Arsenal – Manchester United. Match Preview, Predicted Line-Up. English Football’s Greatest Rivalry or

Just Another Match?

I go with the former.  If we look past the Sheiks and Oligarchs pouring money into smaller clubs for fun and vanity, these are–BY FAR–the biggest clubs in our game.  All that oil (and natural gas) money has changed things, but, to me at least, our matches against ManU are one of the biggest measures of our progress as a team and as a club.  Tomorrow they come to our stadium–a stadium built so that we could compete with them when they had by far the biggest one.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  This is a VERY big match.

It’s even bigger because it’s early season and neither team has fully convinced.  Thanks to recent stumbles in the light blue part of their town, United, amazingly. are top of the table.  Not only is it the first time up there since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager, it’s also something nobody would’ve expected from the way they began the season.  Nervy 1-nil victories vs Spurs and at Aston Villa but failing to score at home vs Newcastle and then losing (after scoring the first goal) at Swansea, did nothing to make them appear a title contender back in August.

It got better, however, as they both splashed the cash for teenage attacker Anthony Martial AND bungled the paperwork on the transfer everybody expected–David De Gea to Real Madrid.  De Gea took the failed move professionally and–with the exception of losing their CL group opener at PSV Eindhoven–they’ve been perfect in September, notching league wins at home against Liverpool and Sunderland and on the South Coast at Southampton.

Arsenal, the strongest team in the 2nd half of last season, came into the new one on the back of a perfect pre-season–including winning the Community Shield–with very high expectations.  We’re they too high?  Perhaps.  Re-calibration began immediately with an opening day loss to West Ham, in front of the home crowd no less.  It’s been better since–in domestic competition at least–but it’s also been a campaign which has clearly not lived up to our high hopes.  Goals have been very hard to come by, at least until the 5 goal barrage at Leicester City a week ago which doubled our league total up to that point.  Coming off a home defeat to Olympiakos in a Champions League match in midweek, this showdown looms even larger.

And, truth be told, Arsenal have not had much success against United in our new stadium.  Since the move in 2006, Arsenal have only beaten ManU late in that first season (as United were cruising to the league title) and in November 2008.  The league win that season was overshadowed the following Spring when United beat us 3-1 in the 2nd leg of a Champions League semi-final (4-1 on aggregate), a win which sent them to the final in Moscow where they beat Chelsea on penalty kicks.   The only victory since then was an end of season 1-nil in 2011.

The biggest humiliation of all might have been welcoming United at the end of Ferguson’s final season and having to perform the “guard of honour” for their team which had already secured the league title.  Having to greet Robin van Persie–the Judas who had left us the previous summer–in this fashion and then only being able to eke out a draw despite the motivation of fighting a big uphill battle for 4th place and Champions League football.  It was a match which showed the gulf–at that time–between the two clubs.

Van Persie, now playing in Turkey, is one who has fallen victim to current Manager Louis van Gaal’s revolving door policy.  Van Gaal, burning through a pile of money (nearly half a billion pounds in just two seasons), has also moved on other older expensive players, notably Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao–players he brought in himself–choosing instead to invest in younger players like Martial and Memphis Depay.

In attack at least.  At the rear of midfield (and for not much less money) the investment has been in older, more established players.  Bastien Schweinsteiger (31 years old, 275,000 pounds/week) and Morgan Schneiderlin (25 years old,  27 million pound transfer) are supposed to anchor the attack and create a secure bridge to the rearguard.

It seems reasonably promising, but it’s also clearly a work in progress and Van Gaal still seems to be ironing out his ideas.  Veterans like Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney seem back in favour, but others, like Maroune Fellaini and Ashley Young, both of whom LvG relied upon heavily last season, seem more peripheral figures.  Defence seems the iffiest part of the scheme, especially with injuries to Luke Shaw and Marcus Rojo.  De Gea in goal is a bonus and Daley Blind has done quite well as a utility defender filling in at FB and CB, but the newer generation of English defenders, notably Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, haven’t quite established themselves as automatic choices.

Do Arsenal have enough to stand up to this version of United and finally get a home win against them?  The answer likely depends on who you ask and, in fact, can only be truly answered by what we see after the match kicks off.

Further questions loom.  Will the mid-week loss make Arsenal hungry to right the wrong or will the confidence that was beginning to grow with victories at Spurs and Leicester be reduced to zero?  Will Gooners come to the stadium (having payed the big money to watch the “A” level match) and be completely behind their players?   Old narratives which appear after each stumble–that manager Arsene Wenger has been too long at the helm and too prone to bad selections and tactical gaffes–might be on the tips of tongues.  Can the fans, the players and their beleaguered manager come together for a big performance and result this Sunday?

