Arsenal Progress Hoping For Win With Manchester United Visiting – Match Preview
Arsenal are set to resume their Premier League campaign as Manchester United visit the Emirates today to close out the festive season schedule. While Arsenal have yet to completely turn themselves around, shoots of promise have been seen in Mikel Arteta’s first two matches in charge. His and supporters’ hopes are that the progress continues the Gunners can finally get a long overdue win.
No Introduction Needed
Manchester United is a team that needs no introduction. For the longest period of time these two clubs would slug it out in epic matches that would determine the outcome of the league.
Unfortunately for both clubs, they have had a chance in fortunes are looking at least to remain respectable in the face of others fighting it out for top honors.
Both clubs are under the management of ex-players with United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjær having been at the helm now for over a year. His charges going through periods of inconsistency. His task with United not too dissimilar to Arteta’s remit, restore United’s connection to being United and to the fans.
Needless to say it has been a process of ups and downs and should be a reminder to Arsenal supporters that the changes needed aren’t going to be fixed immediately.
Scouting the Visitors
United come to the Emirates after beating Burnley 2-0. United got the clean sheet on the back of goals from Martial and Rashford. The win moved the Red Devils up to 5th and one point outside of the Champions League spots.
Assuming Arteta will set up Arsenal in a similar fashion to what we’ve seen recently (4-2-3-1) with inverted fullbacks ala Pep’s City, Solskjær could opt for a similar set up from the recent Manchester derby.
In that match, United set up with a fluid 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 with the intent to cede position to the home side and hit them on the counter.
With City’s midfielders looking to occupy the half spaces, they employed a double pivot of McTominay and Fred providing cover for the back four. They also effectively man marked out the City midfielders when they came into their area of influence making it hard for City to effectively move the ball into the final third.
The result of the midfield being closely targeted the United fullbacks were able to push up a little higher and put pressure on the City wingers taking them out of the attack as well.
Additionally, an attacking set up that features, Rashford, Lingard and Martial were effectively used to put pressure on the City back line taking away City’s attacking strength and forcing them into taking riskier options and lose position allowing United to effectively hit them on the counter.
City overall was inefficient in possession and it hurt their ability to create sustained attacks. Added with United’s commitment to defensive rigidity it resulted in a losing effort for City as they won at the Eithad 2-1 on that day.
Unleashing Arsenal’s Attack
The most obvious change we’ve seen through Mikel Arteta’s installment as head coach is a desire for the team to be more progressive when it’s on the ball.
Part of that structural change has been playing the Arsenal attacking trio up on the line of the opposition defense with Mesut Özil floating in between the space between the opposition midfield and back line.
With a double pivot focused on Torreira at the base and either Xhaka or Guendouzi alongside, and Ainsley Maitland Niles acting as an inverted fullback and acting as a third midfielder the result has been more structure behind the German playmaker which frees him up from coming too deep to get on to the ball.
The result has been Mesut Özil looking like the player we know he can be and Arsenal having an attack that looks more effective in the final third.
What will be interesting to see in this match is what Arteta learned from the City match and how we can put more attacking pressure on the visitors.
Defensive Worries Persist
Of course, the biggest worry for Arsenal will be the strength of United’s attack and the weakness of their back line.
With fit Centerbacks at a premium and not a starting fullback to be seen, the defensive unit has been held together with KT tape at this point. What they have benefited in though is a structure that isn’t leaving them too isolated in 1v1 situations which has made them look more cohesive.
The one thing the improved structure hasn’t cut out is individual errors which have been the reason for the 3 goals conceded by Arteta’s team in the last two matches.
With Torreira providing cover through the middle and improvement in transitions to defending from attacking, Arsenal look stronger and less easy to open up. However, with the individual errors persists battles against United’s attacking three has to be a worry, especially with Saka and Maitland-Niles not being able to be rotated due to a lack of supporting options.
There have been plenty of positives for Arsenal since Arteta has taken over. Unfortunately, the results aren’t matching the performance. That can change and the hope is that today is the day.
With fatigue likely to play into today’s match. Arsenal’s success depends on how they not only manage tired bodies but how they set up for the match against a side that is in itself increasing in confidence.
There has been marked improvement whether it’s enough to get Arteta his first win remains to be seen.
Arsenal 1 – 1 Manchester United
Arsenal Record vs Manchester United (Premier League Only)
14W 24L 17D
Average Goals Scored
Arsenal: 1.5 (home)
United: 1.2 (away)
Average Goals Conceded
Arsenal: 1.7 (home)
United: 1.3 (away)
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistants: Sian Massey-Ellis, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth official: Craig Pawson
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Stephen Child
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have beaten Manchester United just once in the past six attempts (D2, L3).
- It’s just five wins in 27 meetings in all competitions for the Gunners (D7, L15).
- However, Arsenal could go four Premier League meetings unbeaten for the first time since 1999.
- Arsenal have taken nine league points from the last 36 available to them (W1, D6, L5).
- They have lost four consecutive home matches in all competitions for the first time since December 1959.
- The Gunners could equal the club league record of four successive home defeats.
- Arsenal have their worst record after 20 fixtures of a top-flight season since 1975-76.
- This is only the second time they have been in the bottom half of the Premier League table at the turn of the year.
- They are without a win in six home league matches since a 1-0 success against Bournemouth on 6 October (D3, L3).
- Their last victory at the Emirates was a 3-2 Europa League triumph over Vitoria Guimaraes on 24 October.
- They have not lost a home fixture on New Year’s Day since a 2-1 defeat by Tottenham in 1985.
- Arsenal have conceded at least twice at the Emirates in each of their past five fixtures in league and cup, their longest run since December 1965.
- Bernd Leno has made a league-high seven errors that have led to goals since August 2018.