Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Manchester United

It seems to me that ever since the loss to Barcelona in the Champions League final a couple of seasons ago, Sir Alex is trying to create a Manchester United side that can match the Catalans’ attacking prowess. Last season United were very open in the early games in search of more goals and as a consequence they were allowing a number of shots on target. This season we’re again seeing something very similar.

Ferguson’s side have scored the most goals in the Premier League in the 9 games this season. Their tally of 24 is more than a goal a game higher than Arsenal’s 14. United often play with three strikers with either Welbeck or Chicarito starting alongside RvP and Rooney. This does leave them a little light in the midfield and has left their defence exposed. Combined with a string of injuries to defenders, this weakness in midfield has given opponents enough chances to score against the Red Devils. Everton and Spurs were able to convert these opportunities into wins but in all other cases Ferguson’s side have been able to outscore the opponents.

The Gunners have lost seven of their last eight visits to Old Trafford and have only scored 10 goals in 20 Premier League visits to the ground. In general, Arsenal’s record against United, particularly in recent years, does not make for pleasant reading.

This poses an interesting challenge for Arsenal. Wenger has a couple of diametrically opposite choices. He could set his team out to play a tight game in order to nullify the United attack in order to recreate the shutouts that have been the source of his three 1-0 wins in the last 18 visits.

This is a risky tactic. Odds are this United side are going to score. Arsenal had a degree of defensive stability in the early weeks but a lot of that was down to a defensive tactic that relied on the side sitting deep. Even in games against Montpellier and Southampton, one got a feeling the Gunners had to park the bus, at least in phases. The attack also suffers when the players have to build-up from deep in their own half on a constant basis. Clearly, Wenger was not happy with that and rightly so. Such an approach is better suited to mid-table teams or those below them. In the last few games Arsenal have pushed up the pitch and we have been reintroduced to some of the vulnerabilities from last season.

That said, many teams, including United, do sit deep in the big games and the ability to hold a shape will help Arsenal. The big question is, can this be done for the duration of 90 minutes? It’s also important to note that defending can only guarantee a draw. Wenger’s team will also have to show they can score on the counter. Admittedly, this is a style that’s worked for Arsenal in some games at the beginning of the season, but I’m not sure Wenger is predisposed to relying on such a tactic.

The other option for Arsenal is to attempt to dominate the midfield battle and then find ways to challenge the United back four and test their goalkeeper. The Gunners do have enough technical quality to control the centre of the pitch but, as we’ve seen often enough in previous battles, that alone is never enough. They need precision and telepathic understanding in the final third along with clinical finishing. Apart from bullying the weakest of defences (Cologne, Southampton, Coventry, and Reading), Wenger’s side have not shown these abilities. 8 goals in 8 League games (leaving out the win over Southampton) is clear evidence that the Arsenal attack is yet to click.

With these facts in mind, the best scenario for Arsenal would be to defend by controlling the midfield. Cutting off the supply to Van Persie and minimising the control that Rooney can exert from deeper positions is vital. But that alone will not be enough. United are very strong in the wide areas and the battle between Valencia and Santos could make or break this game. Support for the full-back is essential but with Wilshere likely to play higher up the pitch there will be gaps for the hosts to exploit.

As far as the starting line-up goes, Wenger will probably make 11 changes and revert to the eleven that started the game against QPR. Injuries to some players means there are few possibilities of changes to that side. Perhaps the only question is whether Walcott is fit enough to start twice in a week, especially considering he had to play over 120 minutes against Reading.

Preferred line-up,

Mannone – Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos – Arteta, Cazorla, Wilshere – Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.

Most articles I’ve read, the betting odds, and the recent historical record in this fixture seems to indicate that Manchester United are favourites. Arsenal are on an emotional high after the comeback against Reading and a positive result in this fixture will have a multiplier effect that could carry the team far, but even the most optimistic of fans will probably not expect the Gunners to mount a similar fight back in this game.

Can Arsenal produce an impeccable game or will this be another disappointment for the Gooner faithful? I guess we’ll know soon enough.

