Arsenal v MU Preview and Lineup: 4-3-3 with Willian in Midfield and SLA in Attack

Arsenal v Manchester United – November 01. 2020 – A bit of history.

See the source image

With the end of WW11, the impending resumption of football led to the managerial appointment of Matt Busby, who demanded an unprecedented level of control over team selection, player transfers and training sessions. Busby led the team to second-place league finishes in 1947, 1948 and 1949, and to FA Cup victory in 1948. In 1952, the club won the First Division, its first league title for 41 years. They then won back-to-back league titles in 1956 and 1957; the squad, who had an average age of 22, were nicknamed “the Busby Babes” by the media, a testament to Busby’s faith in his youth players. In 1957, Manchester United became the first English team to compete in the European Cup, despite objections from The Football League, who had denied Chelsea the same opportunity the previous season. En route to the semi-final, which they lost to Real Madrid, the team recorded a 10–0 victory over Belgian champions Anderlecht, which remains the club’s biggest victory on record.

The following season, on the way home from a European Cup quarter-final victory against Red Star Belgrade, the aircraft carrying the Manchester United players, officials and journalists crashed while attempting to take off after refuelling in Munich, Germany. The Munich air disaster of 6 February 1958 claimed 23 lives, including those of eight players – Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Billy Whelan – and injured several more.

A stone tablet, inscribed with the image of a football pitch and several names. It is surrounded by a stone border in the shape of a football stadium. Above the tablet is a wooden carving of two men holding a large wreath.

A plaque at Old Trafford in memory of those who died in the Munich air disaster, including players’ names.

Assistant manager Jimmy Murphy took over as manager while Busby recovered from his injuries and the club’s makeshift side reached the FA Cup final, which they lost to Bolton Wanderers. In recognition of the team’s tragedy, UEFA invited the club to compete in the 1958–59 European Cup alongside eventual League champions Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite approval from The Football Association, The Football League determined that the club should not enter the competition, since it had not qualified.

 Busby rebuilt the team through the 1960s by signing players such as Denis Law and Pat Crerand, who combined with the next generation of youth players – including George Best – to win the FA Cup in 1963. The following season, they finished second in the league, then won the title in 1965 and 1967. In 1968, Manchester United became the first English (and second British) club to win the European Cup, beating Benfica 4–1 in the final with a team that contained three European Footballers of the Year: Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. They then represented Europe in the 1968 Intercontinental Cup against Estudiantes of Argentina, but lost the tie after losing the first leg in Buenos Aires, before a 1–1 draw at Old Trafford three weeks later. Busby resigned as manager in 1969 before being replaced by the reserve team coach, former Manchester United player Wilf McGuinness.

Arsenal v Man U – EPL Away Games
124-Mar-93 1 00
219-Sep-93  101
322-Mar-95  103
420-Mar-96  101
516-Nov-96  101
614-Mar-981  10
717-Feb-99 1 11
824-Jan-00 1 11
925-Feb-01  116
1008-May-021  10
1107-Dec-02  102
1221-Sep-03 1 00
1324-Oct-04  102
1409-Apr-06  102
1517-Sep-061  10
1613-Apr-08  112
1716-May-09 1 00
1829-Aug-09  112
1913-Dec-10  101
2028-Aug-11  128
2103-Nov-12  112
2210-Nov-13  101
2317-May-15 1 11
2428-Feb-16  123
2519-Nov-16 1 11
2628-Apr-18  112
2705-Dec-18 1 22
2830-Sep-19 1 11
2901-N ov-20     
Arsenal v Man U – All Away League Games
10Division 2136824
63Division 112173461120

Our away record against Man U is perhaps the worst against any other club, in our history we have played them away on101 occasions and only have 16 victories – the last being a 0-1 victory on Sept 06, 2006.To look on the bright side we have drawn the last two games – so maybe just maybe a victory is on the cards.


Predicted Line-up by TotalArsenal:

It looks like Arteta has moved to 4-3-3 and with so many CBs out of contention it would make sense to go with four at the back, including FBs. I cannot see Mustafi starting his third game in seven days after his long injury layoff, and if Luiz is indeed injured then it would not surprise me if Saliba will start. If the latter is the case then there is extra good reason to play with four at the back and ask Bel to stay deeper than usual.

The midfield should see both Xhaka and Partey start and the third player could be either Elneny, Ceballos or Willian. I am going for the Brazilian’s experience in big matches.

