Thursday, November 06, 2008
How do you beat Manchester United?
What I do know is that you don’t beat them by defending as stupidly as we did against Spurs, by playing as meekly as we did against Stoke and by missing those chances we created against Fenerbacse.
But beat United and everybody starts believing again. The team believe they can compete, the journalists are kept quiet and the fans are reassured that Wenger has not gone potty.
Lose the game and the murmurs will turn into strong discontentment with severe implications for the policy chosen by Arsene Wenger of relying only on youth.
The uncertainty for the future of this team will multiply and the commitment of certain important players for Arsenal will be jeopardised…
Liverpool beat United by playing a relentless pressing game, closing down every corridor and stopping their free flowing passing. But we cannot do that as effectively as we don’t have the players to do it.
Most, if not all, of our available midfielders are more creative by nature rather than defensively or negatively minded. It’s not in their DNA if you like.
Also United will have Ronaldo, Carrick and possibly Hargreaves back making them a different, more passing team, to the one that lost to Liverpool.
So we will greatly increase our chances of winning if we manage to keep the ball away from them. As the old saying goes “they can’t hurt us if they don’t have the ball”.
Go with 5 in the middle
For this reason – and the number of injuries - I think we should go with 5 in the middle.
My five would be Nasri, Cesc, Diaby, Song and Theo. Wenger might choose Denilson and leave either Diaby or Song on the bench although I would want to see some steel there.
I think Ferguson might go the same way, pushing Rooney to the left wing and Ronaldo to the right but free to roam and support Berbatov through the middle.
If that is the case then we will have a couple of areas that we could exploit and get at their defence.
Arsenal’s full backs can provide the winning thrust
As always with Arsenal, the full backs are our most important players. They provide the width and most importantly set the tempo for the rest of the team.
Firstly Sagna and Theo must push Rooney back on to his full back. Make him worry more about defending than attacking. Frustrate him and hope he drifts out of the game.
While Rooney will be willing to run back all day, Ronaldo may not. He tends to stay high up the pitch. Clichy MUST ignore what Ronaldo is doing and play his natural attacking game.
One of Kolo, Silvestre (Djourou if he plays) or Song will aim to get to Ronaldo in time and stop the counter attack.
Clichy and his mate Nasri can win the game for us
Whoever is playing at right back for United is going to be partially exposed because of Ronaldo not tracking back.
If it’s Brown then Clichy will beat him on the outside, if it’s Da Silva, Nasri has the ability to twist him inside out and if it’s Neville, well, I expect to have a number of free kicks in and around that area. Maybe Silvestre can punish his old team from a set piece!
If one of their 3 in midfield has to move over to cover for Ronaldo’s absence on the right side then this will release Cesc in the middle, hopefully allowing him to dictate play and dominate the midfield.
Bendtner, who I expect to play up front, will aim to drag one of the centre backs out of position with his movement giving our midfield the chance to break forward and try and finish off moves.
In order to analyse the game I assumed that Fergie will play a variation of a 4 5 1 formation but he could employ a more attacking 4 4 2.
But whatever formation he employs, the same thing will apply; we need to attack Brown (I consider him the weak link in their defence) and force their wingers backwards.
Whatever happens lets hope that we’ll defend better than we have done recently especially at set pieces and that we are in less charitable mood than Wednesday week….
All I can say is that we are well overdue a performance full of commitment and quality from the boys.
I think we will get it on Saturday.