the gap to Spurs at four points at least. They can win but every week that gap remains four points, they know their wobble costs them dearly. Who knows, they might even fall foul of Watford today. I doubt it; that’s our preserve.

Finally, as you limber up for the evening’s offerings, there’s a new post on Dad’s Jukebox which takes us back to 2010.

’til Tomorrow.

150 thoughts on “Manchester United Preview: Lacazette Absence Mars Attack

  1. Wavey,

    Xhaka just ran to the middle of the six yard box. Only Lingard to pick up and he ignored him

    If I’m not mistaken they’ve had three shots on target and scored three times. We should be out of sight by now. Instead two back.

  2. The kind of performance that could cause a dressing room bust up, as the forward line have got every right to give the CBs some grief.

  3. Damon,

    I agree that the run should have been covered off, but Kos allowed himself to get beaten way too easily as he had Pogba closed down.

  4. My daughter is watching the game and just threw her cup of water that the ref didn’t call that penalty.

    Another fucking penalty that wasn’t called

  5. Another run about to be ended by United. Another game where we are the better team, but are going to lose due to stupid play.

  6. Well…our defenders let us down massively with horrible individual decision making.

    Doesn’t help that we were denied a clear penalty either.

  7. Watching us trying for most of the match to unpick the lock of a Mourinho parked bus is so painfully familiar. What did we earn for our admittedly dedicated and rnergetic efforts? One beautiful goal and two plausible penalty calls.
    One could say ‘Not a bad return considering DeGea’s genius’ but I can’t help wondering why Wenger hasn’t developed a Plan B for such occasions.

  8. Watching us trying for most of the match to unpick the lock of a Mourinho parked bus is so painfully familiar. What did we earn for our admittedly dedicated and rnergetic efforts? One beautiful goal and two plausible penalty calls.
    One could say ‘Not a bad return considering DeGea’s genius’ but I can’t help wondering why Wenger hasn’t developed a Plan B for such occasions.

  9. I think Kozzer must be rested, except we do not have any proper CBs if he does not play — and yet he was overwhelmed by Pogba and Lukaku both physically and for pace.

    He must really have a problem with that bloody achilles, as he has carried the defence for years, but now looks shot.

    I know this might sound silly — but we could have won that game — 15 shots on goal and just scored once — Manure had 4 shots on goal and scored 3 goals — and then we did not get a stonewall penalty — bolllix!!

  10. Love or hate him (I hate him) Mourinho is a far better tactician than Wenger. As soon as they they got the second goal he was on the touchline rearranging his formation and instructing his players.

    Wenger sat in his seat and was as active as a stuffed badger. He only got off his arse to moan at the fourth official.

  11. HenryB,

    You don’t sound crazy at all, we bossed that match but our defenders particularly Kos and Mustafi let us down and then De Gea showed why onlu Neuer and Buffon rank above hin as far as world GK’s.

    I mean hiw unlucky was Lacazette: hits the bottom of the post after creating something from nothing and then De Gea making a world class save to deny him (then Sanchez in the rebound).

  12. Huge respect for Ozil, who refused to give up and was creative to the last. And to find him running back to tackle just outside our penalty area near the end of the game…
    Pundits Flamini (yup!…stick to your oil business mate) and Gary Nevill have made no mention of the late penalty calls. I’m sure Arsene won’t be so negligent…

  13. If you’re an Arsenal fan and can’t take positives from this match, then there’s a problem. And if you tried downgrading Wenger for this loss, then you need to take a look at yourself.
    Koscielny and Mustafi bottled this match and must accept the responsibility of messing up….while the team, especially the attackers tried all they could to bring it back, DeGea and the Ref had other ideas. Maybe you’ll agree now that there’s a ref bias against Arsenal.
    I think the guys can leave the pitch with their heads held high…
    If we continue with this form on the pitch, no team can stop us.

    The loss is a sad one, especially considering that we were by far the better team…. I take only positives from here.

  14. Oludoton

    I am going to watch the game later so I can’t comment but a ManU supporter who called me thought the opposite. He thought the ref should have given Pogba a yellow rather then a red and he thought the ref was trying to help us. It’s his contention the refs don’t like Mourinho so they are biased against United.

  15. Believe it or not there is a segment of the ManU supporters who think the refs are biased because they want anyone but United to win.

  16. We are in 5th place and somewhere between 12-15 points off the top in early December after 15 games. Arsène can take credit for matching the expectations most of us had at the start of the season

  17. We are on course to collect 70-71 points. I am expecting 73-75 points but we can still make up that gap. It looked for a while like it could have been worse after losing those games at Liverpool and Stoke.

