Premier League 2018-19: Can Manchester United turn their season around against Arsenal?
Unai Emery, in one of the interviews, post the Tottenham game, yet expressing his disappointment after the three consecutive draws, only shows the levels of demands at the Emirates this season.
It also says an awful lot about the man, himself. Some would argue that Arsenal always turn up for games against Spurs but what intrigued most fans was the manner of the victory on Sunday. It looked, right from the beginning, that there was only going to be one winner and they weren’t wearing lily white. It seems that after a long winter under Arsene Wenger, spring has well and truly arrived in the red half of the North London.
While the Gunners are relishing the season so far under the Spaniard, Manchester United have problems of their own. There have been questions raised about the player-manager relationship, the dour football that’s on offer and key of all that they look far off the pace the top four.
The north of the top half of the Premier League has become so intense and competitive that any result but a win, in a game or two and you become somewhat irrelevant from the pack. And, it becomes increasingly difficult to get right in the mix again as no other team has dropped points and Manchester United are the perfect example of it.
So, apart from the technicalities, what can Mourinho do to make it difficult for Arsenal?
Play the strongest XI
This would do nicely to begin with. There’s proven to be a stark difference in terms of the fitness levels between the current Arsenal side and Manchester United’s’.
For this reason alone, Nemanja Matic must be dropped, never mind his poor form. The Serbian has looked leggy all season but the loyalty is doing its job so far to keep him in the starting XI. And, if we the North London derby has taught us anything, Arsenal will just have a field day in the middle of the park against him.
A front-foot start
If a game of football was played only forty-five minutes, the gunners would be sitting in the nineteenth position, fighting relegation, that’s how bad the first halves have been for them.
And, that is the window of opportunity for the currently, much inferior Manchester United. They must start the game on the front foot and take every opportunity that comes their way if they are to get anything from it. Because the Gunners are the masters of second halves.
No other team has scored more goals (24) in the second half than Arsenal. So, it also means that United will have to play out of their skins in the second forty-five minutes, if the lead is to be maintained.
The belief that they can win
Arsenal have been favourites to win at Old Trafford ever since Alex Ferguson retired but never really have won despite giving the Red Devils proper hiding last season.
It has always been partially down to United’s belief and partially, to Arsenal’s mental block to get results at OT. The manager must pump-up his players and ensure every last one of them is up for it because if not, this new Arsenal side will just blow them away.
Tactics, formation and all that is important in big games like this but they can only achieve so much. More often than not, it’s the character, belief and win at all cost attitude of the team that wins high-stake games and it’s about time these United players showed their fans and detractors alike, that they have it them.