Arsenal v Manchester United; a game that is not just like old times



By Bulldog Drummond

One of the more curious things about today’s game between Arsenal and Manchester United is that in the predictions made by newspaper columnists last summer neither of these teams were tipped to be in the top four, come the end of the season.

In fact according to the increasingly ridiculous and out of touch pundits, who are of course still out there punditing away with the same absolute lack of any sense of what is actually going on, Arsenal should, according to their predictions, neither club would hardly be worth mentioning, let alone making the highlight of the weekend’s TV football. 

And this is because if any of the pundits had been right, today’s game have been a rather uninspiring game between 5th and 6th in the league which is where the scribblers predicted Arsenal and Manchester United would end up.  The clubs of yesteryear would be the theme.

Instead it is first against fourth, and the best that the anti-Arsenal reporters will be able to come up with is an Arsenal win will leave the club 11 points clear of United.  A reverse result will take Manchester United leaping up (clubs always leap) up to third, five points behind Arsenal.

It is of course the game between first and fourth.  And I should add, a win for Arsenal will leave the club 17 points above Tottenham, the club that the pundits tipped to come in the top four once again this season.  An 8-0 win for Arsenal would give the club the same number of goals as Manchester City, although the comparative poverty of City’s defence compared with Arsenal’s, means that only two goals will be needed to put the clubs on an equal goal difference.

In fact only one of the four clubs predicted by the pundits to come in this season’s top four is actually in the top four at the moment: Manchester City.   The rest are currently lying 5th (Tottenham) 8th (Liverpool), and 10th (Chelsea).  They might of course improve in the final 18 to 20 games of the season, and indeed Arsenal, Newcastle United and Manchester United might all fall apart, but it seems a little unlikely.

As for Tottenham, the media’s favourites, they are lying 12th in a table based on the form across the last six games.  In fact over the last ten games the almighty loved and admired Tottenham with their unsponsored stadium and all its debts, are lying 14th with just three wins, one draw and six defeats.

Of course we should not scoff, but the scoffing does illustrate the point.  Two and half years ago Arsenal had a plan, and have made it work.  The media ignored it, but it worked.

Of course being wise after the event is what the media is very good at and we get that with today’s Telegraph headline “Mykhaylo Mudryk’s sparkle cannot hide how far Chelsea and Liverpool have fallen” is very much a case of being wise long, long after the event.

What caused the media to be so far off track (at least this far, and of course Untold could end up covered in egg if matters change dramatically in the second half of Arsenal’s season) is their insistence in seeing a football season as a unified fact.  But as we have shown before, two seasons ago Arsenal’s campaign was anything but unified – lying 15th on third of the way through the season, during which the club utterly re-wrote its defensive approach, if one looked at the league table for the last two thirds of the season, Arsenal were second.

Indeed just how bonkers this is getting comes with a piece in the Express under the heading “Tottenham make first move as ‘expensive offer’ for Arsenal target Nicolo Zaniolo rejected”.

Poor Arsenal getting it all wrong again.  Except Tottenham have reportedly made some complicated offer via a loan that was rejected.  And as the report goes on we hear that “A Spurs deal for Zaniolo could become [reven more] complicated, however, as managing director Fabio Paratici will likely be leading negotiations as the former Juventus chief has strong contacts within Italian football. However, the Spurs chief has been named as his former club have received a 15-point penalty for allegedly using falsified capital gains”

That is in fact a nice understatement : the man in question has been suspended for 30 months in Italy from all football related duties.  He really has been a very naughty boy.

So, we’ve got Tottenham unable to get their deal, and yet this is presented as an Arsenal failure, and Tottenham’s managing director has been tried and condemned which is presented as ‘being named’.

At least the Mail managed to get it right with head headline

“Daniel Levy faces full-scale management crisis at Spurs with 30-month ban given to managing director Fabio Paratici by the Italian FA for his time at Juventus likely to also apply to the Premier League while concerns persist over Antonio Conte’s future.”  I never thought we’d be praising the Mail!!!

It’s a funny old game.


