Wayne Rooney celebrates as Manchester United beat Arsenal at the Emirates last season
Manchester United travel to Arsenal knowing that a win will return the club to the top of the Premier League following Manchester City’s 6-1 thumping of Newcastle United yesterday. The home side come into the match off the back of a shock 3-2 defeat at home in the Champions League, which leaves the North London club at the bottom of their group. United come in off the back of beating Sunderland at home last weekend and thwarting German club Wolfburg midweek having gone a goal behind.
Anthony Martial will be looking to add to his tally of four goals so far this season with the revelation that Arsene Wenger had enquired about the teenager when at Lyon and also at Monaco – only for the club to sell the youngster to Manchester United for a world record fee, for a teenager, of £36 million plus add ons on transfer deadline day.
Wenger on Martial interest
Although Arsenal never made a formal bid for the youngster, Arsene Wenger has revealed that he showed interest in the young Frenchman, who has been compared to Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, only to be told that Martial wasn’t sellable. Wenger also revealed that he was monitoring Martial’s development when at Lyon, before he was sold to Monaco for £3million.
Monaco vice president, Vadim Vasilyev, also revealed that United’s £36million bid was not the highest the club received over the summer for Martial, stating that the player only wanted to sign for Manchester United. The unnamed club also offered the option for Monaco to loan the player back for a year.
Louis van Gaal confirmed that Michael Carrick is back in contention for the game having missed the game against Wolfsburg midweek. United are missing Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and long term absentee Luke Shaw. Arsenal are without a few players for the match, with former red Danny Welbeck joined on the sidelines with Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky. Laurent Koscielny will also miss the game having picked up a hamstring injury.
View from the opposition
We have a great view from the opposition with three match going Arsenal fans all contributing. Mark Gilbert, Dave Adams and Russell Giblin caught up with us over Arsenal’s defeat midweek to Olympiakos, was Danny Welbeck and good investment and is Arsene Wenger still the right man for the job. You can follow Mark Gilbert @Gilberto82, Dave Adams @djadams73 and Russell Giblin @russell_giblin.
1) What is happening with Arsenal in Europe at the moment?
RG: Its a sad state of affairs Arsenal in the Champions League since the stadiums been built. It seems more impetus is put on getting to The Champions League rather than staying in it when we are there. I am all in favour of squad rotation if the players are there but we lack strength in depth in important positions so i have no idea why Wenger would rest Cech for these big occasions. This could well and probably will be the 1st time for a while that we won’t make the knock out phases but if we don’t id rather get 4th in the group rather than playing 28 games in the Europa League.
DA: Defensively poor, tactically inept.
MG: We don’t seem to be able to change our game plan. Other European sides change formation of tactics to suit opponents, we tend to keep to the 4-2-3-1 system consistently. I’d love to see us revert to 4-4-1-1 with wingers (Ox, Theo & Alexis can all play wide). The performance against Olympiakos was poor – especially defensively. Odours made a bad error but actually, last season he performed well for us. He’s a good goalkeeper.
The problem most supporters have is that Cech is better & it makes no sense rotating goalkeepers – especially when we’ve not had a settled back line all season. A consistent back five would learn each other’s games inside out…but when you rotate the keeper, centre backs & full backs like Wenger has this season, relationships take longer to form.
Interestingly, we are the team who’ve created most chances in Europe this season, and Santi Cazorla is the top creator in Europe – so it’s not like we’re short on ideas or a supply line. It’s silly defensive lapses that are costing us.
2) The club has won back to back FA Cups in the past two seasons – can you follow that up with a title charge?
RG: No! We lack the squad to challenge for the title. I don’t even think its £100million striker were missing as only 3 or 4 clubs in the world have one of those. Its really basic…. we make too many stupid mistakes. You will rarely see a well worked goal against Arsenal it will undoubtedly be a howling mistake. Gone are the days of Stephanovs, Luzhny, Almunia but there is still something in built in our team that loves giving away goals.
