Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Manchester United’s weaknesses can be Arsenal’s gains
By 1970’s Gooner
You can imagine Wenger in the Arsenal “boot room”, or in his living room more like it, with the video of last Saturday's game between Manchester United and Middlesbrough just finishing.
This will have confirmed to him a few weaknesses in Manchester United’s defensive performance.
The goal conceded was from a header scored by one of the shortest men on the pitch, ex gunner Jeremy Aliadiere.
Uncannily it was a similar goal scored last season by another ex gunner, Thierry Henry, in that victory over United at the Emirates.
Both goals exposed two vulnerable areas in next Saturday’s opponents.
They both came from balls sent into the box from the wide areas of the pitch with the crosser of the ball getting the better of the defender.
Eboue was the provider last season and the Turk Tuncay Sanli last Saturday.
The left and right backs for United, Wes Brown and O’ Shea appear to be vulnerable to pressure especially if it comes from technically gifted opponents.
This is not surprising, as their natural position on the field due to their height and built and the one they have been trained to do since their academy years, is that of a central defender.
And Arsenal have indeed technically gifted wide men that can expose these two makeshift full backs.
Now who Wenger would choose to play wide on Saturday is another matter; but he does have a lot of options: Hleb, Rosicky, Eboue, Walcott to name but a few….
The fact that Manchester United’s wide midfielders,Ronaldo and probably Nani (or Giggs), are much better in their attacking duties rather than their defensive obligations means that Ferguson is limited as to what he can do to provide adequate protection to the full backs.
And if he does so by detailing other midfielders to look out for these situations then other areas of the field will inevitably open up.
Wenger would also have noted that the scorers (Aliadiere and Henry) who are not known for their heading ability managed to get their goal by positioning themselves between the two central defenders, Ferdinand and Vidic.
This is strange, as both the Manchester United players are known for their strength in the air. And in Adebayor, Arsenal have the right man to exploit this if and when the opportunity arises.
He will however need support when Arsenal are on the attack so that the United defenders have more players to worry about and get dragged out of position.
But perhaps what is perceived to be one of Manchester United’s major strengths, that of an attacking mentality and a system of play to match it, may end up being a weakness.
In Tevez and Roonie they have two very good footballers who can not really be instructed to play destructively.
Add to these two Ronaldo and Nani (or Giggs) and you have a very attacking set up but with lots of space being liberated in the middle of the field.
This area is unlikely to be as congested as when “lesser” teams have visited the Emirates (or as congested as it was at Anfield). And this will make for an exciting, open and entertaining game.
Decongested spaces usually suit the more creative and passing team. As indeed was the case last season when Arsenal finished top of the mini league comprising the top four teams in the Premiership.
Which included doing the double over Manchester United.
A disappointing performance at Anfield still has everyone drooling. Plus players ratings
Arsenal’s movement, Liverpool’s long balls and Adebayor’s hunger