7 Replies to “Arsenal v Manchester United; a game that is not just like old times”

  1. [Sorry, I posted this on the previous article but thought some readers would be interested to know what we’re up against!]

    I see it’s Martin Atkinson today. That doesn’t bode well.

    Of the 33 referees we’ve had in the premier league only two have seen us with a lower points per game average. Excluding Darren England, whose only reffed two games, only one referee has presided of a higher percentage of Arsenal defeats than Atkinson.

    47.6% of Man U away games have ended as a win for them under Atkinson, which is actually a higher percentage than wins we’ve had at home with him in charge.

    No ref has given us more red cards. He averages 0.05 red cards per game against against Man U whilst giving reds to us three times as often (0.14).

    At home, Atkinson has given us more red cards (4) than any other ref in Premier League history although he’s never given Man U a red card at Old Trafford despite reffing exactly the same number of home games for each side. He has only ever given Man U two red cards in total.

    A little bizarrely, he gives us fewer yellow cards per game (1.52) on average whilst giving Man U 1.88. (Although I have no evidence for this I suspect it’s because he goes straight to reds for us whilst letting Man U go the whole game without but giving them a couple in the last few minutes so it doesn’t impede their game too much….although I may be biased!!)

  2. @Mikey,

    I believe the team are fully aware of that. I think that in the past 2 years, the behaviour of Arsenal has greatly changed. Quite fewer stupid reds and yellows, with the odd one happening. And quite fewer risky situations – just look at how few tackles happen in the Arsenal box, or how Xhaka has changed. Oodegard as captain was a smart move in this regard as well : young, blond, cool, referees interact differently. And Xhaka puts his energy in being the senior experienced player (he has won a FIFA world Cup) leading the team like the Alpha wolf, not the lightning rod.

    The Young Gunners will need to play their best and keep their cool whatever happens. And in adversarial situations, they have to learn to up the ante and be even better. Which I believe they can. They have much more ‘revolt energy’ in them then any Arsenal team I can remember from the past 2 decades.

    Finally, this is just one game. It is not a decisive one even if the whole deadwood press have started to portray it as the probable beginning of the end in case of an Arsenal loss. The team needs to play to it’s strength, keep the faith and not get distracted. And whatever comes their way, they are capable of saying : bring it on, as they are good enough to beat any team they play.

  3. I believe we are managing games better, but why should we have to? To clarify, I don’t mean why should we manage our game, every team should have to do that to some degree, I mean why should we have to manage OUR game today more than Manchester United have to mange THIER game, simply because of the referee?

    And even then you can only manage your game so much.

    I did a post a month or so ago regarding the very low soring nature of football compared to almost all other sports, and how that made football such an easy game to manipulate. Add in to the mix the subjectivity of so many decisions within a football match and you have a game that is extremely vulnerable to manipulation.

    As I’ve said many times, you could probably look back at every red card he has given us a find some justification, to greater or lesser degrees, for every one. That is the nature of subjective decisions.

    You could almost certainly go back over all his penalty calls for United and find some justification for him not giving many of them. Again, that’s the nature of subjectivity.

    But when a referee is ‘subjectively’ giving far more calls against one team than another that suggests bias. Whether that is a conscious or subconscious bias who knows, but it certainly appears to be there.

    So we can ‘manage’ our game as much as we like, if it is a close match, as it quite likely will be, if the referee handles the match with this inherent bias today, we will be in trouble.

    We shouldn’t have to beat our opponent AND the referee.

  4. @Nitram,

    yes I agree with you, fact is we have to.
    And considering the dubious characters running european and world football, I don’t think anything will change anytime soon.
    In the US the owners of sports teams work together to make the whole league richer. In football, there is no such ‘common good’ which is synonymous with bettering the quality of the show. Teams are pawns in a casino type game, quite a few just PR departments of billionaires, wannabe billionaires and states needing whitewashing. Which was my reason to hope for a ESL. Alas, it will not happen.

  5. @seismic

    I realised it as soon as he walked on the pitch (not that it filled me with any more confidence!). Nonetheless, several websites stated it was Atkinson…..if only I was young and had a memory that functioned well 🙁

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