United Preview: Time To Put The Past Behind Us

It’s the hope that keeps you going. It’s the hope that eats you from the inside. This year is going to be our year, the one where everything is different. This is the year where the lessons of the past are learned and we move forward.

This year is usually the same as last as far as Arsenal are concerned when it comes to Manchester United (A) in the fixture list. No matter how poor United are, they invariably beat us or at the very least, stop us winning. It’s been the same every season for the past decade save for one sixth round FA Cup tie.

There are all manner of statistical markers to say we’ll lose today. The ‘Mourinho Effect’; ten years since we last won there; Wenger always loses his first match against a United manager; take your pick, we aren’t winning whichever way we look at it.

So it’s just hope which is left to rely on.

Earlier this year, on the back of beating Leicester at the Emirates to haul ourselves back into the title race, we turned in one of the worst performances of the season the following week during the 3 – 2 defeat at Old Trafford. It underlined the hex/jinx/indian sign hanging over Arsenal. Why should today be any different?

We’re in better form, for a start. Two draws in the last two home games are disappointing results for different reasons but mainly due to the opposition. Away from home, it’s a different story, unbeaten in eight in all competitions although arguably this is our most difficult game this season on our travels.

And despite spending hundreds of millions of pounds in the summer, the United side which takes to the field today will arguably be worse than the one we faced last season. Injuries are causing Mourinho more headaches than Arsène faces, underpinned by the vanity signing of Paul Pogba. A statement was made. Commercially, it was a good move but in football terms, United needed four £25m players more than they needed the French international.

Having assessed Alexis after training yesterday, it’s pretty much certain that he will start so long as there was no adverse reaction to the hamstring injury which dominated headlines in the past week or so. There’s a strong argument for including Giroud and shifting Alexis to the left – particularly since Iwobi had a poor game against Spurs – but the danger is that it doesn’t leave us with a ‘Plan B’ from the bench up front. The only alternative in that formation is Walcott into the centre.

In midfield, you can make the case for any of Elneny, Xhaka or Ramsey to start alongside Francis Coquelin. The latter will be chomping at the bit and missing out today would certainly lean him toward leaving in January should Real Madrid come a-knocking as the rumour mill claims they will.

Xhaka was probably close to, if not, our Man of the Match in the north London derby and his inclusion seems most likely, especially with an attacking quartet ahead of him. As much as we rely on Alexis for the goals, the three supporting players – Iwobi, Özil and Walcott – will be equally important and need to be effective in front of goal.

With the Chilean dropping deep to collect the ball, they need to make sure that they are running ahead of him to receive the pass. Ramsey holds the advantage in that sense and I think Arsène will fit him into the team by shifting Theo to the left. Either of Iwobi or Walcott has the advantage of pushing Ashley Young – likely to continue as a makeshift right wing back – onto the back foot, or at least making him warier of pushing forward in support of the attack.

The added benefit comes with offering Carl Jenkinson extra support. Arsène made it clear Shkodran Mustafi isn’t shifting to full back for the next month so the choice is the specialist right back or Gabriel, a centre back who played on the left briefly for Villarreal. Unless Arsène has no confidence in Jenks at all, it’s hard to see Gabriel getting the nod ahead of him.

Cech; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Ramsey, Özil, Walcott; Alexis

There’s a lot of talk about ‘making statements’ with a win this afternoon. It will be good for the players’ confidence to win, I have not doubt but will it make anyone think any different of us? We might drop three points out of the race for a week or two but with Chelsea facing Spurs and Manchester City in their next two games, dropped points might be quickly recovered if we win.

And winning is what it’s all about. Defence mechanisms about closing gaps which open underline the edginess when thinking about the match. It’s certain that Mourinho will set his stall out from kick-off not to lose. From there, United will look to nick a winner. Forget the swash and buckle of Ferguson’s United, this one is a pale imitation of the past but nonetheless, still difficult for us to beat. But this is another of those visits to Old Trafford when we can win.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

175 thoughts on “United Preview: Time To Put The Past Behind Us

  1. C,

    Was poor against PSG, poor against Spuds and poor against Utd today. Three big games. Three poor performances.

