Man Utd Preview: Win Or Bust, It’s Not That Simple

All aboard! The Title Express is ready to depart

Sometimes your mind wanders. Who for instance would have thought Chelsea and City would have dropped points unexpectedly having been offered the opportunity to put Arsenal out of the title race. Well, not entirely out of the race but certainly on the back foot. Now, West Brom and Norwich City have offered Arsenal the opportunity to return to the top of the Premier League.

The headline applies to both sides. Arsenal need three points to keep the title destiny in their own hands, United’s need is to win a place in next season’s European club competitions. Worryingly for them, at least three of the top six will have exited the FA Cup come the sixth round draw closing off the route of extra Premier League places in the Europa League being available. Victory for Sunderland in the League Cup final would leave United with the very real prospect of weeks when midweek games are the sole preserve of other clubs. It is important that Arsenal do not forget the strong need for points they share with tonight’s opponents, that the presumption the club is more wounded does not become counter-productive mentally to the extent of complacency.

Pressure does strange things to people, Mesut Özil was near the infamous ‘Red Zone’ according to reports at the weekend. Arsène countered that with the view that he had ordered the German into the gym to prepare him better physically for the English game. There is no doubt he has looked out of sorts recently but he isn’t the only one either but they didn’t cost £42.5m. The price tag is being offered as a burden by the manager, one immediately knowingly undermined by Wenger’s observation that he ought to be used to pressure having survived the Real experience.

Some of the criticism of Özil is over the top – The Mirror’s betting expert referred the midfielder as being “as useful as a cyst” – but there is no denying a drop in his performance levels. Struggling with the demands of the English game is nothing unusual but sometimes expectations on our part are too high as well. The German has never been prolific in front of goal and at the moment is keeping to his average in that respect. There is however no denying his effectiveness as a creator has diminished since December. With the tag of the club’s most expensive signing, consistency was expected of the player but that does not recognise he is adapting to a new life off the pitch as well as a more ‘robust’ game than before. Like many others, I am convinced he is treading the path Robert Pires followed, struggling in his first campaign before the stratosphere beckoned but it takes time, a precious commodity at the moment.

Wenger himself noted the player needed a rest before Christmas, that he was used to a winter break. England has never taken the sensible course as far as that is concerned and Wenger knew that; if the player needed a rest, it suggests his preparation is not correct for the rigours of the English game. That situation should have improved by now so it is strange to suggest he actually needs a different conditioning; surely that was apparent in September and why wasn’t it tackled then? If it was, why has it been so ineffectively dealt with as the problem still exists five months later?

Against this backdrop, the commercial team has once more com as Arsenal have announced a new partnership with Cooper Tyres. It is another example of the club’s thoughtfulness; when visiting teams park their bus across the penalty area. All they need to do is sign up with a firm of mechanics and a full service can be offered. Arsenal refused to quash the rumour of a deal with NCP to charge teams for bringing their vehicles with them every week.

Not that I expect United to do so entirely tonight but Arsenal will need guile. Moyes’ teams have never been flamboyant but Everton were always well-drilled when they visited The Emirates, I would expect United to be the same. Arsène is hampered by the lack of changes he can make. The manager observation yesterday,

“After a big disappointment like that you always sit there thinking: ‘Do I make five or six changes or do I give them a chance to show it was just an accident?’ And most of the time you give the players a chance, especially if they have done well before. If there is a continuity of a bad patch you have to change things but, if it is just one game, most of the time you give the players a chance to respond.”

That’s a tough call because too many of the players were off-key to allow an unchanged side to take the field. Of course he is limited by injuries with Tomas Rosicky the only likely change in midfield and Kieran Gibbs an obvious defensive change to counter the likely recall of Valencia for United. Podolski and Gnabry might come in but I doubt it. It begs the question of who drops out: Wilshere, Cazorla or Özil? Wilshere is the obvious candidate but to me it would be the wrong choice. United will seek to stifle in midfield and I think Arteta will benefit from Wilshere and Rosicky meeting their opponents snappy tackles with their own. The Spaniard is not going to make way in such a high-profile game for an experiment with a Wilshere / Rosicky axis underpinning the team. Personally I would take the German and rest him for the reasons above; it is a big game but if he is struggling physically, Arsenal can ill-afford a passenger. Cazorla is more attuned to the English game and as such better prepared for the battle.