  18. No credit to be had here. It’s a competitive sport and we were bested where it mattered.

    Our defence was poor and we could not finish.

    Yes, we had the possession and we were all over them. We scored once. That had three shots and scored three times.

    Game over. I bloody hate this.

    I have seen some bang on ordinary Arsenal teams, this one has more talent than almost all the sides that I have watched in almost 50 years. Do they know how to win? Can they deliver consistently. No, they cannot.

    This is frankly embarrassing. We are making bloody Maureen look good and I bloody hate that too.

  19. consolsbob,

    I’m gutted, but I can’t be as hard on them as you Bob. The attacking performance was impressive against another top 6 team. You really wouldn’t expect to get as many chances against a team managed by Maureen, so it’s no real surprise that many of them were half chances. When we did get through the keeper was brilliant. My only real criticism of Wenger’s substitute choices was Iwobi as the first sub (I probably would have put Welbz on) and Giroud on as well as Lacazette (I thought Giroud got in his way). We were badly let down on the day by two players and apart from that we were able to handle United (I accept that Xhaka could have done a better job tracking back for the third though). If we can play with the same fire as that more often we will actually be a pretty good team.

  20. Games like yesterday are just horrible. We threw everything at em but they had the luck.

    Looks like its going to be a whitewash down under as well. We are woeful. Now watch us fanny about chucking our wickets away . will they in force the follow on??

  21. Dukey,

    At least the rain has brought the day’s play to an early end. Just need it to rain for three more days, or indeed the next month. 😕

  22. how does a team have 75% possession, 33 shots and still lose 3-1…at home.
    riddled with individual errors – cant defend and cant finish.
    its always been the same in the high pressure matches, unfortunately.

  23. JonJon,

    Quite right. Not new at all. A season or two back we lost a number of the games against top six teams by two or three goals with only a similar number of shots on goal

    Everyone knows we’ll play loose defence and attack. Worked out years ago you sit tight against us and play on the break. Maureen’s only moan was that they weren’t tight enough yesterday

  24. It would be really nice to see us start a big game with the mindset of “do not concede in the first 20 mins” rather than “let’s try and win it in the first 20 minutes”

  25. CBs got a pasting for their individual mistakes, Damon.
    rightly so

    but for a strikeforce thats regarded the one of the worlds best to score 1 goal out of 33 chances is just as pathetic. if not more

    goals win games – to coin an old phrase – doesnt matter what our CBs did, our attackers should have won us that game.

    just another game where they cant finish their dinner..get exposed as hype jobs – then next week they’ll be flat track bullies again and regarded world class by a manager whos just as deluded…

  26. damon

    a mindset of trying to not concede at all would be better.

    if it takes our hypejobs 33 chances to score one goal we’re going to need to keep a whole heap of clean sheets to not get beaten.

  27. JonJon,

    You’re right. But we won’t play keepers of DeGea’s calibre in that sort of form every week. I wouldn’t want to see us ever play for. Nil nil. That’s Jose’s mindset

    To make a boxing analogy, I’d like us to get through the first three rounds without taking any heavy shots, find our range and work out where some chinks in the armour might be. Take the fight to them after that. Rather this continual nonsense of just going out and playing no matter the opponent or their set uo

  28. I agree that we should have taken some of those chances, but we were up against a top 6 team and a number of those chances were not clear cut. De Gea got in the way of pretty much everything we threw at him. Iwobi got a few chances which I was wishing had fallen to someone else, whilst Xhaka’s miss was criminal. We should have been a bit crisper in our finishing, but if that had been a 1-0, or a 1-1 we would have been praising the performance and slagging off Maureen for parking the bus again. United have only conceded 9 goals from 15 games, so they are bloody hard to score against. It hurts more because a good team display was let down by individuals making amateur mistakes at the back.

  29. Morning all
    Well if you schoolboy defend and go 0-2 down in ten minutes and then the best keeper in the world breaks the PL record of 14 saves in one match you know it’s not your day but Pogba being sent off went against us as Mourunho changed his tactics and built a wall.
    Notice lacazette scored by lifting the ball, others couldn’t do it,it was like a pinball wizard penalty box.
    I am not blaming any individuals because we can’t defend as a unit and never will under Wenger.

    Looking at the table this morning we are fifth and have lost 3 and drawn one against the top 4 above us scoring 2 and conceding 10.

    It tells a familiar story,year after year.We are second tier and a majority shareholder who takes petty cash and doesn’t invest. It doesn’t take 100’s of millions but a younger manager , better scouts and a less predictable approach.Wenger will never change.Football is big business and you have to speculate to accumulate.

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