  2. G4E,

    I get what your saying but given how poor overall we were and how Manure looked likely to go and get another goal after that first one, I’ll take the point (not happy but fuck it). Just means we have to really start getting more and more results.

    Lets not forget that even the Invincibles had draws 😉

  3. I so hoped the players would use all the advantages they had leading up to the game – better form, players, plenty of motivation etc to beat mand utd comfortably but frankly we choked and stuttered. Again. I really hope Bould or someone is giving them a good kick up the jacksie. Man Utd are and were totally for the taking. The draw turned out to be a result on the day but three was easily there and more than that a chance to heap pressure on one of your big rivals. We cant be wilting in November again….what will we be like come March, April, May…..playing Sanchez up front was a mistake as someone mentioned he has had a lot of travel last week and it reflected in his drop all over the place performance. giroud was in better shape and by the look on his face when he scored pretty motivated to prove a point.

  4. Adam Singh,

    His ball led to the goal against PSG. Spuds he wasn’t poor and today he didn’t do enough given his standard.

    Sanchez was poor against PSG, Spuds and today; does that make Sanchez not a big game player? Chelsea was a massive match and he was brilliant, arguably MOTM. Last season we saw him time and time again in big matches produce. Lets not go down the Ozil isn’t a big game player route shall we.

  5. C:
    G4E,

    I get what your saying but given how poor overall we were and how Manure looked likely to go and get another goal after that first one, I’ll take the point (not happy but fuck it). Just means we have to really start getting more and more results.

    Lets not forget that even the Invincibles had draws ?

    I agree a point from a lost game is great, and I’m very happy United didn’t get the 3 points.

    But what I don’t like is why put ourselves in this position to begin with? Remember last year’s 3-2…..Very similar today, United generally shit, but we made them look great and we were going to lose again.

    I guess we progressed from last year and got a point.

  6. I wonder how they would have done if we had Giroud getting on the end of crosses earlier in the game? I can understand a manager setting out a game plan he hopes will work, but when it isn’t you have to look to change it rather than hoping it will come right. We allowed them to grow in confidence because we weren’t a threat. Changing the personnel made the difference, so do it when it’s clear the starting set up doesn’t work.
    I agree with C that we can’t play Ramsey in the set up he shines in for Wales, so for me we should take the £25m allegedly on offer in January. At the moment we are playing a square peg in a round hole every time we play him. He doesn’t work as the ball carrier in the middle and definitely doesn’t work on the flanks.

  7. theo being interviewed talks like these are the first points we’ve dropped this year, this is the problem not self critical enough and too self congratulatory…his language is defeatist and submissive. not ‘killers’

  8. G4E,

    I agree, we should have taken all 3 points both last season and today, but we looked poor in both matches.

    The thing for me today was that quite a few players looked leggy and still we persist on with square pegs in round holes and I’m not sure why. Ox might be inconsistent but why not start him on the left flank to give us more of what Iwobi offers in that ability to beat a defender; instead playing Ramsey who wants to drift inside and play centrally. Then why not change it sooner when things didn’t look welll; that is where we agree mate, trust.

  9. Take Cazorla out the team and you get that listless, nothingy football again.

    Drop Iwobi and put in Ramsey and you lose the ability to manipulate the ball in dangerous positions. I’m tired of Ramsey full-stop. Whether in mf or out wide, he does so few of the things we need from a player in his role in this team.

    And suddenly we’re back looking like the team that went through that dismal run last season, but now with a better defence mind you.

  10. Disappointing line up, performance poor and expected. Great point.
    The corporal might yet have a future here, Theo still putting in the work and Oliver may be in a purple patch which could bode well for this unbeaten November run.
    Momentum matters, a defeat would have raised old ghosts.