It leaves the line-up,

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Rosicky, Arteta, Wilshere; Cazorla, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the line-up is, what formation is employed. Tonight is primarily about the result but also the performance. Arsenal have talked the talk about the response to Saturday, now they have to walk the walk. Reprieves have been issued, it’s time for the jaws of the gift horse to be opened wide.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

368 thoughts on “Man Utd Preview: Win Or Bust, It’s Not That Simple

  1. does arterta actually know how to turn with the ball?the guy’s default movement is to pass the ball back were its coming from.

  2. @MesutsLeftFoot the plan was a draw all the time, and a win would be a bonus. thats what we played for, thats how we were set up. dissaponting yes.

  3. Its just dissapointing thate could have gone top and took the title in our hands. Now we have our games and wait for a slip up.

  4. 11 statues best describes arsenals movement at times. We have so much potential to unlock defences, its so frustrating not seeing players want to make runs or take any chances. U dont need to be walcott to make a cleaver run from deep. Ox did that 2 games back and suddenly we had two goals. Come on!

  5. even if wenger signs a striker he wont use him or he wont get the best out of him, he’ll sign someone for 40mil ask him to play with his back to goal and pass it back to ozil..

    making them both look shit..

  6. whilst I blame the players to some extent, it is the manager that the Boo’s should have been aimed at. It is not that the result was poor, far from it. It was the lack of desire to actually win the game that annoys people and it isn’t the first time we have seen this from Arsenal this season.

    We have a terrific midfield, but we don’t have any runners

  7. @ bill and poodle

    Exactly…after anfield surely the topmost priority was not to lose and sneak a win if possible…you could see from the first RVP chance that confidence had clearly been rattled since the 5-1 and it would have un-realistic to expect anything else..

    Its okay to say this united side is poor, but they still do have the quality to win big football games..So to that extent well done Kos, Mert and Scz in particular…I thought Gibbs, Ozil and Carzola were also really good today…Giroud is at least getting into good positions, a couple need to go in and the legs will be back for sure..Rosicky and Jack were slighly disappointing with their wayward passing..Arteta and Sagna looked okay but not great…

  8. MA

    Just amazing isn’t it, we have had such a great season and Liverpool on are catching us up already.

    If Liverpool go in front of us, it will be truly funny.

  9. Bill,

    I think that is exactly the way Arsene sees it as well. He would rather get something and live to fight another day. If we would have went all out and lost after that horrible Liverpool result, I think he feared it may lead to catastrophe. So, he chose to stop the bleeding.

  10. What annoys me is I have suffered against those bastards over the years, here was our chance to put them to the sword, very dissappointing

  11. Exactly, Anirudh (and Bill!)

    After Saturday’s debacle, the most important thing was not too lose this game. Clean sheet as well.

    Still very much in it.

  12. at one point you saw Wilshire with the ball looking for any runners…………everyone was rooted to the ground. They need education in movement if that hasn’t been drummed into them and if it has, players need to wake up and keep pace with the game.
    getting a draw is ok because loosing is inconceivable but not increasing your chances of scoring by simple movement is a crime.

  13. @Moe

    “If Man City win their postponed game, we will be third! 3 points from 4th!

    That just kinda shocked me.


    Importantly even with a City win we’ll be 1 point off top as well. This result hurts United far more, especially with Spurs and Liverpool winning again.