How should Wenger and his team try and get one over on United and Van Gaal?  Will he expect LvG to set out to absorb pressure and hit on the break–a tactic proven quite successful, especially against us in our home stadium–or should Wenger expect Van Gaal to come at us a bit?  What should we expect and how should we set up?

Due to injuries to Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, (and the longer term absences of Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky) our team, I think, almost to a man, picks itself.  There could be a question up front, given that Olivier Giroud should be well rested having sat out the Tuesday match due to suspension.  Theo Walcott, however, has scored in his last two outings and seems more involved in other parts of our attack so dropping him seems unlikely.  Aaron Ramsey likely steps in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in his free role from the right.  I guess some are asking about who plays in goal, but, to me at least, the minor calf problem which saw Petr Cech take only a bench seat vs Olympiakos was nothing more than a classic Weng-jury Rotation Ruse (copyright pending…), transparent as a well rolled sheet of phyllo dough.

Here then is the Arsenal set-up I would predict:

Bench: Ospina, Chambers, Debuchy, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Campbell, Giroud

Personally, I’d love to see Walcott AND Giroud from the opening whistle in this one and I’d choose to sacrifice Coquelin and move Ramsey central.  Most analysis of the Olympiakos match suggests that we looked immediately stronger in attack when Rambo came on for Le Coq and his play helped get us the equalizer.  Coquelin’s presence, however, might’ve been missed as the Greek team–almost from the  ensuing kick-off–sliced through our half and scored the winner.

To me, using Coquelin suggests trying to control a low scoring match; going with Theo and Ollie–and Alexis–as a fluid front three, backed up by Ozil, Santi and Rambo, would seem a hell-for-leather, we-believe-we-can-outscore-you, sort of approach, even if it might leave us very short of attacking options from the bench if we were to need a goal or lose a player to injury.  Still, it’s what I’d prefer as I think we need a definitive and aggressive showing heading into the international break.

What do you guys think?

Let’s go for it, I say.  Much as I believe LvG’s United are a work in progress, so too is this Arsenal team.  Until we can stride out onto our own pitch and confidently play OUR game against this sort of competition we remain an embodiment of nervous potential rather than any sort of realized excellence.  We have to see these matches as opportunities to lay down a real marker rather than worrisome stumbling blocks.  Indeed, another home loss would be devastating, but, at the level to which we aspire, that’s always the case.  We play these games in order to win them and make our home stadium into a real fortress.  In the end, these are the matches, which, if won in style, assert our place in the sport and make for great memories.


by 17highburyterrace

46 thoughts on “Arsenal – Manchester United. Match Preview, Predicted Line-Up. English Football’s Greatest Rivalry or

  • Personal Note: I will be traveling to Europe in a couple of weeks and Total Arsenal and I are looking for tickets to the Capital One Cup match vs Sheffield Wednesday. The first allocation for Arsenal supporters has sold out.

    There will be a new allocation of tickets on Tuesday, but only for Platinum, Gold and Travel Club members. If anybody reading has such a membership and could lend us a helping hand, we would be grateful.



  • Great post,Seventeenho! Like you I’d love to play Giroud, Theo and Sanchez and go all out attack. We need Le Coq to hold though and I would play Rambo next to him rather than Sanchez, but that’s just me. Love to beat the horrible Mancs but we must play this calmly. UTA!

  • Spot on HT. Cant see another 11 turning out, unless we have a late injury. Theo scoring at a goal per start must be there, wherever he is deployed. I’m with TA that we need Coq in the formation – manure’s strength is in attack, and our vulnerability will be in the CB partnership I fear; unless we have a strong sweeper in front of them. The choice between Santi and Rambo would be very hard to make, but Ramsey is rested and I can’t see him being on the bench.

    The ‘paper’ picture looks a promising one for us; but we know well how little we can place trust in this. I’m sure the team will be highly fired up for this game – can we control ourselves, and convert the chances we get? Or will we be wasteful in our haste as is our won’t?

    Its a game I’m nervous about and would probably enjoy best from behind Glic’s sofa…. Whilst spuds remain the old enemy, our record against manure is so poor this feels just as important to me now. That said, the fact that the cheating badger won’t be lining up with them takes a bit of the bile out of my system! Come on boys, give us a memorable day!

  • Excellent post Seventino, with some really great points…
    Really enjoyed reading it.

    Agree with Total and AB, we need the insurance of Le Coq in front of our back-four…
    Agree with your line-up 17, and as you say, it picks itself…

    Yes, we need to go for it, but, we cannot afford to lose…

    Psychologically our players may find it very very difficult to recover from a defeat.