24 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Manchester United

  1. Jeff says:

    totally agree with ur line up desi.. i hope gibbs is ready to play,though. other than that,i thought wenger should leave ramsey on the bench.. he’s not effective whenever n wherever he plays.. but i have a feeling that he will play.. well.. i’ll be a happy gunner should we finish with a draw..

  2. Victor Kay says:

    Kos and Per in the central defense and Vermalin on the left. Otherwise, perfect line-up for me.

  3. Chundulee says:

    I highly agree with u, my only worry is that, am not sure if Wenger will leave Ramsey out and i’d prefer him on the benc

  4. Jude Oparaji says:

    Arsenal will surprise man utd today if the play their game

  5. mutai fred says:

    to me i would put play vameilen in santos,and kosien in 4 vamelin

  6. abiola says:

    i tink ramsey will score and also olivier,ramsey plays well against man u thats when wilshere is on the pitch

  7. jomaino says:

    Ur line up is ok, just that i’ll prefer verm for left back and kos in the middle. I’ll also play walcott on the left to exploit rafael’s attacking instinct and poldi on the right, his left foot will be more effective there.

  8. moses says:

    Per and kos in the centre back position,Verminator at the left position,ramsey on the bench to avoid errors.I think that’s what we need in todays defensive line.

  9. T2T says:

    The problem is that ManU will allow us to keep the ball. They attack much more directly than we do, moving the ball quickly towards our goal, not allowing our defence to settle.
    When we attack, it’s usually after a number of passes around the half way line allowing their defence to establish proper shape and thereby difficult to break down.
    If Walcott is fit after 120 minutes, I’d start him down the middle and build the attack around him. However, Walcott plays his best games as a winger when Sagna is behind him.
    R Savage wrote a couple of days ago that none of Arsenal’s strikers would get in the ManU team. Well, none of ManU’s midfield players would get in The Arsenal. Good luck – we’ll need it!

  10. Aussie Jack says:

    Have to be honest I don`t think we have the troops to beat United at Old Trafford unless someone spikes their drinking water. Should we come away with a point and injury free I for one will be happy.

  11. James Morgan 8 says:

    Watch out for the ref. With Arsenal leading,the ref could help rf by A) sending off a gunner B) give a penalty. Of course these will take place when the players clash.
    You never know. These refs have been helping him to win games over the years. I have not changed my opinion regarding these guys.

  12. amodu m ibrahim says:

    Let’s call a spade a spade arsenal ma darling team doesn’t have d attackers n defenders dat can make d diffrerence when it comes to playing manU 4 am of d view dat dey cud beat us home or away until wenger n money makin boards of arsna change their way n get us quality.

  13. Mandela Mselu says:

    Am so happy with the first11 and Ihope we going to win

  14. Dianjuh says:

    Hi Desi,

    Statistics are dearly against us….so much that the trafford house-hold has, for a number of years now, been less concerned about our visits to their backyard (or even them visiting the Emirates). They do get 3points every time don’t they? Both Wenger and Ferguson are special managers, but the latter seems to always outwit the former regardless of the line-up he has (FA cup draw when Manchester played with 7 defenders comes to mind…we lost 2-0)

    Am getting down to this…Wenger cannot keep employing the same tactics against Manchester and expect different results, he should put a line-up and a game plan that help him win, as opposed to one that has his preferred starting eleven or his preferred formation.

    All in all, I have a good feeling that today we start to put that statistic right!!!!

  15. Charlie G says:

    Santos is the weakest link, hope Arsene utilies Vermallen there temperary and play Kos with Mert.
    Perhaps they should play two forwards/wingers, Walcott and Ox. Two attacking midfeilders, Carzola n wilshire. Two defensive ones, Arteta n Coq. This formation allows us to be more defensive and stronger in midfield, remember, mu weakest part are their midfield this season. Or play 5 across, with Walcott the only forward.
    A draw would be a good result.

  16. Dianjuh says:

    Oh I almost forgot….May God be with the boys and see them through. Amen!!!