  14. I did not watch the game but I can guess what it looked like. The reality is that I don’t think think we were consciously playing for a draw. Other then the a few dynamic games early in the season we have been playing like this nearly the entire year and it has worked very well. We have been remarkably consistent in figuring out how to nick a goal or two in almost every game. We don’t have scorers so we can’t afford to be overly aggressive. This is our game plan and it’s been working.

  15. @Harry

    That may be the case, but I really want to get at this issues (repetitive issues I might add) with regards to why there is such a lack of runners from the midfield. If we want to use Giroud has we have been then we need runners, so why is no one doing the job? It is easy to sit here and pretend I or we have all the answers, and I don’t, but if we are stacking the midfield to pass the ball then why not have Giroud play off the shoulder rather than having him play with his back to goal. I just don’t get it.

  16. Bill

    Very true, but we no longer have the goal scorers. Is it just Ramsey? I mean i can’t even remember where all of our goals came from. It just seemed like Ramsey was popping up with most of them.

    And Walcott is gone as well.

    I have no solution, but at the moment we will not pose a threat to Bayern. We need someone to start banging them in again.

  17. Here’s the thing we have players that can create and score goals no doubt about it but they aren’t being used properly. Santi and Ozil can only create so much because they are not runners its not their game, they are creators who will find you and pick any pass they want but they are not runners.

    When we countered Ozil and Santi were the ones driving the team on the counter but had nobody running with them. Arsene is getting things wrong and he is playing for draws at home when we should go for wins and playing wide open against the big clubs away from home when we should be playing for a draw and not to get slaughtered.

    I know Jack is Arsenes favorite but at present he should not be starting and should be a squad player until he does get back to his best. We don’t have time to let Jack play his way back onto form similar to the way we let Ramsey do last term.

  18. lol, Robbie Earl is a moron. How on earth can he think United well be the happier when they have fallen further behind the race for 4th.

  19. “If”, Poodle.

    What’s next? Sunderland at home. Eminently winnable (2-0. Both goals in the 2nd half ;)).

    MA, I share the concerns. I also cannot fathom what is going on with the Pod. I think he really is a goner…

  20. The bespectacled scumbag has lost his feeble mind.

    If he doesn’t have confidence in his other 3 ‘strikers’, why not fucking sign proper ones who know what to do with a ball instead of that xexelento??? Huh? All we hear about is that he is the smartest person to walk the earth since civilization began – yet habitually gets outfoxed by all sundry.

    A trophy of any sort will continue to evade us while this imbecile is in charge. Vai catar coquinho.

  21. @Moe

    What made Ramsey great this season was his desire to get in to dangerous areas. Looking at this Arsenal side and excluding injuries where can you see a player replacing that kind of energy? Santi hovers in the middle around the 18 yard box. Jack is deeper and Arteta rarely even see’s the 18 yard line chalk. Ozil sit around the 18 yard box right or left side most of the time. Oxlade is a not a regular starter but again he comes from so deeper it is more difficult to be that guy. He is in my mind however the most likely. So honestly when you look at it we just don’t make runs how and with Ramsey out and Theo for the season we lack penetration.

  22. Don’t ask stupid questions pal. Anyone who has watched us play in the past 3 months know whom i’m referring to.

  23. MA

    So what’s the solution? Arsene has lost Ramsey and Walcott, nothing he can do about that. But i would play Gnabry on the right, Rosicky with Flamini next game, Podolski on the left and Ozil in the middle.

    Haven’t seen Sanogo, so i don’t know about him but maybe he can replace Giroud for FA Cup.

    But it’s hard for me to leave out Cazorla because he looks a threat from distance, but again so does Podolski.

    But seriously something has to change.

  24. MA

    I think today you have to factor in that no one wanted to get caught ahead of the ball in case the move breaks down in the wake of the anfield performance…from both sides….hence we had a game of that nature…it was not completely surprising at all given the awful results for both united and us last weekend..

  25. Moe and MA

    I agree…I also think AOC thro the middle looks like the best option in Ramseys absence..

    And I think it will happen in our next 3 games..