  11. C:
    G4E,

    I agree, we should have taken all 3 points both last season and today, but we looked poor in both matches.

    The thing for me today was that quite a few players looked leggy and still we persist on with square pegs in round holes and I’m not sure why. Ox might be inconsistent but why not start him on the left flank to give us more of what Iwobi offers in that ability to beat a defender; instead playing Ramsey who wants to drift inside and play centrally. Then why not change it sooner when things didn’t look welll; that is where we agree mate, trust.

    Agreed C, that’s why I said this was about the manager and the selection, not solely on the players.

    I guess we got the point and move on, I just don’t think results like that will not get us the league. We don’t have that opportunist mentality to kick other teams when they’re down. We always make shitty teams feel good about themselves.
    I mean for God sake, Ozil was rested for the international

  12. Sorry al, we didn’t need cazorla today. If Wenger didn’t go missing we would easily have beaten this confidence shot poor utd side. Terrible management cost us. Ditto spuds.

  13. Great preview yogi

    I am actually quite happy we took a point irregardless of the performance. I know everyone was really excited about the way we were playing earlier in the season with the pacey line up but the idea that we had finally found the tactical key that would carry us thru the season was a bit overly optimistic. We have had a run of good form every season in the entire Emirates era. We were counting on Walcott and Alexis to carry us thru the season which was not realistic. When the players you are counting on scoring stop scoring then your attack will grind to a halt. Blaming Ramsey is way off the mark IMO and if we totally fall to pieces when we lose one player like Cazorla we are never going to be consistent.

    We should have started Giroud. I am not a fan of his but even I have to admit that when he is in form he gives us a better chance to win games irregardless of how slow footed he is.

  14. Birdkamp,

    agree 100%. Although only Koscielny was ok today. Everyone else just passed the ball to a Utd player. Ramsey upsets the balance of the team and offers nothing. Wenger always picks him though.

  15. Duke, they’ve found balance in mf these last few weeks. Would have trounced Burnley on any other day and steamrolled Swansea. Injuries or not, they’ve been coming up while we’ve been going down, form-wise. We’ve been out of sorts for a month now.

    It may be true about AW, but role of the manager is nowhere near as easy to identify as the way the team plays without a couple of key players; that’s borne out by the stats, win percentages and whatnot.

  16. Every side will have troughs. The hope is that this will be a brief one, in the sense that there are players waiting in the wings and putting pressure on (Giroud, AOC, Iwobi, Xhaka). This was often lacking in the past.

    And a bit of depth at the back finally. That should help.

  17. Great header from Giroud, one bit of quality attack in the whole match from us, abysmal performance, we still need top class striker

  18. Interesting that we scored when we had an actual striker on the pitch. To my eyes, Giroud is still our best striking option.

    In my opinion, we didn’t properly address the CF position in the summer. I hope that Perez comes good but his lack of involvement prior to his injury doesn’t bode well. Wenger tends to play players that he believes in, irrespective of supposed acclimatisation.

    Aside from Chelsea, our performances against the ‘bigger’ teams have been tepid this season. Liverpool, PSG, Spurs, ManU have all been substandard timid performances.

    And of course, I am stretching the definition of ‘bigger’ to its maximum to accommodate Spurs.

  19. I think Aaron Ramsey upsets the balance of this team-it’s moved on in his absence(with his injuries)-he works in the Wales team as things are built around him supplying.In this team Ozil is the man,but,when Ramsey plays as well it seems to go to shit.
    Elneny,for me,didn’t play well at all-he gave the ball away far too much and some of his short passes around our box were suicidal.Xhaka should have started.Le coq was his usual committed self.Kos-okay,Mustafi-very good,Jenks-did well.Valencia had Montreal in pocket all afternoon.
    Thank god for Giroud-Sanchez was everywhere except the goal mouth.

  20. Giroud, you are officially Super Sub God – and what a cross from the The Ox.

    Apart from that sublime passage of play – utterly bloody clueless from start to finish.