In attack I expect Auba and Laca to start and Saka to be the third attacker. Saka and Auba will change sites a lot and I expect Laca to play a lot in midfield to help out Partey and Co.

I expect Tierney to bomb forward a lot and Xhaka to cover for him. The same may be the case on the right side, but it is more likely that Bellerin will be instructed to stay back as much as is needed and allow Willian to link up with the attackers, possibly playing most of his time in the ‘hole’ area.

There will be a key Vieira-esque role for Partey who will sit in front of the defence but will also be allow to bomb forward whilst probably Xhaka will cover for him. I would expect Elneny to replace WIllian after 70 minutes to tighten things up.

I have a good feeling about this game and we may finally win at the Old Toilet again. COYRRGs!!!!!

67 thoughts on “Arsenal v MU Preview and Lineup: 4-3-3 with Willian in Midfield and SLA in Attack

  • Nice preview, GN5. It is a game of the highest prestige – the El Classico of the Premier League.

    TA, I think Arteta would go with with 9 of your starting 11. But this won’t be the debut of Saliba; I would bet a pint of Guinness/Crabbie’s on that. It is not just William played 77 minutes 2 days ago (in the U23 last home defeat), but Mustafi played only 110-115 minutes in his last 2 games, so he shouldn’t be struggling with a full match tonight.
    The other change I anticipate is on the expense of Xhaka. He indeed play a lot (including his Switzerland games), and I don’t think Saka would be deployed in attack. So my predicted line-up against Manchester United (which is not necessary the XI and formation I would pick myself):


  • Cheers PB,

    You could be right but your arguments do not convince me. Mustafi returned from a long injury and this game will be full on. Saliba is young and was able to warm up two days ago, so I expect him to play. XhakA is first on the team sheet in games like these, so I would surprised with your lineup, but I am often wrong hahaha.

  • These were more like intuitions rather than rational arguments from me.
    If you are willing to take the bet though, I’ll be happy to buy you a beer in Edinburgh next year (would you win). 😛

  • And here is another prediction, PB. If we play with your midfield rather than mine we have no chance. I really hope for a solid midfield, a varried attack and an energetic yet calm defence.

  • I (think I) know what you mean. We have the same here in Hungary.
    Due to the (shopping and party) restrictions and the limited choice of outdoor activities people stay in the house and are online for an unprecedented – and unhealthy – amount of time; yet they rarely respond – voluntarily sentencing themselves to a reader/observer capacity.

  • We play unpredictable under Arteta. This is good when referred to a versatile portfolio of tactics, but unfortunate when (properly) referred to the quality of play.
    If we get defeated by Leicester at home, then we have indeed slim chances at Old Trafford. However Manchester United doesn’t seem a deadly force without Martial, and in Solksjaer’s 4-2-3-1 they need an attacker in the top 4 besides Greenwood, Fernandes and Rasford. Footbalfancast predicts Cavani, while Mirror believes it to be Mata, but neither make me terrified, especially with Fred and McTominay playing in midfield. So this game could turn out several ways.

    From Arsenal’s perspective the real challenge is Saka. (This could be the topic of a separate post alone, showing the dilemma of fielding Tierney, Saka and Auba at the same time.) Many news outlets predicts our probably strongest XI:

    Which does not include Saka. If you – as many fans – insist Bukayo plays against MU, he could be playing in the front 3, but that would send Auba to ST leaving Lacazette out of the line-up (unless as in the post you put our captain to RW, but then we lose Willian, Pepe and Nelson – the position where we are most equipped with quality players). If we let Laca and Auba play with the in-form RW (currently Willian), then Saka could either play in the left side of the midfield in a 3-4-3, effectively ‘demoting’ Tierney to LCB, or play CM in 4-3-3 (my prediction) squeezing out one from Xhaka, Ceballos or Partey.

  • Another interesting post GN5, thanks for all your good work and yes our record vs Newton Heath is awful, even when the biggest club in Salford are going through a bad patch the visit of Arsenal is always certain to hand them a positive result, I think it must be psychological with the Arsenal players arriving on Matt Busby Way with their heads full of negative thoughts from previous visits and poor results.

