Midweek match day against United at Old Trafford today. It’s hardly a happy stomping ground for us, having won once there since we won the league in 2002. That’s sixteen years and only the odd point to come back down south with.
It’s by far the worst record of any away ground we have in the Premier League era and when you think about all of the games down the years it’s enough to leave you with the bitterest of tastes.
You’d expect United to have bestest us more often than not given it’s their home ground, as well as the fact that they’re the most successful English team in history, but down the years and in recent times they’ve hardly been as good as this record suggests. Certainly in recent times and I’m minded to think about the game in which van Gaal fell to the floor on the touch line in some kind of diving gesture, or when David Moyes was manager, each time we came up against a United team who were technically inferior given the final league position the two teams took up.
When you also add in to the mix a couple of the skankings they’ve fished up to us at our ground – games in which we’ve by far been the better team but they’ve somehow come away with a win, like last season – it does add to the general irritation that I feel towards this fixture.
Is it a psychological problem that Arsenal teams have faced down the years? Or as Mark pointed out to me on Sunday in the pub before the Spurs game, is it just that we’ve had a man in charge in recent times that didn’t know how to set up against a specific opponent, so we just replayed the same match each time?
Whatever it is, surely at some stage we should go to Old Trafford and get a win, if only just for the law of averages?
It feels to me like in recent seasons they’ve had a little bit more of Lady Luck riding on their side than we have, so a little slice of that this evening wouldn’t go amiss I have to say.
But this is Old Trafford and that doesn’t always happen go away teams. So I’ll not hold my breath for this evening.
And oddly, despite the fact that we are level on points with the Tiny Totts and they play Southampton at home tonight in a three point banker, even if we lose and they win I don’t think I’ll be too despondent. Perhaps that’s because we usually lose at Old Trafford and I’m mentally preparing myself, but also under Emery this season we’ve already proved that we’re a different beast. The football is different, the atmosphere is different around the club, plus the 19 game winning run has at least ensured we remain competitive.
My cousin said at the weekend that the NLD was in a way a little more important in terms of the table and general need to get a ‘Big Six’ win for Arsenal and if I take my partisan red and white specs off I’d probably agree. And if you’d have asked me if I’d want three points from these two games or two draws I’d have told you to win against them is perfectly preferable. So in a sense I’m less worried about this evening than I thought I’d be.
But I’m also a football fan and us football fans are greedy. And I’m greedy because now we’ve got the ‘W’ against the nosy neighbours, I want to get the ‘W’ and the monkey off our back that is a win at Old Trafford.
We appear to be in the best form for it. The players will be riding the crest of the derby day wave, we’re in decent shape in the league, plus we have an attacking line up that we know has goals in them. Which is why I wonder if Unai doesn’t change his team around a little tonight.
Perhaps he’ll give the nod to Laca and Rambo from the start, for example?
It’s difficult to know exactly because he’s been changing things around so much but what we do all know is that he’ll have a plan. We don’t know whether that will include three at the back with wing backs or a back four, but we do know that Unai will have studied United and will be looking to apply a specific game plan to counter their threats.
What their threats are will also be difficult to determine because Jose would barely give any team news up yesterday to his own channel. His abrasive style is starting to become even more difficult for them to deal with but that doesn’t make him or United any easier to play, neither does the injuries and suspensions they have.
They’ll of course play De Gea in goal but who plays in their back line is anyone’s guess. Phil Jones will most likely start I suspect and annoyingly when he plays us he always seems to play well. Other than that I don’t know if Shaw is fit, Smalling, Bailly, or who will play in midfield other than Pogba. They may field Matic but with him playing alongside McTominay on Saturday against Southampton it’s anyone’s guess.
Rashford will surely start after his form at the weekend and again he’s got a decent record against us, so we should probably expect him to cause us problems, along with Martial who I think is a fantastic footballer.
We don’t know what team will be picked but we do know that ours will need to show the same level of intensity as the weekend if we want to pick up all three points. That’s going to be tough and I hope the players have enough in the tank to beat United.
I haven’t tried to name a line up because it feels impossible, but I do think we need players who will press a beleaguered United defence beset by injuries higher up the pitch. Let’s see if we can force them in to more errors and let’s also see how our team can perform on the wings too. That was a strength of ours against Tottenham and I’d like to see our wing backs challenging United’s players in behind their full backs. We caused Aurier and Davies problems on Sunday and there’s no reason we can’t do the same to United’s tonight.
Have a good one, sing up if you’re going, and bring us back three points please Arsenal.