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Match Preview: Man United v Arsenal; Can the Gunners Finally Take Advantage of United’s Misery?

Two sides face off today with opposite fortunes prevailing for both of them. For the home side, Manchester United, it is a circus of confusion, frustration and fan anger. For our visiting Arsenal, it is something entirely opposite. However, with the history between the two sides and the Gunners abysmal record when heading to Old Trafford, when United v Arsenal kicks off, all of that should be forgotten.

Arsenal head to Old Trafford where they won the league in 2001/2002 however, since 2006 Arsenal haven’t won a league match at Old Trafford, going 0W 3D 8L in that time. But as should be evident to everyone, this is not your Arsenal of that time frame, nor is it a Manchester United that evokes dread when you travel to their place to play.

Not Sir Alex’s Manchester United

When Sir Alex roamed the touchline, his United sides presented problems that teams just couldn’t solve. When they hired Mourinho, the hierarchy at United felt that they would be getting that back in spades. However, in the three years since Jose was appointed the team is in a death spiral that has seen a Mourinho side go winless in three leagues games for the first time in 12 months.

The problems befalling United are ones, that Arsenal can and should be taking advantage of. United players are continually getting caught out of position, they play with any lack of urgency and there are massive gaps of space for teams to exploit between the lines. You only need to look at Southampton’s first goal this past weekend to see that all in play.


Manchester United Arsenal Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

Herrera gets caught ball-watching, allowing Redmond to drop deep and collect the pass


Manchester United Arsenal Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

As the move progressed, United sat off – Pogba and Herrera are too passive, allowing Lemina time on the ball. This has also allowed Stuart Armstrong to get into space to Lemina’s right, and Michael Obafemi is also not being marked tightly enough by Phil Jones – the youngster has enough space to receive the ball and turn


Manchester United Arsenal Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

United are completely pulled out of shape here – McTominay and Jones converge on Obafemi, while Luke Shaw is out of position while trying to mark Redmond. Armstrong has found space on the right-hand side of the box, from where he would score, while Nemanja Matic is ambling in space, not marking a player or a potential run. He should have been a lot closer to Armstrong here

With a rag tag defensive makeup as well, United are seeing themselves get outshot even by lesser opposition. Even with most of the possession in the game, United were outshot by their last opponent and with Matic and McTominay forced into playing CB, there was no real presence in the MF to slow down Southampton’s attack.

The keys to beating Jose’s Low Block

But we shouldn’t be too confident, this is Jose Mourinho after all and an Emery side has yet to beat a Jose side in five games managing a measly 0.2 points per game.

Part of that of that is Jose’s employ of the low block.  We all have seen it and how it would frustrate Wenger. The deep-lying defensive system wherein a team defends from a very deep position in order to limit the amount of space the opposition has to exploit.

It’s a common Jose tactic and one he has used effectively over time to crush Arsenal fans hearts over and over again.

However, this is a new era. Jose’s united is all over the place and the infighting has them looking like a shell of a United or even a Jose managed side. Emery is effectively identifying ways to beat his opponents as she showed with devastating effect against Tottenham this past weekend.

One thing he will want to work on with his players is positive spacing and movement deep in the final third. Good spacing by Arsenal will allow even distribution of the ball, maintain width and not forcing a team to get too narrow and fall into the trap a low block wants to force a team in to.

A low block will add congestion in the areas of play where link up play is intended, However, the spacing and movement and spacing between the lines can unbalance a low block and disfigure the defensive line when players get pulled out of position as we have seen with United repeatedly this season


Manchester United Arsenal Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

movement around to unbalance a low block


Manchester United Arsenal Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

Support, spacing and areas of attack to unbalance a low block

This movement can be achieved in many fashion’s either with quick, short exchanges with support around the player on the ball, or with big diagonal switches to create overloads on one particular side of the pitch.