    It’s strange, but during Arsenal’s most dominant period in their history through the 1930’s when we won 5 league titles we didn’t face Man Utd that often as they were in Division Two for the majority of that decade, if we had then maybe our record at OT would have looked a lot better. Even when we won our original Double in 1970/71 we drew at Old Trafford and a few years later 1973/74 Man Utd got relegated and spent 1974/75 in Division Two before ex Arsenal player Tommy Docherty managed them to promotion playing an entertaining brand of football with two out and out wingers in Gordon Hill and Steve Coppell.

    Stuart Pearson was their centre forward, I always like Pearson and would have loved to have seen Arsenal sign him, he was an all action striker who won went on to win many England caps. Arsenal had been interested in Pearson who was then playing for Hull City but Man Utd just outbid us with the then Arsenal manager Bertie Mee stating that Pearson was too expensive and that he had a player of equal quality in Brian Hornsby. It was PR rubbish because Hornsby was energetic but limited and left the club a couple of years later, it was classic Arsenal penny pinching and spoke volumes of the lack of ambition of our club at that time.

    It was almost written in the stars that the Invincible’s would lose their unbeaten record at Old Trafford, United got away with a litany of foul play and won a very questionable penalty when arch Ferguson puppet and match referee Mike Riley pointed to the spot, no doubt he found a few classic bottles of red wine in his kit bag after the game, courtesy of Sir Jocko…

    Today we face another bete noire, this one complete with bulging eyes and a burning ambition to point at the Arsenal penalty spot, he is a contemptible little weasel and with the Ferguson puppet running the show it was not a major surprise to see him awarded the game.

    So yes, we face a torrid afternoon, nobody expects Arsenal to leave Old Trafford with anything, not even a draw, it’s one of those games where you wonder if it was even worth making the journey?

    It would be a sweet irony for me if Arsenal could spoil OGS’s 100th game, you know a kind of payback for the Invincible stitch up, but I’m not holding our too much hope in that regard.

    It would be nice to see Willock and Nelson on the subs bench as a kind of a reward and encouragement for their excellent performances in midweek, but I guess we’ll see all the usual suspects…

  • Good argumentation, PB. I would leave Ceballos out, and I reckon Arteta will do the same. Saka should play although I am worried about getting injured at old peehole.

  • That’s a great comment Kev. Old Trafford is one of few top division grounds that I never visited – never wanted to frankly.

    I still seethe when I think about Rooney diving for that penalty and Riley pointing to the spot; classic chicanery.

  • If you can bear to watch it – this video shows the foul tactics Man U employed to beat Arsenal – including the infamous Rooney dive……

  • Cheers GN5, I gave the vids a miss, far far too painful. ☹️

    Ward Prowse does takes a wicked free kick but I wonder Total, do any of our players practice this skill because it’s one of those disciplines that only improves with repetition and repeating your skills until you can do it with your eyes closed?

    Having watched some of our recent shabby efforts I have to doubt that our players are as dedicated to honing their dead ball ability as the Southampton man.

  • The team with the least goals conceded in the premier should be ok today. Still cant believe that stat. It would help if we score one though.

  • Leno
    Aubameyang (c)

    R. Rúnarsson

  • Well I am v surprised to see XhakA only on the bench but luckily Elneny and Partey are starting and that should give us balance. Maybe XhakA is defensive backup in case of injury or fatigue? There is only one proper CB on the bench..

    Is it 3-4-3 or 4213 with Saka or Willian in the hole?

  • Very good first half by the boys. We are the better team but just lack a bit of confidence to finish off the good work. Let’s keep it up in the second half. Love the way we use both wings. Elneny and Partey form a solid wall and both have been great. Also love Willian.

  • If we blow it today you’ll get the usual extremists on other blogs blaming Arteta and saying sack him when to me it’s obvious, our finishing is abject and has been all season long.

    How do you improve it?

    I’m not sure, there’s only so much that coaching can achieve, in the end the only alternative is to change the players….

    And I don’t trust that little weasel with the whistle, Holding and Gabriel need to be so so careful!

  • What a 1st half for us finally fluidity with great passing. Special mention for Elneny and Partey controlling the midfield. Unfortunately failed to rake our chances especially Saka failing to convert the header. Laka has done well winning the ball and moving it on and how can I forget Willian`s much improved performance. COYGS!!!

  • I am worried about having both Holding and Gabriel on yellow cards against Ute with Dean as ref even though that would be a worry against any team it’s especially problematic against this team and ref. Wonder if Arteta should preemptively take off Holding eat some point.

