On the back of two games where Arsenal have lost after taking the lead, and with hardly any positive news on the injury front, a game against Manchester United is the last thing many would want. But that’s the game on the fixture list and the Gunners will just have to do as best as they can with diminished resources and wavering confidence. Liverpool lost again, embarrassingly some might say, while Chelsea have been held to a draw. At least one of Spurs and City will also drop points on Sunday. This is another opportunity for Wenger’s side to pull away from the teams immediately below them in the table and inch closer to those in front.
Unless one of the injured players recovers in time, Arsene will have very limited choices in terms of picking his starting line-up. The back five will probably be the same that started against Swansea. In the middle I would like to see Rosicky get a start if he is fully fit.
Up front there is no reason to leave Van Persie or Walcott out. The only position that seems debatable is wide on the left. Arshavin can make incisive contributions but those only make up a few moments in the game. For large parts when the team is defending he seems like a liability on the left and in this game especially, Miquel could struggle if he doesn’t get sufficient cover. Starting Benayoun on the flank might provide a better defensive option. The Israeli didn’t contribute enough in the previous game in midfield but he would be more comfortable on the wing. With Rosicky providing more and better movement/passing, Ramsey and Song won’t be overworked in midfield and will be less likely to make mistakes.
The problem with this selection is that Arsenal’s creative threat will not be as strong. United will mark the Gunners closely and it will be tough to find a way through anyway. Without enough players who can break them down Arsenal could struggle to score in this game. I have a feeling Arsene will start with the more creative option and make changes if a lead is to be protected late in the game.
Probable starting line-up,
Szczesny – Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel – Rosicky, Ramsey, Song – Walcott, RvP, Arshavin.
My personal choice would be Benayoun on the left ahead of Arshavin but that seems unlikely considering Wenger’s generally attacking choices in the past. I’d also like to see the positions of Song and Rosicky swapped so that the Cameroonian stays more to the left. This will help the side defend better when Nani cuts inside. Miquel should have clear instructions to cover down the line and leave the job of defending the central runs to the midfield.
It will be interesting to see if Ferguson goes with Rooney and a striker or he plays an extra defensive midfielder. I haven’t watched some of their recent games so it’s hard for me to guess their current form based tactics.
United are a very competent counter-attacking unit and Arsenal will have to ensure they don’t leave the defence exposed against players who are comfortable running with the ball and have the skills to finish from distance or go past defenders in a one-v-one.
It would be wise to adopt the approach that Arsenal took in the tougher Champions League games. Keep things tight and hope for a mistake. Van Persie might be able to create some space for himself or Walcott might find a way to use his pace. Those are the options Arsenal should rely on in attack. The midfield should not push forward unless a clear opportunity presents itself and never in a manner that isolates the back four.
The Gunners are prone to making fatal mistakes or conceding freakish goals and it won’t surprise me if we see one or two hit the net behind Szczesny. A score draw seems the best possible result that Arsenal can realistically get from this game. That should at least keep the gap with Chelsea to a manageable four points. Wenger’s side will need a generous dose of luck if they are to win this game.
Before ending, since I have received a few queries about this, I want to add that everyone is welcome to send their articles for publication. I don’t have any guidelines or rules for that but would only like to publish articles that fit the general theme of the blog. Essentially, any article that provides some food for thought will be appreciated. You can also write to me and discuss your thoughts before sending in any articles. My email is mentioned in the sidebar on the Right.
Here’s to a Manchester side winning the first game of the day and losing the second one. Here’s to hope – the quintessential human delusion!