Premier League Tactical Preview: Arsenal vs Manchester United

Both these sides are looking to bounce back from poor results at the weekend. But who will be celebrating and who will be left stuck in the mire? Unibet columnist Amit Singh provides a tactical look ahead...

Wednesday night's headline Premier League game sees Arsenal host Manchester United.

Arsenal are coming off the back of a 5-1 humiliation at Liverpool, whilst Manchester United only managed a draw against bottom placed Fulham.

Both teams desperately need to bounce back and record a victory. Anything less than three points will not be good enough for either side.

Possible line-ups

Arsenal are without Mathieu Flamini, who will serve the last of his three match ban for a red card he picked up against Southampton. Kieran Gibbs will come in for Nacho Monreal, who didn't have a very good game against Liverpool. After a poor display at Liverpool, Mesut Ozil could lose his starting place to Tomas Rosicky.

For United, Phil Jones should be fit to replace Chris Smalling and partner Nemanja Vidic at the heart of United’s defence. Adnan Januzaj will come in for Ashley Young, who didn't have the best game versus Fulham. Wayne Rooney might drop slightly deeper in this tie given that United are playing away from home.

Arsenal's attacking approach

Arsenal weren't really at their attacking best against Liverpool, only managing to score from the spot when the game was already lost. Arsene Wenger's side looked blunt, with Olivier Giroud managing to get just one shot on target, with his only other shot going wide. Despite chasing the game from start to finish the Gunners only managed seven efforts on goal, one of which was from the penalty spot. One of the problems for Arsenal has been that while Giroud started the season well, he has scored just twice in his last eleven Premier League games and has been relatively ineffective up top of late.

A lack of squad depth and injuries do mean that Giroud is likely to continue leading the line versus United. Arsenal's attacking approach revolves around using the ball in midfield and swarming the areas between the opponent’s midfield and defence. Santi Cazorla does this by coming in off the left flank to create a four man midfield, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain able to provide width on the opposite flank and a bit more balance.

Manchester United have struggled for clean sheets this season and this may be a good time for Giroud to come good in front of goal. With Juan Mata likely to cut in from the flank, there could be space for Arsenal to attack from left-back, but they will have to be aware of the threat going the other way. Sharp attacks down the flanks as well as quick movement in the middle might hold the key for Arsenal to bounce back from their defeat on Saturday.

What role can Juan Mata play?

There was huge hype when Mata joined Manchester United from Chelsea for over £37 million. Mata's impact has been limited though as the side have picked up just one victory in this three appearances. Against Fulham, in a very disappointing 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, Mata was stationed from the right in a 4-4-2 variant:

While Mata was positioned from the right we can see that he was also cutting in somewhat, as we'd expect, to get into central attacking areas. That being said, Mata only created two chances from open play as a result of being stationed out wide right. Playing out wide is not really his best role, as we can see he didn't chase back his opposing number, offering little protection for the right back. Mata also only managed three accurate crosses of an attempted eleven in this game.

One problem is that David Moyes is struggling to fit his four best attacking players into the same side; Mata, Januzaj, Rooney and Van Persie. Mata's best role is behind the forward, with the same arguably true of Januzaj, but this role is clearly Rooney's best position. As such Moyes is shuffling things around in a 4-4-2 with Januzaj and Mata on the flanks, or in Sunday's case Mata and Ashley Young. Against Arsenal it'll be interesting to see where Mata plays, if he plays out wide he won't help out much defensively and will drift in centrally, but it is centrally where he is best able to influence the play by getting on the ball and moving it along to his team-mates.


Neither side can afford to lose. Arsenal's shocking display against Liverpool saw them fall off the top of the Premier League and they won't want to fall further behind pace-setters Chelsea, particularly as Wenger's men have a string of tough games coming up in recent weeks. Moyes' side beat Arsenal at Old Trafford and will want to do the double over them, particularly since his side haven't really got going of late, only winning one of their last three games. As always when these two sides meet, we can expect a fiery game with lots of drama.

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