    And any hope we may harbour of a title campaign could well be ended and lay in ashes with another home defeat to one of our major rivals.

    So to me, defeat is unthinkable, and our players must take that onto the pitch and shoud fight like crazy, with an emphasis on being hard to beat, to prevent such a scenario…

    Having said (written) that, I think it’ll be a score draw…

  • Btw, wasn’t it an absolute delight, to see that capital arsehole, Mourinho, shuffling uncomfortably in his seat, as his bunch of cheating, diving, fouling, reprobates went down 3-1 at the Bridge…

    It was hilarious… 😀

  • Oh Kev! Why did you put that post(@1:37) in? The last time we had a chuckle at one of our nearest and dearest(not) we promptly put in a limp display ourselves … much as I like the fact that he(Moo) has mentioned the ‘sack’ word himself. 😀

    Sorry HT, I diverted before I got started. Yes, this match does take bigger dimensions than most. The 8-2 scoreline being the one we would most like to wipe from the record book?
    Largely I agree with your starting 11, and the predictability of it … which is a worry?

    So let me start with my concerns. First is Coquelin’s fitness. AW does not make early substitutions.
    So to pull off FC34 when he did, he must have had a reason? A pre-planned sub to give him 45 minutes would have happened at half time. So my concern is twofold. Either Coquelin plays but is not 100%, or, as you suggest, Ramsey moves to that favoured central position … and that worries me because Ramsey wants to play the box to box role whilst nominally he is our DM? – I also disagree that it was Ramsey that made the difference in midweek, well not directly anyway. We were already dominating the game as ‘Olympus’ had gone into defend the lead mode. Hence when Ramsey came on in his favoured position and role, he had the space to run into. But just as I am fearing the repeat that led to the last goal in that game … not quite how Steve described it, two post’s ago, in that ‘he got caught up field’ (technically true, btw), but considering we did not regain possession from their kick off, it was another example of ill-discipline that Per correctly called it after the match.
    To me this is a serious problem, but one Per and AW will be expecting a more unified reaction?

    The other is on the team set up, very much as expected I hasten to add, not a criticism of your line up HT. But again concerns Rambo. Wide left, in a ‘free role? Therefore Bellerin is going to provide width whilst dealing with Depay in defence. Good luck on that Hector!
    However, the possibility of FC34 not starting, and Ramsey moving back, could be compensated by having Debuchy to defend, and Bellerin playing on the right from midfield, and only getting back to double up? He has a bit more freedom to move into the attacking support role if that is the case?

    But putting those two worries aside. The only chance we have got of getting anything from this game is by seriously upping our conversion rate. A 6% season average is pathetic. The 11% goals to shots in the ‘Olmypus’ game is still poor. It becomes almost a ‘chicken and egg’ situation regarding shots off target (50% in the last game). Do they come about because the close range stuff does not succeed, or are they just poor at taking shots from anywhere? …at the moment. And that is the hope we must cling to. Take our chances created, and defend as a unit and we move into the top three. Easier said than done, except we know the players are capable. So why not today?
    Keep passing and moving and the chances will come …TAKE THEM!

    Keep the faith ….

  • Very well balanced post HT. No turbulence in it. Everything points to that line up. Everything, including Wenger’s likely state of mind.

    Walcott and Giroud from the opening whistle is quite tantalizing. The problem is who does Giroud replace in that line up. Not Alexis, not Ozil, likely Ramsey. LVG philosophy emphasizes the MF play, and Ramsey’s engine will be sorely missed where he not to play.

    Am beginning to think that the Alexis-Walcott combo, might actually be more electric, than the Ozil-Walcott combo. Opponents monitor Walcott’s movements minutely. Alex’s style draws attention to himself, so attension away from Walcott, thereby giving him a head start in his movements. Am excited about that pair.

    We are a flair team that loves streaming forward. Against the big teams, we should counterbalance that tendency with the inclusion of Coq in a destroyer role. For the same reason I also prefer Santi to Ramsey in the deeper MF role, as he is more responsive to our defensive shape.

    We have been there before, in the second half of last season and became the form team. All we need to do, is go back to it.

  • Tow further reflections this morning.

    The first is along the lines of Kev – more the maureen interview after the game than his posturing during it. I loved hearing him bleating about how unfair it was, and asking for referees to give his team a break over the decisions; hilarious and pathetic in equal doses. The self-generated image of this ‘great manager’ is crumbling before us as he whines about his misfortune (take a look at your squad and budget mate!) whilst also seeming clueless about what to do about it. Welcome to management maureen, and the sort of challenges most managers have to deal with every season.

