by Tony Attwood
According to José Mourinho, Arsène Wenger is afforded “more respect” than he (“M”) gets. He doesn’t explain why this is so, nor does he give any evidence, but he says it.
Personally I don’t think it is true, but I do think it should be true, if nothing else because of the fact that one of the two has conducted himself most of the time with decorum, and the other not. Because one of the two has developed a huge range of young talent and brought those players to the top level, when the other hasn’t. Because one has taken his club to the lower reaches of the league table and then failed to get it sorted, and the other hasn’t.
Because one has been sacked by his London club twice, and the other hasn’t. Because one called the other a “specialist in failure” and the other hasn’t engaged in such name calling.
Anyway, back in the real world, we know we are without Santi Cazorla and without Hector Bellerin two players we could really do with for this game. The Telegraph called Bellerin an “attacking defender and a defending attacker” and that is indeed about right.
But in particular what Bellerin does is allow Theo Walcott to get into his game wherever he wants to be – in the middle or on the wing. In fact Bellerin can even move into the number 10s position if Ozil has wandered off elsewhere. It not only increases our opportunity to outplay the opposition, it also causes confusion, because few managers prepare their teams for a right back that turns up all over the place as Bellerin does.
Carl Jenkinson seems likely to come into the team, as there has been word that Debuchy is injured, and of course Jenkinson doesn’t play this far forward. But I am not sure that is going to be too bad a thing for this match, in which Man U will be desperate to stop the relatively poor run of results. I think they will be pouring forwards at every opportunity, so Jenkinson could well be told to play his natural deeper lying game. This in turn will make the defence more balanced in that Monreal doesn’t go so far forwards.
As for Santi Cazorla, we have the natural replacement (although a different sort of player) in Aaron Ramsey, and Alexis’ late return from Chile and the issue of whether he did play with an injury could mean that we will have Giroud as centre forward – which given the other changes to the squad is no bad thing.
As for Man U we have heard that they have multiple injuries and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out due to a suspension, so the chances are Man U will concede possession to Arsenal and play on the counter attack – which with Jenkinson playing further back he and the very solid central pairing that we now have, should be not too much of a problem to to deal with.
Of course all this could mean that we have two more defensively minded teams out on the pitch, and defeat will be handed to the team that forgets its focus first. Or it could be a 0-0 draw.
Arsenal have won four and drawn one away, while Man U have won two, drawn two and lost one at home. Arsenal have scored 12 and conceded three away. Man U have scored eight and conceded four at home. It all suggests Arsenal are in the most positive position.
And Arsenal offensively away from home, per game…
There is a certain similarity here, so we could indeed expect both teams to sit back and wait and see where the game goes – but if that happens I suspect the speed of Walcott and guile of Ozil might just give us the advantage, what with Man U have injuries both in defence, and a suspension in attack.
Thus Arsenal are, without a doubt, the away team of the season thus far. How much does that depend on Alexis and Bellerin? We shall see – but I although I suspect we shall have Giroud starting, we shall also see Alexis on the bench, and coming on in the second half, just as the rearranged Man U defence starts to get used to how Arsenal are playing. That could be the moment the game turns.