Arsenal supporters are right to expect a good performance when the Gunners face Manchester United this evening. The Red Devils’ predicted starting eleven does not have the quality you would expect for a ‘big six’ team and you would hope that manager Unai Emery has a plan in place to get the three points.
Considering the weaknesses that are apparent in United’s team, a win should be on the cards but Emery needs to get things right in a number of areas tonight:
1) Keep with a 4-3-3
Emery can be accused of being too clever for his own good at times. The diamond formation against Liverpool is a case in point. There is no need for a radical system change against United where the Gunners boss should back the quality of his players in a head to head battle.
4-3-3 is the formation that the team is most familiar with, especially considering Arsenal head into the encounter off the back of three wins using the system.
2) Win the midfield battle
The biggest issue for the Gunners in recent weeks is that the midfield has failed to protect the back four. In the North London derby, despite having three holding midfield players, the likes of Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira failed to win the midfield battle in the first half.
At Old Trafford, the midfielders have to turn up and not vacate the centre of the pitch. Whoever starts in the middle must press and harry their opponents. Considering the lack of flair United possess without Paul Pogba, it could prove crucial in getting the three points.
3) Control Possession
If they can win the midfield battle, it can provide Arsenal with an excellent foundation to control proceedings. Keeping possession and ensuring it doesn’t become a tit-for-tat battle is vital. United don’t score goals. They have hit the back of net just eight times in six league games this season.
Four of those came against Chelsea on the opening day where they exploited the Blues on the counter-attack. It’s important that the Gunners don’t get caught on the break this evening.
4) Start Tierney and push United onto the back foot
Kieran Tierney showed against Nottingham Forest that he has an excellent delivery on him, and utilising the fullbacks on both flanks could be key for Arsenal tonight.
With Maitland-Niles or Calum Chambers on the opposite side, overlapping runs could cause United a lot of problems, pushing them onto the back foot and keeping them penned into their half.
5) Pepe V Young
Will this be the night that Nicolas Pepe shows his worth to the Gunners? The Ivorian has flattered to deceive so far, but he won’t get a better opportunity to show off his talent.
Ashley Young is 34 years of age, and while the United captain is no slouch defensively, he should be targeted with Pepe likely to have the beating of him in terms of pace.