    Looking forward to our game today, I am struck by the difference manure have in their spine; there is a lot of power in their central midfield, and also in Smalling behind them – who is starting to fulfil his promise (sadly, for the wrong team). It will be interesting to see how we approach this challenge – by trying to play through their strength, or go wide of it? Either way, Coq will have to hold firm today, our mobile forwards will have to use their pace and movement to outwit the power players, and Ozil will need to have a day when he shows the world again how he can pull the strings with his vision and passing. Its a game for Wenger’s football ideology to be fully tested, and hopefully borne out.

  • Great points AB (and Allezkev) and agreed on both. Maureen knows that his time is up. He has no stamina and after two or three years his success drains away. He just signed a new contract and getting the Oiler owner to pay him off now would be very lucrative… and then there will be a French or Italian team who will take him on and the whole thing starts again. He is soooo jealous of Wenger because he is the smaller man in every sense. And the sooner he goes the better the PL will become.

    The centre of midfield is indeed the key area, as it is in all top games. Only if Le Coq is fully fit he should play, and if he isn’t, I reckon we need to play Debuchy as our DM. He has played there before, albeit not for us, and there will be no problem in him being motivated. I also would love to see Monreal tried as a DM but not in this match. However, if Ramsey can stay deep and play with discipline we might be fine. Key is then for Cazorla to find the right balance between his defensive and attacking duties…. which is my biggest worry for today. If we get that right, we will get a result.

  • Gerry, I like that Debuchy-Bellerin-in-front suggestion of yours. That tilts my preference for the striker role in favor of Giroud. With Bellerin, there would be plenty of crosses in the air and on the ground, which plays to Giroud’s strength and Walcott’s weakness. Personally I wouldn’t experiment with this on a crucial match like today’s.

    TA, I love brave new ideas. If Coq is not fit, as your line indicated, Monreal will perform well there. Monreal is tactically and technically gifted (this is a Spanish footballing culture). His defensive qualities are proven. He ticks all the boxes as a DM cover.

    As for Maureen, I’ve had fun time this morning buried in Newsnow Chesea. Maureen had the audacity to go toe-toe with Terry and the big boys. Round one only, he is already looking like what the cat played with. Poor fellow, he’s got no clue on how to manage crises. Long may it last.

  • Sorry Gerry, I just couldn’t resist… 😉

    Good to see Joe Willock has finally signed his contract.

    Great to see The Jeff is fit and back in training.
    Wouldn’t surprise me to see him get a few games this season.

  • Great points AB/Total…

    I had a good ol’ chuckle reading your critiques re: The Enemy of Football, as I believe he was referred to by the great Johann Cryuff…

    Total, brilliant point re: Debuchy and def/mid…
    And Monreal. Both could prove surprisingly effective in that role.
    Where having a defensive mindset is crucial, imo…

  • Personally would love to see the Ox start this match. A midfield trio of Coquelin, Cazorla, Rambo in the middle, with Ozil losing out. This would give us the perfect platform to build our attacks. Honestly can’t see us winning this game without a more defensive set up. Once we kept them out at our end,Alexis, Theo and Ox have enough in them to nick a goal or two. We just need to keep them out.

  • Starting (Arsenal)
    Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker(c), Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey; Alexis, Walcott.

    Ospina, Debuchy, Chambers, Gibbs, The Ox, Giroud, Campbell.


    Starting (Man Utd)
    De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Young; Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Mata; Memphis, Rooney(c), Martial

    Romero, Jones, McNair, Valencia, Fellaini, Schneiderlin, Wilson.


    Match Referee: Anthony Taylor
    4th Official: Roger East

  • Hi guys… Well, the team did pick itself…No misses in the 11 nor the full 18… It doesn’t bother me as I think we have a strong group here. Play with discipline, take our chances and get the points…

    Enjoy the match…

  • Afternoon HT. Am I enjoying this or what! And spuds losing to boot. Is this a dream…..?

  • Indeed…Though only morning here… The goals have been lovely, we’re defending very comfortably and there’s plenty of space on the counter when we get it… What’s not to like?


  • We have not been holding the ball so much of late. Hopefully we can stay tight and hit them again on the break?

  • Ooooh….Great chance for wide open Rambo to get in on the goals…fluffs it…

  • Shame about that; Rambo badly needs a goal, and there could be no better game to get it.