    There are some crazy parallels with our run of the bad result at city followed by the chelsea game at home, including the awful weather 😀

  26. Miami.

    Giroud is not the sort of striker who can influence a game playing off the shoulder or facing the goal. I don’t remember the back to the goal set up last season but for the most he was no more effective last year then now. The back to the goal thing gives him the best chance to do something positive. He needs to stay close to goal so he can get on the end of crosses near the 6 yards box or headers or rebounds. You have to set up back to goal when you are inside the penalty area. He can’t go 25 yards from goal and face the goal and get the ball because he does not move with the ball at his feet. I am sure there are couple exceptions but I don’t remember him doing anything positive when he has the ball facing goal. Almost every goal he scores is a header or a tap in of a low cross. I suspect the lack of runners you talk about is not a lack of desire but related our predictability. If they Against Palace we had people running into the box after passing the ball to Giroud but palace got a foot in and broke up the play whenever he tried to pass.

  27. I’m not your pal, Borges Spaghetti.

    Er, anyway, I agree with Arinduh. Little bit cagey. Understandably so, after the shambolic display on Saturday. See what happens against Sunderland. See if the “fucking moron” can guide us to three points…

    Heh, JJ. You know I have to hand out the rose tinted specs, seeing as no other bugger is gonna do it…


  28. JonJon,

    You really think we we are going to beat Liverpool at the Emirates on Sunday after failing to do so against a weakened Manchester United? That same Liverpool side that clipped our wings and tucked our tails into our asses 4 days ago?

  29. @Borges Spinelli So its cold and gray in Canada eh? guess the Poor Arsenal result deffo did not light the mood? 🙂

  30. @Borges Spinelli

    Your comments on Arsene are just plain stupid. I am going to assume it is because your frustration has boiled over. This man has us 1 point off the top of the table after 26 games… at the start of this season, how many here would have taken that? Calm down.


    Honestly, I don’t know mate. I wish I had an answer. It strikes me as a waste of our talent in the midfield if we are going to use Giroud as a target man when it is plain to all we have no one at this time able to provide the penetration Ramsey did prior to his injury. Ramsey is rather unique in that this season his confidence was high and his contributions showed that. Ramsey also has an incredible engine and he is a true box to box midfielder, the only one in the side. If Giroud is to be a target man we have to work off him, it isn’t happening when he is isolated and there are no runners. I don’t think outside Ox we have someone able to do what Ramsey did. Even then we are not talking anything close to like for like. At this juncture, I would say to Giroud play of the shoulder and that should better incorporate the balls from Ozil and Santi. I’m not confident however that he has the kind of pace to do that.

    Just saw Arsene’s comments, quite pleased with the result. I guess he did play for a draw.

  31. I think i need to go to bed before we all get to cranky. After all its not over until the fat lady sings and she’s not singing before the snow goes and one can finally go to work in a shorts again. And that my good folks are ages until yet.

    Im very disappointed with the way we approached the game today. Only time will tell if it was a point gained or two points lost…

  32. @Bill

    “I don’t remember the back to the goal set up last season but for the most he was no more effective last year then now”

    Really mate? Do you just make this stuff up in an attempt to wind me up? Giroud has always played with his back to goal. Go watch some video from the season and come back again when you are ready 🙂

  33. @Miami Arsenal s see both you and I know that if we know this then AW knows it too.. I agree its weird that with that knowledge he does not address the problem. He knows and deliberately sets up the team like he does.

  34. @Poodle

    Clearly from Arsene’s commentary it is plain that whilst delighted he is quite happy with the draw. As a fan we wanted more, he clearly feels a draw was a good result. He is a smart man, so it makes us all question his thinking when you see issues glaringly not addressed,

  35. This game was like watching childbirth.

    not pleasant viewing and praying that nothing goes wrong whilst helplessly watching on.

    at least we didn’t lose….thanks szcezcezesny for stopping that dutch cunt from ruining all our lives …again….bring on the fodder.

