Arsenal: The need for positivity at Old Trafford 0

Will Quinn looks briefly at how Arsenal can succeed at Old Trafford on Sunday…

Old Trafford Stadium, inside

Since much has been written about Ferguson’s ‘figuring out’ of Arsenal towards the end of his career, it might be interesting to take the opposite angle and think about how Arsene Wenger can adjust to take advantage of United’s weakness this Sunday. Arsenal are a much more adaptable team than they were five years ago, with their trademark possession play complemented by an ability to absorb pressure and break quickly - as seen in their victory over Spurs in August. This gives Wenger a more diverse range of options at Old Trafford than he has had in some time.

The conventional line for away games at major clubs is to keep it tight and try to score on the break. A midfield battle might be hard to win with the home side buoyed by a partisan crowd, but there is often a tendency to over-commit and leave gaps for the away side to break into. Arsenal will be familiar with this tactic, with Chelsea having used it against them effectively almost every time the two teams have met in the past seven years.

However, such an approach would probably play into United’s strengths. Moyes’s side tend to have too much quality in the box for teams that sit back - Rooney and Van Persie are both excellent finishers, and the team scored more from set pieces than any other team last season. On the other hand, neither striker is particularly quick, and they can sometimes struggle to exploit space in behind.

More importantly, the back five of the team often struggles under pressure, and because they play two strikers, teams that try to dominate the ball against them often succeed. Southampton’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford a few weeks ago provides the best template yet for how to play against this United side. Stoke, in comparison, controlled the game for 75 minutes, frequently winning the ball high up the pitch and breaking into dangerous positions to go 2-1 up. Yet when they sat back in an effort to see the game out, they were immediately picked off.

Few clichés in football are worth less than the mantra of ‘staying positive’, but in this case it coincides with both Arsenal’s traditional strengths and United’s weaknesses. To succeed at Old Trafford on Sunday, Arsenal need to play as proactive a game as possible.

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