  • Ooooh… Mert tossed down by Martial and only stopped by a great save by Cech… Overplaying out of our box as well leads to a dangerous looking cross… So ManU have finally recorded a shot… and we’re not quite closing down the (near) perfect half of football…

    Yeah, the Ramsey chance stands out but only because the others were so well taken. Maybe he had too much time and space…

  • 3-0 at half time – stuff of dreams. But game not over yet and we need to restart with focus; take the game to them again and not sit back on the lead too much. Coq and Cazorla brilliant and running in front of Ozil very strong. Ozil is having a ball and Theo’s assist was proof he has got a footie brain. Bring on the second half! 🙂

  • Yup. Attitude at the start of the second half critical here. We have to press on, not sit back. But our full-backs can stay back a yard or two – we don’t want to lose a clean sheet being hit on the break. Rambo needs to get on the score sheet to kick start his season.

  • Looks like they are going to mix it up a bit more. Long balls and elbows in our faces – Fellaini to try the Costa technique? Lets hope we don’t fall for it if so.

  • Very nice double dummy by United but Cech was wise to it… We might use some subs, maybe as our play going forward has gone a bit stale…

    Bells hit on the back of the head… Cech arm hurt?… 20 mins until the Int’l break…

  • BFG’s been in a lot of good spots all afternoon… Theo and Ozil off for Ollie and Ox


    Kudos to all players, to Arsene Wenger and, may I say, home crowd. I haven’t heard such a loud noise at the Emirates for a while!

    Wenger did Van Gaal big time in the middle of the pitch, used our pace against their experience and brushed them aside. It was the most entertaining match between Arsenal and United since…well, since our 1:0 victory at the Old Trafford in 2006.

    Alexis, Özil, Čech and Cazorla were all magnificent, Coquelin is the best DM in the league but I’d like to point out the importance of Nacho Monreal for this team. Silent, effective, humble. Bravo!

  • Fantastic game and result. A day to savour for a long time. I will be looking for every Manc in work tomorrow. TA may find it hard to limit the report to 8 positives!

  • Just home from the game…

    That was a tonic and just what Arsene needed and deserved after a nasty press campaign to undermine him…

    Coq was superb and Walcotg played like a proper striker, I think he’s getting it…

    Loved our defence and yep saw the blatant shove by Martial on BFG.
    I would have well pissed off if they’d scored from that foul..,

    Best display at home for a long long time and against a top four team.

    Sanchez baby, he’s just the nuts… 😀

  • Hello All,
    What a match, by far the best i have been to.
    It was by far the most noise i have heard our fans make since Highbury.
    Just a joy to be there today..
    Beating United 3-0 and it could have been more.
    I am just going to watch a bit back and il fill you guys in on what it was like there today in a little while. 🙂

  • Kev,
    You was there too, it was rocking today wasn’t it . What a first half , we destroyed them. 🙂

  • All the players were great today.
    I was saying on the train on the way there that i wanted Ozil to show us what he had today and he did not let me down. Such an intelligent player, a master class.
    Him, Cech , Alexis and the BFG were my stand out players today.
    The energy and Cockie 3 PPP’s were let loose today with deverstating effect.
    Best match i have seen there .
    The fans were going nuts. lol
    They were the 12 man today the crowd did us proud today too.

  • Some of you might be thinking Per? But i watched him closely today, though its true that the shit Danny Welbeck got paced him once or twice. The way Per used his body and intelligently defended was very impressive. The calmness that Wenger always says that BFG has was as good as i have ever seen his heading, verything was spot on yes he is not the quickest but he can only work with what he has and today i was very impressed. He still has at least another 2 or 3 seasons at the very highest level i think.
    He is an Arsenal man as well, a leader , proper captain material and he retired from the German national side so he could give his all to Arsenal football club, he is a great player to have for us.

  • PG, brilliant atmosphere mate, a combination of Mourinho losing again, and that’s always certain to spread a party feel at Ashburton Grove and the opposition ManU…

    I actually thought that ManU looked a decent team and they played some good approach play, but we chased them, harried them and broke up their combinations before they got too close to our goal…

    I was in the Rocket beforehand – you should try it PG, it’s a got a great pre match vibe – and it was as if we’d thrashed Olympiakos, there was a superb feeling right across the day.

    I guess we just have those types of days when you have this positivity, it’s in the air, and today was one of those days.

  • There is so much doom and gloom spread across the Web, that when you go to the games at the Grove, you kinda expect to see loads of Arsenal fans slitting their wrists, but it’s not been like that at all for me.

    OK, I’ve only done today and the Stoke game, but I certainly haven’t picked up any supposed negativity at the Emirates…

  • Yes Total, I shall definately be the happiest man on the taxi rank tomorrow… 🙂

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