Of late, contests between Manchester United and Arsenal have never lived up to the words used to describe the fixture – battle, match, face-off. No, a Manchester United-Arsenal football game has long ceased to be a contest and almost lends itself to a sense of inevitability. Arsenal will try their best, but eventually succumb to Manchester United.
Even under David Moyes, when United were truly vulnerable and capitulated to lesser sides, Arsene Wenger’s side found a way to lose to the Red Devils. Whether it’s a mental block or unpreparedness is anyone’s guess, but that fact of the matter is this – United fans look at games against Arsenal as easy points for the taking.
This time around, things are very different in terms of Manchester United’s team make-up and tactics, and also in the way the manager approaches big games. Louis Van Gaal clearly understands the importance of the matches that are bigger in stature than the rest – this goes to explain Manchester United’s performances against City and Chelsea, where the Red Devils played far better than they have in the rest of the matches, even if results did not go their way.
So, on that note, here are reason why Van Gaal’s Manchester United will beat Wenger’s Arsenal, come Saturday night.
Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere and Flamini – those are the players Wenger has to choose from for central midfield roles. Now while Ramsey has had a better season compared to the others, the Welshman is nowhere near as influential as last season, when he simply couldn’t stop scoring.
Wilshere has regressed significantly, and Arteta and Flamini are simply not good enough to be playing in front of the defense of a team that claims to compete for the title.
On Saturday, this light-weight trio will be up against either two or all of Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera, provided Daley Blind doesn’t miraculously recover from his injury. Expect the United central midfielders to “rough up” their Arsenal counterparts, a tactic that has been employed by them for years against Arsenal.
Physical intimidation is a big part of football, and while a few years back Arsenal were able to get around that problem by simply having more skillful players of the ilk of Fabregas and Nasri, the current Arsenal central midfielders are simply not as good enough, and will be susceptible to constant pressure.
Matches between big teams are often won by a solitary goal, simply because the two teams are evenly matched and partly because neither wants to lose. In such cases, it’s the players of the highest quality that decide the fate of a cagey, tight contest.
Arsenal have one true, genuine world-class player in their side, at the moment – Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has stood out like a sore thumb, mainly because he is far too good compared to his team-mates. Sanchez is capable of winning matches on his own, as he has already proved this season.
Other than Sanchez, not one player from the Arsenal side strikes fear in the heart of the opposition.
On the other hand, Manchester United have Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata. If any two of these four attackers has a good day – and it is realistic to expect Rooney and Van Persie to show up against Arsenal, as they have in the past – then the match is as good as over.
Performances In Big Matches
Arsene Wenger’s record in matches against Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool makes for poor reading. In the 10 years since winning the 2003/04 title with the legendary “Invincibles”, Arsenal have faced the big clubs, the top four clubs, 62 times.
They have won a paltry 15 of those matches, drawn 19 and lost 28. They simply do not turn up for matches against teams higher up in the table. This probably explains their consistent finishes in fourth place. Arsenal are very good in beating teams positioned 5-20 in the table, but completely at sea against teams placed 1-4.
Manchester United have had their worst start to the season in the EPL, yet only 1 point separates them from Arsenal. Recent results in fact point to a United team that is slowly gaining momentum, so the fixture could not have come at a worse time for Arsenal.
For folks who have been watching these two teams battle for years, the writing is clear on the wall – Arsenal will find a way to lose, once again, when they play Manchester United on Saturday.