  • Auba could have done better again Laka with good work been outstanding today pressuring defenders

  • An away win at big 6 at last most importantly at Old Toilet another milestone for Mikel. Oh how to choose a M.O.M, off thevtopnof my head Elneny will just shade it but I expect healthy disagreements on this there were many great shifts put in by the gunners.

  • Gabriel is absolute rock what a signing, some of our best signings like Leno, Elneny and Gabriel have been great value for money at under 30 mill long may it continue.

  • Once in a long while fate turns in our way at Old Trafford – even Dean seemed to be neutral!

  • Yes GN5 Dean was fair and actually had a good game and it was nice that we had a manager who picked an organized team to meet the moment and come away with all the points. I gained quite a bit of satisfaction in winning with a clean sheet and a 1 goal margin because of the graft, determination, character and concentration it required. 5 star all round team performance with great offensive and defensive balance.

  • Fine performance, all round. Hard to pick a weak link and Partey had Pogba’s number all day long. He and Elneny were the reason Pogba and Fernández couldn’t perform optimally.

    Gabriel too was immense. Hopefully, the goal brings back Auba’s goal scoring touch. I think our team structure and demands don’t give him too many opportunities to score multiple goals in games against organized sides.

    So chuffed at this result and I agree, it feels even better at Old toilet and with Mike Dean in charge. Long may it continue.

  • N5 I knew you’d have a great historical post for this fixture.

    Btw, where’s 17HT lately? I think of him on matchdays… missing the great commentary.

  • Will watch game later, but from the comments here I love to see Elneny working well with Partey. Remember I’m Mo’s harshest detractor here, but if Mikel turns him into a valuable player for us, i dont care who starts. If he finds different uses for Xhaka, I think it was time to re examine how he’s positioned, toward his strengths. I’m happy Holding was back too.

    I like managers who tinker a lot, I think its a necessity these days. After years of Arsene, we needed to see this. I’ll say Emery (a very good coach) tried lots, but there never seemed to be an endgame in sight. Arteta, I sense is working steadily towards his vision, but is very open to fluid adjustments, and the lineup today showed it.

  • Thanks, TA, but I didn’t see the entire game to do the ratings. But I will be honored to write a post on the key talking points, observations, or something like that.

    Under the 4 MotMs I meant that Partey was great, and rightfully deserves the award, and Gabriel was also commanding (albeit he seems always good, being nominated for Man of the Match twice this season already). Yet, Elneny was so much better than everyone expected – even you, TA, although only slightly better than your prediction – that he deserves to be praised; and the same applies to Holding, who had a great game statistic-wise and kept Rashford at bay. But he is the least qualified of the 4, so he might not get the nod…

  • In terms of Elneny as MoM I tried to take out my own bias in favour of him as an underdog and much maligned figuure; and looking at it from a neutral perspective without any preconceived notions and expectations one would be hard pressed to exclude him in our top 3 performers and I suspect a fair share of the audience also saw him as MoM as I did.

    I would say Elneny, Gabriel and Partey were deserving of 9s but then I look at Tierney, Bells and Lacca and I wonder how I could dock them any points even Willian was almost flawless and I got to say Mikel made the right call including him over Nelson or Pepe.

  • Good comment, J. Elneny was very good. I guess Xhaka and Ceballos will play this Thursday and therefore did not feature today. I have to say Xhaka was not missed today and that is a big compliment to both Partey and Elneny.

  • It was my wife’s birthday yesterday, the 31st. I was a “co-conspirator” in a plan to give her a surprise, under COVID-19 protocols and it went so well, she is still buzzing from all the love; also can’t get over how we pulled it off as she always fancied herself to be an in-the-know type and hard to surprise. It was hard work with her, to be fair, but we did pull it off.

    It continued today with a family photo shoot. After that, I was able to settle down to catch the game, in between taking my turn with the rest of the family for the shoot. I cannot express it enough how much more pleasure it gave me to see us pull off this win at the home of United, after the media have gone on and on about how long it’s been since we won there.

    It’s made all our family celebrations the more enjoyable. Thank you, Arsenal. Thanks boys.

  • Way to go Eris!
    Not very easy to live life as normal very often these last many months.


  • Thanks, Y’all.

    You’re right, jw1. We just have to make of it what we can, in the circumstances.

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