    Did we look organized at any point? I could not detect even the vaguest of tactics or game plan.

    The midfield looked tentative and the forwards were all out of position the entire game. The choice of Ramsey on the left (a false left wing?) an absolute joke- I am sorry but he is just shocking wherever he plays, he has no positional awareness at all.

    A few of us agreed yesterday, we needed to make a statement.

    We did. An unfocused, poorly-managed one. We are right back at the deja-voodoo axis again. Should have taken three points but when all is played out, happy to steal the one, which indicates this season is likely going to be no improvement over the last several.

  21. I don’t understand how our attack seems to be totally neutered by the loss of Cazorla. We have the worlds best #10 and arguably the best creative midfielder in the world and how can he be rendered impotent by losing the player behind him. You would think he could some adjustments and bring back a bit of the fluidity. I could understand if we had lost our leading scorer but If our attack is so intricate and fragile that it collapses with the loss of one midfielder then how can we ever be consistent.

  22. G4E,

    I think thats the thing, at the beginning of the season their looked to be a real commitment to playing a quicker high pressing style that better suited our players; but as players have gotten fit, that seems to have changed and that is down to the manager.

    The thing that is most noticable is that there doesn’t seem to be a commitment to a certain style of play. For instance, look at what Klopp and Pep have done; they have a defined style and their players are playing that style. Again, the beginning of the season we looked like we had a defined style, now not so much.

    The other thing is, why didn’t Xhaka start but more importantly, when he plays he oozes quality, yet Arsene doesn’t start him in big matches. Its sooooo strange.

  23. Who called Ozil the world’s best number 10? Isn’t that Messi.

    Point about Ozil and Walcott is that they’re fantastic (Ozil world class) in the right environment but generally need proper support. To give them extra space and service. Start thinking of them both as forwards, which is how they play, and you understand you need to open up channels deeper on the pitch to bring the best out of them.

    Point about Cazorla isn’t that he’s the fifth element, golden child or some shit; more that he’s a rare player in this squad with tactical awareness, touch and vision rolled in to one. All vital for our football. We knew we needed more, which is why we bought Xhaka, but clearly a player doesn’t just become the fulcrum of a team; he need time to grow into that role.

  24. I unfortunately did not see the Game in its entirety. I see we we have a point.

    We are not going to win the PL. That is 2 chances spurned to go to top and show some kind of intent.

    I said it last week and repeat it again that a club of the stature of Arsenal NOT having have a natural left sided Winger – Player with pace is outrageous.

    A Ramsey is surplus to requirements in the middle of the pitch. He is in my opinion being set up to fail by AW. Everybody can SEE that it does not work. Yet Ramsey is shoe horned into the team.

    In my view we were effectively down to 10 men today in a sense with Ramsey out on the left. Its the same old same old same old. Stutter and start stutter and start. We have no chance of winning the PL. If I were Sanchez I would not sign the damn ting and would fuck right off.

    Although the squad has ” Improved” over all, there are still glaring deficiencies that make up the Whole. There are a number of players I’d ship out without any hesitation.

    The modern game of Football requires that you have to make the pitch as wide as possible. We continually try to thread the ball through the eye of a needle. On a good day it works. But how many good day are there going to be. The Team- Squad is badly imbalanced.

    last night I listened to Les Reed on BBC Radio 5. He explained how Southampton operate their scouting system. He explained how they they have replacements for players lined up 2-3 years in advance. They know that bigger Clubs are going to come knocking and so already have players lined up of whom they will need.

    If you just think how many players they have lost in the 4-5 seasons and yet managed to continue to punch their weight it is quite remarkable. A Certain Mr G Bale now at Real played for the Saints

  25. C-

    “…..The thing that is most noticable is that there doesn’t seem to be a commitment to a certain style of play”

    This.

    Could anyone offer a version, any version of what we were attempting tactically today? I am at a complete loss. Not a single midfield or forward player appeared to have any serious purpose.