  36. We are what we are. A good side that Arsene fears isn’t good enough to go toe to toe with the very best sides. He’s lost Theo and Ramsey. He may well be right.

    The thing is, what is the point in not going for it with what we have. Would we be any worse off.? Would he?

  37. We haven’t the luxury of games to play it safe until April. Moreover those so-called softer games aren’t guaranteed to end in our favor. Today’s game was a missed opportunity to reassert ourselves by boldly stating a desire to win.

  38. still 36 points to play for, which means there is a long way to go. We are 1 point of top, although goal difference would come in to play then.

  39. @Bob

    But how can he think that we arent good enough to go toe to toe with top sides yet against those sides when we play away from the Emirates he tells the players go try and outscore them. Its all backwards and that’s why I personally can’t understand us playing strictly for a draw tonight.

  40. Miami.

    I don’t remember us talking about the back to goal set up last season. However, we have been talking about it since the beginning of this year.

    Either way, the point is that there are not really any other things that OG can do effectively besides set up with his back to goal when we have he ball. All of the strengths of his game are accentuated when he plays back to goal and those skills don’t really translate to someone who plays facing the goal.

  41. heres the thing though..
    weve not had theo all season..
    and the mentality began to change when rambo was still in the squad..he went 6 games without scoring after hull game before he was crocked..
    our best footy was at the start after the villa game where ozil was drifting from flank to flank and playing it into onrushing players..mainly rambo and giroud…
    we werent playing through giroud we were looking for runners…
    all this back to goal shit start until after the hull game and we went 4 games without a win and we never recover our pre december system
    we kept playing through giroud, but theo was back and was giving us a natural outlet so it worked from around the westham game were podolski was back as well…kinda..

    then theo was injured and we kept the same system with no outlet, rambo was injured, not used podolski, kept ozil tucked in with no wingers and no forwards (cant class a player who plays with his back to goal 30 yards out a forward and) and weve struggled, but somehow stayed in the mix and now the big games are here again and we are looking to repeat our 4 game non winning streak when we had rambo and theo in the team and giroud facing the wrong way and not scoring the goals he was scoring before..

    that may all sound confusing but what im saying is that weve still got the players, its not the players..giroud can score when hes facing the right way and ozil can play him in when hes running forward not stood still…rosickys a creative threat ,cazorla, podolski can score goals,
    its the system..its the tactics..its the manager and his obsession with a single back to goal striker system that developed midway through the season that also hindered rambo, that he loves to use against the better sides and is capable of seeing us go 4-5 games without a win against them as a result..

    we can still attack without rambo and theo…look at the attacking players weve got still..its not the players..
    why would you play a 460 when youve got the players weve got

    against liverpool we could only score from a pen..tonight we never looked like scoring and our keeper was the busiest..this setup is shit and getting on my tits and if david moyes, stevie wonder, ray charles and 1000’s of armchair managers can see it a mile off then why cant our manager??

    need a big win against liverpool now…and roll on sunderland… back to getting points from flat track bullying against lesser quality defences that cant hold out for 90minutes..

    forget bayern..barring a bloody miracle where jesus , santa and the easter bunny are looking down on us with their arsenal shirts on then we are going to get dicked on…

    FA cup the priority and get some momentum back although knowing wenger as we do………..

  42. @Bill

    In all honesty I think it is more to do with the way Arsenal playing right now versus last season. Giroud hasn’t changed his style of play at all, what has changed is Arsenal players are more focused on positioning. I personally think the latter has benefitted the defense this term, however that mind set has also contributed to a noticeable difference in an attacking sense. This Arsenal side has recorded it’s 12th clean sheet in 26 matches and in the 26 goals conceded 42% came against City and Liverpool.

