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Stick or twist up front as Wenger seeks goal drought solution

Premier League action today as we go to Old Trafford seeking a first league win there since 2006. Arsene Wenger won’t pay too much heed to that statistic. It’s a different Arsenal team, it’s a different United team, and ultimately what happened there over the last few years is fairly irrelevant in terms of today.

What will concern him, however, is the fact that Arsenal aren’t scoring enough goals. It’s something he spoke about before the game, saying:

I agree that our goals have dried up seriously, and we have to find a solution. I’m conscious of that. There’s many aspects that I analyse at the moment and we have to find a quick answer.

So the question is ‘does he stick or twist when it comes to his team selection?’. He could be thinking that this team is certainly capable of scoring more than it is right now, and giving them another go to try and find that groove might be the best way. Or he’ll feel that he has to change things around to introduce another dynamic to our attacking play. Exactly what that change  is though is the big question.

If he rests Giroud, who hasn’t scored in 8, he’s got to use Theo Walcott with just 2 in 21 – although one of those was very recent, the equaliser against Leicester. I don’t think he really trusts Walcott to play on the right hand side, so if he starts today it’s got to be up front. There must also be a temptation to use Danny Welbeck too after his goal against Leicester, and remembering he got the winner there in the FA Cup last season.

We know all about players facing their old club, and while he’s obviously got fresh legs from being out so long, the manager seemed reluctant to be drawn on his chances of starting when it was suggested he looks ready, saying:

People are quick to make assessments like that, but he’s been out for a while. We still have to be cautious with him.

If he did though, perhaps playing him on the left, and shifting Alexis to the right might be something to try. The Chilean has struggled a bit in recent games, so maybe coming at things from a different angle could be an idea. I can’t really see him doing anything left-field like bringing in Mohamed Elneny (or Flamini!) alongside Francis Coquelin and moving Aaron Ramsey out on the right, so the changes we need to get the team going again have to come in the front three.

That we lost to Barcelona in midweek isn’t especially concerning given that our form has been relatively sketchy anyway. It’s about compartmentalising that game, and trying to channel some of the good stuff that we showed against Leicester. United have been pretty poor this season, but their two recent wins aren’t really a sign they’ve got their shit together. One over a League One side in the cup, and a European minnow they should be beating any day of the week might give them some confidence, but we ought to provide much stiffer opposition today.

The fact that Leicester won yesterday adds a little bit of pressure but first and foremost this is a game we have to win ourselves, regardless of what they did. That they did it so late is a bit annoying, but then when you consider what happened against them we can’t complain too much.

Even with United in the state they’re in, I find it difficult to be hugely confident going there. It has not been a happy hunting ground really, and the lack of goals is a real concern. I suppose the fact that we are creating chances and not taking them is better than being creatively redundant, so if we can find a bit more efficiency in front of goal, we could cause them some problems.

Let’s hope so anyway.

As ever we’ll have full live blog coverage of the game for you later on. Simply bookmark our default live blog page, or check back here later on for a post with all the info you need.

And if you need something to pass the time ahead of kick off, check out this week’s Arsecast – available on the site here, via Acast, or iTunes. I chat with Iain Macintosh about the United game, and lots more besides.

Thanks for all the kind Tweets and messages yesterday re the blog birthday, much appreciated! Now, breakfast, dog walk, then hopefully three points later on. Catch you for the game.

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Fan of Arsenal, Robert Pires and most everything to do with rum and whiskey. Writer, podcaster, ace flintknapper, sluggish centre-half. Smiter of those that ought to be smote.