MG: We’ll be there or thereabouts but my gut feeling is we’ll struggle if Coquelin or Koscielny get injured. They’re vital to our team & their back ups (Gabriel, Flamini, Arteta) are either fading away or still settling into English football. I think Gabriel will be a big player for us, but he’ll need time. Flamini & Arteta have been great servants but are past their best. We need a young-ish player to compliment Coquelin.
More frustrating was the failure to purchase another centre forward. I cannot believe that there isn’t one player in world football who would not have improved our frontline. Walcott’s started well, Alexis is coming back into form after the Copa America & Giroud is always a 7/10 player but our best squads always had four top forwards. Remember when we had Wright, Bergkamp, Anelka & Wreh. Then Bergkamp, Henry, Kanu & Wiltord? I’m not sure Benzema was ever a realistic option, but Higuain would have been gettable & would add a new dimension to our attack.
Without those three positions being added to, I feel we’ll most likely finish third again.
DA: No, and will not win another one until he buys the right players.
3) Why haven’t Arsenal won the league since 2004?
MG: It’s not easy to win the league anyway but moving to the Emirates & paying the stadium off made it harder to compete. We’re a brilliantly run club & Wenger & the Board are shrewd with their money. It was right to be prudent & not spend more than we had. Wenger performed miracles keeping us in the Champions League while our best players, Vieira, Henry, Fabregas, Nasri, RvP, etc all got plucked away by our rivals. The frustration now is that we’re in a stronger financial position, have over £200m in the bank yet we have not strengthened key areas of the team.
RG: I think whilst building our stadium we have done very well to stay in the top 4. I think before Sanchez and Ozil our transfer policy held us back whilst “big” teams around us spent a hell of a lot of money on winning the title. Wenger was trying to hard to make like a pure squad of Arsenal talent that he’s bought up from the Youth Team, I’m glad he’s seen the light and realised that sadly it is impossible for football to run like that. I think within the next few years we will have a proper go at winning the title.
DA: See above, also has never replaced the defence that he inherited.
4) Who is the best Arsenal player you’ve ever seen and why?
DA: Thierry Henry, skill, pace and goal scoring ability. Reminds me a little bit of myself.
MG: Dennis Beegkamp. He made everyone he played with better than they were. Wright, Anelka, Ljubgberg & Henry were elevated to far higher levels because of DB10. Henry once said: “When I arrived at Arsenal, I found myself competing with Davor Suker, Nwankwo Kanu and God – and God is at Arsenal as Dennis Bergkamp.”
That sums up Bergkamp’s influence and standing nicely.
RG: I always hate this question because i think they’re are too many different players who I like for different reasons. The first Arsenal game I went to was in 1988 to see Arsenal stuff Luton 2-0. I came away from that game with a love for Perry Groves, it may of been his ginger hair like me or the fact he scored the second goal.
But in years to come that he really loved Arsenal and seemed like he really cared if we won or lost. But having said all that he obviously in no way compares to Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. Personally I think Bergkamp more so as he joined Arsenal at a strange time and made us think we were a big club because he was Dennis Bergkamp….
Dennis Bergkamp, he had that factor of moving you in your seat or making you forget about anything in life other than his chipped through ball against Juventus. Ive been really lucky over the years to see some top talent at Arsenal but growing up in the 80’s and 90’s having a flair player really was unreal to me as an Arsenal player, George Graham would never of bought Jose Antonio Reyes…. but then again he also wouldn’t of bought Pascal Cyan.
5) Sir Alex Ferguson once said “Tony Adams is a Manchester United player with an Arsenal jersey on” – have you ever seen an “Arsenal player” with a United jersey on?
RG: It was a strange thing to say “I thought he was a Man Utd player in an Arsenal shirt” I’m sure Tony Adams didn’t like that I’m sure he always felt like an Arsenal player in an Arsenal shirt. In recent years Juan Mata should of been an Arsenal player. He fits the bill to everything Arsene likes in a midfielder, Good engine, creative, 2 feet. I still can’t really believe that you have him, just why Chelsea gave you that life line when you were struggling. Seems strange to me.