    It is just my opinion, but I think this side was more built with a counter attacking feel with a faster transition from defense to attack. The problem is, we get deeper as a team defending and have no obvious out balls with Theo out. Look at the counter today on the 38th minute or so, we had 4 players running forward, 3 in space. Yet, the conclusion was 3 of the 4 touched the ball and it ended up being rolled back in the middle field as we allowed the defense to settle once again. We are ponderous in attack, in part because of the over passing but it is also the lack of movement in front of the ball. This can be Giroud at times no question, but it is also the lack of runners from the midfield.

  43. Just back from the game – glad I didn’t pay for that – and we got what we deserved.

    The lack of late (or any) runs into the box made crossing utterly futile – so bizarre to watch this crime repeated so many times, seemingly without care.

    RVP should have has put us to the sword inside a minute – hard to imagine we would have come back from that.

    With that in mind, a draw is good.

  44. i worry that we can only get 1 point from a david moyes managed utd..

    but yeah your right a draw at the weekend is no fucking good..
    lets get it won

    stop playing through giroud and start using our 42mil playmaker to create the openings instead or else what the point in playing him…just so ppl can question his ?

    i dont remember anelka and henry playing backward and holding the ball up when we had bergkamp spraying the passes..

    pull your sox up and make a run and he’ll find you….

  45. At least Chelsea n City have both dropped points for us to be still within a touching distance.Liverpool -the biggest winners during these two last games.

  46. Miami.

    I honestly don’t remember the back to goal that much last season. I know we never talked about it but I will accept that Giroud has not changed his game. I think Arsene designed the system this season to fit Girouds skills. If he really did not like the system then he would make them change. I agree that we are extremely ponderous in attack.

    I don’t think this squad was built to counter attack. All of his Arsene’s teams since he broke up the 03/04 title team have been built on ball control and possession. We have seen almost no counter attacking this season and I would expect that if we really had planned to counter attack I would think we would at least see them trying to push the ball forward faster even if it was not working. You have said yourself many times that Giroud is doing what he is told and you can’t counterattack while facing away from goal

    The other problem with counter attacking is the best outlet should be the striker. He is always the furthest forward. However, if the ball goes to OG’s feet it’s going to slow down or stop. I am sure there are exceptions but I have never seen him run forward with the ball at his feet or pass when he is facing the goal and moving. His best passes are 1 touch passes with his back to goal. Any counter attack would by necessity have to bypass him and its hard to run a counter attack well if you have to bypass the player who is furthest forward and in the center of the pitch.

  47. I’m going to comfort myself and point to the fact that all teams are losing points in a weird way. For example Chelsea beats Man City away then draw with WBA at home.

    I can’t ignore that Man United having the shittiest of all seasons, yet we managed only 1 point out of 6 and they managed 4.

    No Pain….No Pain…..No Pain

  48. This is the problem with dropping to Liverpool and getting smacked.

    In similar circumstance during Death Run 1, we were beat by City and had to play with caution against Chelsea resulting in a draw.

    Wenger may have been rightfully cautious not risking any further damage if we dropped another 3 points in this game but that caution also affected our play in some ways 9and in many ways of course, the players themselves were suffering from their own psychosis of the recent defeat)

    The permutations now is that we have dropped 5 points and City with their game in hand are likely to steam roll past us. if they do, it will mean it is slightly out of our hands with two very strong teams ahead.

    We will either have to beat both of them (do we really think this likely?) or hope they continue to shed points to minnows.

    Our tactics this season err on caution and whilst effective against the smaller teams have seemed to be slightly wanting against the better opposition.

    considering the margins being so slim this season, I would think it not enough that we beat the small teams but that we will at some point have to take points off the near competitors.

    I’m not so sure we have the firepower or confidence to do so.

  49. I think the better opposition have figured out our game.

    We simply haven’t found a way to integerate Podolski and use him more effectively as an asset.

    Wenger is cautious (in some ways correct) in protecting the Santi- Giroud- Ozil axis but do we have a different approach to scoring goals sans Walcott in Podolski?

    Goals are a bit of a problem against the teams around us, unless City wants to play who can score more.

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