Arsenal must be brave and take the game to Manchester United
An opinion piece looking at why Unai Emery needs to be brave and push his Arsenal side to take the game to Manchester United tonight
Arsenal head to Old Trafford this evening in a fixture they haven’t won since 2006. Back then both sides were fighting for the title and Old Trafford was a fortress. However, in the thirteen years since, the fear factor at the theatre of dreams has dropped rapidly and considering recent form and injuries, this a game Arsenal are expected to win.
Unai Emery should be looking to take the game to United by making the most of their low confidence. Arsenal have numerous problems of their own, but with United drawing 1-1 to Rochdale in their last home game, there’s no excuses for not playing on the front foot.
Critics of Emery have been keen to point to the manager’s ‘small club’ philosophy, particularly away from home. Emery adapts for the opposition but in recent weeks his team have seemed lacklasture by not taking control of the midfield and only scoring goals on the break.
Tonight, Arsenal should look to be aggressive off the ball and play purposefully once they win back possession. To allow United the ball would show them too much respect and offer them an opportunity to find their feet in the contest.
The formation Emery opts for will define the style of play. So far this season he has favoured the diamond away from home with limited success. This shape gives the opposition full backs too much room to roam forward and leaves the deep midfielder, most likely Xhaka, left stranded and unprotected. Fans would prefer Emery to opt for a 4-3-3, but for such a pragmatic manager, any approach is possible.
There’s also numerous decisions to be made with personnel, although it’s most likely that Xhaka, Pepe and Aubameyang will start, after that, it’s all up for grabs.
Arsenal’s major issues are in their defence and with Marcus Rashford not 100% fit and Anthony Martial injured, the backline will be facing Mason Greenwood, who looks to earn his first Premier League start. In theory, this should see Arsenal’s centre backs in for an easier performance, yet that may not be the case.
Back in 2016, Rashford made his debut in the same fixture and with a little help from poor defending, got himself two goals. A performance like that tonight would see the pressure lowered on Solskjaer but turned up on Emery.
The reputation around both these managers is diminishing every day and a loss wouldn’t suit either. However, there’s a chance for Emery to lay down his marker tonight. A good performance is needed and a good win will bring the fans back on side and see Arsenal and Emery march ahead of United.
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