MG: The one that makes most sense would be Giggs. I think he’d have slotted into any of our sides from’98-’05 really well. He had pace, a great touch, trickery, vision, could get involved in the nastier side of the game if needed & scored goals.
DA:No. But I did once see Tony Adams drunk in Kenwood park.
6) What was the best Arsenal side – 98, 02, 04?
MG: The Invincibles. Going a season unbeaten is incredible & there was no weakness in that squad. Look at the bench: Reyes, Kanu, Wiltord, Edu, Keown…awesome. And having Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Gilberto, Campbell, Cole & Lehmann firing on all cylinders made us arguably the best team the Premier League has even seen.
RG: I remember all 3 teams really well, I was very lucky to be injured in 98 so i remember my old man taking me to a few games. It started sadly though as I loved Paul Merson and he was sold in pre season and I remember the FA Cup final against Newcastle being 1 of those glorious FA Cup final days were the suns out and everyone around you seems happy. I think 02 for me was my favourite squad even if it did have Franny Jeffers at No 9 but it didn’t have Eboue at No 22. 02 was by far the better squad with even people like Edu chipping in with goals.
DA: Tricky, maybe 02 but hard to say really.
7) What have you made of United this season? Can Louis van Gaal make a bid for the title?
DA: Sorry matey but if it’s not Arsenal I really don’t care about any other team.
RG: I like Van Gaal he seems very honest which is rare these days in interviews. He’s not scared to drop players or sell players or try new things, I like him. I think he has almost stopped the rot now, it was at a point as an Arsenal fan that you were surprised when Man Utd Lost and then there wasn’t that surprise for a while, i just started leaving them out of my Accumulators each week. I think he has now brought back that surprise. I don’t think you can win the league this year but I think your performances against Chelsea and Man City could effect where the title goes this season.
MG: Van Gaal’s won titles in Holland, Spain & Germany. He’s a winner & he will win silverware with Man Utd. But it’ll be on his terms.
8) How would you sum up Danny Welbeck’s contribution since he signed for Arsenal?
MG: Tough to say as he’s been injured a lot. He’s promising & looked useful when he’s played but it’s too early to judge.
RG: Admittedly i was annoyed when we signed him when Ballotelli was available as well. But thats why I’m a school teacher and not a football manager. I don’t think Danny Wellbeck has massively affected Arsenal if at all. Obviously due to injury we won’t be seeing a lot of him this season but it was fantastic when he scored against you in the FA Cup last season. Sadly i feel Danny Sellback will become one of those “Oh yeah we’ve still got him” type of players that you have at Arsenal like Thomas Rosicky or Michel Arteta.
9) Is Arsene Wenger still the right man for the job and if so, how long more will he last?
DA: It’s time he left. He has been great but Arsenal need a new approach. He needs to go before all the good he has done gets forgotten, and all the fans turn against him.
RG: I like Wenger I don’t think he has ever done anything that he doesn’t feel is positive for Arsenal Football Club. I believe he has hired the board around him so when he wants to leave he will leave. I don’t think he has anything more to prove I don’t think he wants to “Win the champions league and then ill go” or anything like that. I just feel like its his life…. and if you took that away what would he have.
There is a lot of Wenger hate in the pubs around The Emirates but who do you get to replace him? Football is a very different game for Managers as no-one is trying to build squads anymore from the ground up. Teams are sadly bought and sold to win things. I don’t fancy Klopp. Maybe we can just get a scarecrow of him for the bench and bring David Dein back to do anything of importance.
MG: Wenger’s not going anywhere for a couple of years – that’s clear. When he goes, we’ll realise how great he’s been for the club. As for his replacement? I’d love to see Joachim Low come in.
10) Give me your all time Arsenal xi.