In the first two minutes of the North London Derby the big switch was an effective tool to attack the wings as Emery’s front 3 forced Tottenham’s back 4 occupied. This allowed the wing backs to get the ball in space and attack the line, effectively linking up with the nearest forward and taking advantage of gaps in space created by positional issues Tottenham’s back 4 were having.


Going to Old Trafford isn’t ever an easy thing. Playing against Jose, ditto. But Arsenal are a team bubbling with confidence and led by a manager who the minute the final whistle blew on Sunday, was devising his plan for today.

We face off against a side enduring one of Jose’s epic meltdowns where all that matters isn’t the result on the pitch but that Jose get proven right in the end. He isn’t supporting his players and for the most part they aren’t playing for him.

There is never a perfect time to play away at Old Trafford but this is as close to it as it gets. Emery will need to have his team drilled to perfection yet again, and ready to take advantage of this and maintain the impressive run this squad has been on since start of the season.

Players to Watch

Arsenal: Lucas Torreira. He simply has provided something we haven’t had in the midfield for quite some time. His performances over the last 4 matches has seen him garner 3 out of 4 MOTM awards.

Man United: Marcus Rashford. Probably the only bright spot at United right now as he seems to be the only source of drive or impetus in the team

Probable Line Ups

Manchester United Arsenal Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

Will Arsenal keep 3 at the back or tighten things up on the road?

Injuries and Suspensions

Arsenal: Özil (back spasm), Welbeck (knee), Monreal (hamstring), Mavropanos (groin) Xhaka (suspended 1/1)

Man United:  Shaw (knock – late fitness), Rashford (muscle fatigue – late fitness), Jones (knock – late fitness), Bailly (back – late fitness), Sanchez (hamstring), Smalling (foot – late fitness), Valencia (knock, late fitness), Lindelof (hamstring), Darmian (knock)

Form (Last 5)

Arsenal: DDDWW

Man United: WWLDD

Goals Scored Per Match

Arsenal: 2.67 (away average)

Man United: 1.75 (home average)

Goals Conceded Per Match

Arsenal: 1.67 (away average)

Man United:  1.88 (home average)

From the Manager (Courtesy

It’s a new match, a new challenge, a big challenge. It’s away and we need to continue improving our mentality away. We know we need to change to get more competitive away. I think the team is doing that, but it’s a new challenge because we’re going to play against Manchester United away, and the challenge is bigger than other matches. For us, it’s a very exciting match. The preparation for this match is also a big motivation for us. It gives me a big motivation for Wednesday. If we are stronger now, we need to [show that] on Wednesday.

Match Officials

Referee: Andre Marriner (12M 43Y 2R)
Assistants: Scott Ledger, Simon Long
Fourth official: Chris Kavanagh

Broadcast Information

UK: BT Sport 20.00 GMT

US: NBC Sports Network. 3:00PM EST

Match Facts (Courtesy

  • The 82 most recent league and cup encounters had featured one or both of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.
  • This will be the first meeting in which neither of the long-serving managers is involved since 23 August 1986, when the Gunners won 1-0 in a league game at Highbury.
  • Manchester United are unbeaten in 11 home league matches against Arsenal since September 2006 (W8, D3).
  • However, the Gunners did win at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in March 2015.
  • A win would give the Gunners 16 away points – as many as they claimed in total on the road last season (W4, D4, L11).
  • They have already equalled last term’s total of four away victories in the top flight.
  • Sunday’s triumph against Tottenham was only Arsenal’s fourth win in their last 29 league games against other sides from the established top six (D10, L15).
  • The Gunners are unbeaten in their last 12 league games (W9, D3), and 19 matches in all competitions (W15, D4).
  • They are one of four teams to have kept just two Premier League clean sheets this season (along with Manchester United) – only Fulham, with none, have worse record.
  • They have scored 24 second-half goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
  • Arsenal have lost their last three midweek league games, conceding three goals in each defeat.
  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored with his last 10 shots on target in the Premier League – no goalkeeper has saved against him since West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski in August.


 Manchester United 2 – 3 Arsenal


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