With seven wins from seven in the Premier League this season, Arsenal have a solid record to protect when Manchester United come to town later today.
They have a four point lead over us in the table, a win would cut that to one, and cap what has been a very decent week for us so far. Two wins, six points from six, six goals, two clean sheets, but today represents probably our biggest home challenge of the season so far.
When asked about today’s game, Arsene Wenger said he wasn’t expecting Jose Mourinho to come and park the bus:
Man United is a strong team and I expect us just to cope with the problems they will give us. They will attack as well. They will not only defend. They are a dangerous team, they have made fantastic results so to beat a team like that you need to be at your best and that’s what I want to focus on.
It does seem likely that Mourinho’s approach, as it tends to be for big away games, will be cautious, perhaps adding an extra body to his midfield, and that’s something that Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will have to cope with. I don’t see that influencing Arsene Wenger’s team selection, although he ought to have something of a plan in case we end up overrun in there.
The only real decision he has to make is who starts up front because of the injury to Alexandre Lacazette, and as I said yesterday I think he’ll go with Alexis Sanchez, and will bring in Danny Welbeck on the left hand side. The former has been very effective there in the past, but will have to resist the temptation to drop too deep, while the latter’s power, pace and energy should be an interesting foil for Sead Kolasinac.
After his last two performances, there’s some spotlight on Mesut Ozil too. Those who doubt him will say that anyone can do it against smaller teams like Huddersfield and Sp*rs, and that when it comes to the big games against the biggest opposition he still has something to prove.
Clearly our chances of winning would be far greater if he could make a similar contribution today, but against a team like United it will be more difficult. Not just for Ozil, but for everyone, although he’s got the talent to do it against any team in the world really. Let’s hope makes it a hat-trick of good days and keep his good form going.
Arsenal v United is always a big game, but there’s no doubt it has lost some of the edge it had in the past. When the rivalry between the two clubs was at its peak it was something really special, but hopefully it’s not that long forgotten. When you think back to the derby a couple of weeks ago, the atmosphere was superb and hopefully it’ll be like that again today.
We know there’s no love lost between the two managers, and while Arsene Wenger isn’t universally popular with the Arsenal fanbase, let’s hope there’s a recognition that the real ‘enemy’ is in the opposition dug-out today. I want us to take three points because three points are what it’s all about. I want us to win because that’s what you want before you go into every game.
But I can’t lie and say that seeing a miserable Mourinho at the end of 90 minutes wouldn’t be like the icing on the cake. His record over Wenger was one that people brought up time and time again, but we beat them 2-0 at home last season with goals from Xhaka and Welbeck (who does like a goal against his former club), and something similar again today would be very welcome indeed. That day United weren’t really at it, fielding a team with an eye on an upcoming Europa League game if I recall correctly, so we should expect more from them this evening.
Still, this is a team that has played well since the international break and the defeat away at Man City, and against Sp*rs and Huddersfield seems to have rediscovered some of its flair. At home we’re strong and confident, and we have the quality up front to trouble every team in this league. Fingers crossed we make it eight from eight later on.
We’ll have all the pre and post-match stuff over on Arseblog News, so join us for that, and in the meantime I’ll remind you of with yesterday’s Arsecast which you can download and listen to here.
For some extra reading this morning, there’s a double-helping of the Arsenal Gent too. Right, that’s your lot, until later.