Time for revenge? (22/01/23) – Game preview
New signings are always exciting, but life moves on, and we are facing another important game on Sunday. So far, the only team that defeated Arsenal in the Premier League is returning the visit, so regardless of their current position it’s a matter of pride to win against Manchester United.
Last season we had Man City and Liverpool taking all 6 points from our 2-2 encounters, plus we had Crystal Palace and Brighton taking 4 points each. So if we defeat the Mancs tomorrow then we have reduced the number of teams taking more points from the 2 meetings than us to a hypothetical 2, which might be further decreased if we don’t lose against Newcastle and stand our ground against the defending champions. This would be something to brag about…
Let’s start the preview with the notable absentees. Besides the long-term injuries of Jesus and Nelson we have to add Elneny to the list, as he had a knock. Normally I wouldn’t be concerned about that, but Elneny’s best games were against Manchester United (and Chelsea), so I’ll miss him from the bench, and will be worried if he will play against Southampton or Nottingham, where he shouldn’t. United has a longer list of players missing the game that used to be the highlight of the league for a decade: Jones, Dalot, Martial, Tuanzabe and van de Beek are injured, Sancho is in a bad place (officially he has ‘personal reasons’, but I don’t know the difference), and Casemiro got his 5th booking in the 80th minute of their last game.
By the way, yellow cards. The rules state that whoever accumulates 5 warnings in the first 19 round will be suspended for a PL match. This is our 19th game, and we have 4 players on 4 yellow cards. Jesus won’t collect his 5th, but Saliba, Saka and Gabriel Magalhães might. I know that the Everton game on the 4th of February is not a season definer to say the least, but it would be nice to avoid suspension nevertheless. The 19th round does not literally reset the card count, but almost: the next milestone is collecting 10 yellows in 32 rounds, which is less likely if the guys start the 20th game with less than 5.
According to TransferMarkt their top-6 players with the highest market values are Fernandes, Antony, Sancho, Rashford, Casemiro and L. Martinez. Anthony, Sancho and Martinez worth so much because of their inflated transfer price, but indeed we do have to take care of Rashford and Fernandes, as they are strong and in-form players that can seriously influence a game. If we can switch them off, we are expected to keep all 3 points at home.
United is famous to protect their lead, so it would help if we could score first. Fortunately, we can rely on the brilliance of captain Odegaard, the dangerous dribbles of our wingers, and we can hurt Manchester in set pieces. Even though both Varane and Maguire are tall defenders, they will most likely mark our attacking outlets, so Saliba and Gabriel – the twin towers of North-London – could carve themselves a few openings after a corner or a free-kick.
They play in the same formation as Arsenal: 4-2-3-1, where Weghorst will play up front supported by Anthony and Rashford on the wings and Bruno from attacking midfield. The dual pivot behind them will be Eriksen with either Fred or McTominay. This will be one of their weaknesses as Eriksen – a former world class AM – has limited defensive contributions, and neither Fred nor Scott are on the level of Partey or Xhaka. I expect them to realize they will not win the possession battle, therefore resort to counterattacks; and that should decide the outcome as our central defenders are superior to theirs, but both William and Gabriel are capable of individual errors (If they could remove that from their game, both of them would be top-5 defenders in the PL). Their other weakness is that we have better players in 1-2-1 comparison for the majority of the positions.
What the boys should further take into consideration is the superior stamina of the opponent. Manchester United scored most of the goals in the final 15 minutes and conceded the least in the last half an hour. They will not get tired as easy as other teams, thus can be still dangerous even when trailing by 2 in the 80th minute.
Our only loss this season in the Premier League came against our current guests, when we lost 3-1 at Old Trafford back in September. Since then Arsenal have drawn two and won the other ten of our league games. In fact I think we shouldn’t have lost that game either; you might remember that Martinelli’s opening goals was chalked off due to a bullsh*t fault Odegaard allegedly committed several seconds earlier. We were chasing the game after Anthony’s debut goal and after equalizing we were punished by 2 swift counterattacks (both scored by Rashford); let’s hope it will not happen this afternoon. The game official is no good news, though: the professional W⚓, Anthony Taylor.
Statistics suggest that neither teams should lose: Arsenal kept 5 clean sheets in the last 7 games (winning 6), while United is undefeated for 6 games suggesting a 0:0 result. Yet, I predict a 2:1 victory, especially as the red devils should only be proud of the scalp of their city rival, while defeating Nottingham, Wolves or Bournemouth is less of an achievement (no offense intended). There is a good chance that by the time the game starts we will be only 2 points ahead of Manchester City, with 2 games in hand to be fair. Let us win this one, and visit City on Friday in an FA Cup fixture full of confidence.
By Peter Barany.