  17. Waz says:

    We will have to do better than we have this season at stopping crosses coming in and closing down the flanks quicker not letting the opposition have 2 on 1. Our determination to win the second ball will also be key as will or discipline and alertness to track runs.

    I’d be tempted to go 442 if Walcott is fit as our fluid 4231 system can leave us exposed out wide and on the counter. I guess it depends how manure set up.

    As someone rightly said we will need to move the ball quickly and with purpose, there should be gaps and their back line is pretty slow. We need to see the same desire we saw against Reading in the second half.

  18. Mandela Mselu says:

    Am so happy with the first11 and Ihope we going to win the history has no sound

  19. dan says:

    Santos wil b d most worying player on d pitch considering he has 2 play against valencia who wud luk 2 unrest hm 2ruout d 90mins. I jst hop wenger changes d statistics nd put vermaelen out wide. I have a feeling RVP canot score against us except if he scores 4rm d penalty spot.
    All in all, i pray God of Footbal wil b on d gooners side nd we wil eventualy bring out al 3 points 4rm d old traford!
    Let me add dis also, NOTE THAT WE ARE PLAYING 11 AGAINST 14 (with d ref nd d linesmen in d united team)

  20. dO2 says:

    9s view of d game… My most wori is Gibbs’ absence 4rm a game of dis nature. He wud hav matchd valencia’s threats, nd also add enof lyf 2 d attack… Santos hasnt bin at his best in recent games, nd facin Valencia may xpoz his wknesses 1s more… Hope manone lives up 2 xpectatn…I can c us get smthn 4rm dis game. Up Gunas!

  21. sextus says:

    i wish arsenal should use 4-3-3 formation

  22. Zaidovski says:

    God help us if Ramsey is playing !!
    A useless defensive midfield yet suddenly promoted to attacking flank play !

    How blind is Arsene ?

    Wilcot and Arshavin destroyed reading yet we play a welsh twat that has no idea what football is all about !

    Ramsey must be sold if this club expects a good future !!

    • its hard to score if we keep podolski deep,he is a good finisher with a hot left shot,and with ramsey its like we are 10men,somebody needs to tel santos to release the balls on time,his street dribling costs us opportunities to crash teams but he is class its only tht he doesnt c his weaknesses and is al of us,thts wht diaby does often

  23. Nick from Portugal says:

    Well Desi I’m writing having seen the game. We lost it before we started, sorry but you have to have a go at United, no point dropping back and being cagey, we simply can’t do that with a player like Santos on one flank. I watched the first ten aghast, Podolski was playing defensive midfield left side (not very well) and VP had some luck for the fist goal. Poor Thomas! But we just looked like we were waiting for it to happen. Rooney man marking Arteta was a Ferguson masterstroke but Arteta still managed a good game as did Mertsacker.

    Wenger was obviously apprehensive and you can’t really blame him but Giroud needs someone up front with him, the game did change when Arshavin came on we suddenly looked like we had a shout but it was lost by then. Podolski has been hugely ineffective since Liverpool, Cazorla has to go deeper and deeeper for the ball, Wilshere is not even 80% fit, the clear substitute move was Ramsay for Wilshere in midfield and Walcott for Ramsay on the wing, a la QPR, especially with trigger finger Dean and his yellow cards. Arshavin for Podolski which happened 15 minutes too late. There are a few sacred cows in this team, Podolski being an example. Arshavin deserves that place but he obviously won’t get it. And on Ramsay: come on Arsene, it is cruel putting him on the wong, I could run faster and I’m 57. He does his shift, once again being the first to test De Gea but he needs to be either on the bench waiting for Wilshere to tire or Wilshere (future sacred cow) on the bench thinking seriously about how to tackle without going over the ball.

    Vermaleen was poor today but the move that I resisted last week was for Kos in the middle and bye bye Santos. Against Shalke, Wenger has to do that. Andre you should be heading back to Turkey where another gooner, not too unlike you awaits…

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