  26. If ” We” had a Scouting plan as half decent as Southampton we’d be going places.

    I for one was never excited or enthralled by this seasons start.

    Do you think Klopp Koeman and Pep would send there respective teams imbalanced like that? Its a joke. Its clear for ALL to see that AQ does not have a plan.

    Their is potential and it is only that for the moment to build a decent side. When you look at Liverpool and their options up front it does not take a rocket scientist to see what Klopp has done.

    Our play build can be to convoluted and slow hence teams are able to sit and defend with comparative ease.

  27. In important games you obviously need to put your best players on the pitch, but only if they are fully fit!

    To my mind a player running around with his right thigh strapped up is not fully fit. No matter how much he say’s he fit, and wants to play, it’s the manager who makes the decision.

    Alexis was not fully fit. It was obvious throughout that he was well below par. Because of this Ozil was lost for someone to pass to, someone to make those oh so dangerous runs.

    Because we had no presence in their penalty box there was little or no point in knocking crosses in. Corners were wasted and we were forced into ever more intricate passing manouvres outside the box which resulted sooner or later in lost possession and a scramble to get back inn defence.

    Surely this must have been obvious from the tenth minute to an astute manager. He let the problem fester for way too long. Half-time was the very latest that he should have made changes. As it was he waited far too long making any substitutions.

    Stubborness? Lack of confidence in his bench? Sheer lack of awareness? Perhaps all three.

  28. Ramsey is not a bad player and he does not hurt us but in our system he is not different maker. Same with Ox, Iwobe, and Elneny. They are not the type of players who can be a consistent threat to make something happen when the team is not performing well.

  29. Crumbs – upset the apple cart and piss of for a few days and you get thrown into ‘moderation’.

    Moderation has never been one of my strong points.

  30. -DFS,

    Thats my current issue, as I said, early in the season the style and tactics were clear qnd define: high press, quick tempo and more precise and direct passing. Where is the high pressing, the tempo; Klopp and Pep has transformed their sides in what a handful of matches to play that exact way.

    I wonder if the laxkluster play before the first international break gave Arsene pause instead of staying committed to it?

  31. Hats off to both Ox and Giroud though for making an impact as subs. Both might be widly inconsistent, but I think as impact subs today, they provided what we needed.

  32. Will take the point!
    Do not want to see Ramsey in the side again with Iwobi the better fit, but he will need rest from time to time.
    Arsenal seriously miss Bellerin and Sanchez was no where near ready to play at a high level today.
    Thought it was going to take a clean sheet to win today and it was true.
    D actually played well, and Coq was the best of that unit.
    Ozil needs support to roam and did not find it today. Need PACE on the wings and Ox and Theo provide that, it is one way to move the pieces of the other side around to create space for runners into the box.
    Onward and upward.

  33. rather hoping Debuchy finds his mojo again, and quickly. He scored for the U23s so must be playing and fit. He has to be a better bet than Jenkinson while Bellerin is injured.
    Much as we miss Santi, how hard can it be to pass to someone in your own colour shirt?!
    Please no more Coquelin and Elneny together either. Don’t know why Theo is putting a positive spin on this (“in previous years we’d have lost this”) as Utd just aren’t very good. Players should be upset at how badly they played today.

  34. Orson Kaert,

    Yup, but I think impact subs are the perfect role for both. Both seem capable in 20-30 min bursts but over the course of a 90 they tend to go missing for long stretches.

    Impact subs for both and they would make our bench really strong.

  35. Orson Kaert,

    He just seems to be more reactive than proactive. He waits until we concede a goal before making the changes. It seemed obvious that with little threat up front Manure were going to start to crank up the pressure. They weren’t worried about us posing a threat and decided to push us back. If we had given them more to deal with at the back Maureen wouldn’t have taken the risk, but we just invited the pressure. Having conceded we then made the changes that allowed us to press their defence more. It makes no sense to carry on inviting the pressure we did when we had the ammo on the bench to change things.
    The Manure defence was poor today, but we made them look good. I doubt many other teams would have given them such an easy ride. One effort on target in the whole game and we scored from it. A pretty sad state of affairs and Walcott’s post-match interview raises some questions as to what the team think they can achieve. He seems happy with the point because we would have lost in a similar situation last season. He should be concerned about the number of points we have dropped. We were in the same boat last season when other teams weren’t playing well and we weren’t taking our opportunities to pull away from them.

  36. C,

    To me, he’s all right with his back to goal, but there are better players than him at that. And he runs a lot. So, a £17m Kevin Davies.

    God West Ham are crap.

  37. Birdkamp.

    Ozil is one of the most technically skilled players in the world. If we need him to adjust with cazorla out can’t he drop a little deeper to receive the ball and make something happen?

    Last year we talked about this same issue with our poor performances and fragility of our system if we lost cazorla again. I thought that this year would be different because we had Elneny. Now it’s not elneny but Xhaka who is going to be the one who makes the difference?

  38. I’ll take a draw

    We’re normally shit after international break
    we’re normally shit against manu
    wengers totally shit against mourinho
    and rambos shit full stop..

    1-1’s a decent result considering all the variables involved in the equation.

  39. Birdkamp,

    No doubt there are bettet, see most of the young strikers in Serie A, but for 15m he has done okay. I hope he turns to shit honestly for obvious reasons, but he has proven that he can be a good striker of the ball, see the save he forced from Cech, so we will see.

  40. Bollocks, JJ. You are just too cynical. We were absolute rubbish! Apart from that, I agree with all that you say!

  41. I think the time has come when a more positive decision should be made regarding our first choice striker.
    There can be little doubt that given the right service, Giroud rather than Alexis should be given the position. His heading ability alone is a force that has been lacking in Arsenal’s attack for many a year.
    There is little advantage in high crosses, however accurate, when Alexis is our main striker, but Giroud’s presence alone in the penalty area is an important factor as part of our attack and IMO a more regular use should be made of it. 😉

  42. Buffalo is spot on.

    we all want 3 points every week but when you consider the fact that we have not won at OT in a decade and even worse, failed to score against Mourinho in 7 years, a goal and a point is not the end of the title chase though it does feel like the end of the world when we play so poorly. Cech the exception, he was brilliant!

  43. On a more balanced review of the situation, I would say not a bad result. United would be happy to take a point at the Emirates on any given day.

    What makes it look worse, is that United is in a shitty form and half their players are not that great. We had two chances to beat them in two seasons, one we lost 3-2 and one we drew 1 – 1. If we don’t beat them now, when will we beat them?

    If this game was at the Emirates Stadium, I would be very disappointed with the result and the performances of both Manger and Players.

    On to the next game, I hope we can turn the style back on.

  44. nicky,

    I would agree if Giroud didn’t have a habit of getting into a comfort zone when he is first name on the team sheet and switching off. The hungry Giroud who is up for every game and striving to get on the end of every ball can shake up defences, but after a while you end up with the lazy Giroud who is often not up with play and moans at every nudge from defenders. If Giroud played with aggression and determination every week he would get so many more goals, but unfortunately he doesn’t.

  45. Sums him up wavey. We all know if he gets starts, his determination will drop. Maybe Wenger thinks this as well hence not starting him still.

  46. I wonder if being the only option led to this ‘comfort zone’. It’s been a hell of a long time carrying the load on his ones.

    Its a shame Danny got lost in the ‘forth dimension’ aka our sick bay.

  47. @Wavey & Dukey,
    Both of you criticise Giroud and his “comfort zone” but you fail to provide a solution.
    Do we transfer him and attempt to sign a hungry alternative?
    Or does Arsene read him the riot act in order to get him to mend his ways?
    Or do we rely on Perez when fit?
    Let’s hear from you… 😉

Comments are closed.