Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Manchester United on Wednesday, to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist James Mathieson.
It was always going to be a tough task to replace Sir Alex Ferguson, but few expected David Moyes to struggle so severely. The former Everton coach needs time to impose his playing style upon the squad, but it remains uncertain whether his favoured approach is suited to a club of Manchester United’s stature.
The champions played with great width under Ferguson, a concept also favoured by Moyes. Manchester United play a lower proportion of their passes through the centre of the pitch than any other Premier League side, and have attempted the most crosses, 27 per game.
The arrival of Juan Mata from Chelsea should provide United with more guile in the final thirdMichael Cox
In the recent 2-1 defeat at Stoke City, for example, Moyes defended his side’s performance by highlighting how many times they’d reached the byline, but such emphasis upon crossing has proved predictable.
The arrival of Juan Mata from Chelsea should provide United with more guile in the final third. Although the Spaniard prefers to play in the No 10 role, for the remainder of this campaign he’ll drift inside from the flank, because of Wayne Rooney’s good form behind the main striker. Although predominantly a goalscorer from that position, Rooney is also United’s leading assister so far this season, and he and Mata should strike up a good understanding between the lines.
The presence of Rooney means Robin van Persie has become even more of a classic striker than during his Arsenal days, generally staying in the penalty box rather than becoming involved in build-up play. Danny Welbeck’s goalscoring record is similar to the Dutchman’s this season, and he provides a hard-working option up front.
Moyes has plenty of other attacking options in wide positions, with talented youngster Adnan Januzaj the surprise success story. A tricky dribbler who takes up extremely intelligent positions and provides a goal threat, he’s outperformed the likes of Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young this season, although using him and Mata from the flanks could make United too narrow.
However, plenty of width comes from full back, where Patrice Evra has been United’s second most prolific creator of chances behind Rooney, and Rafael da Silva has returned to provide the natural attacking quality that was lacking with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling playing at right back.
STUART MATHIESON, MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS
In the past, we've always backed Manchester United to build up running runs or unbeaten runs. They can't seem to do it at the moment and that's making this very much a stuttering season.
Dropping points against Fulham on Sunday was a massive blow. You felt they had done the hard work by getting the two goals late on. There was so much relief around the place and you thought 'that's it - this could be a turning point' but then Fulham scored deep into stoppage time. That was a really big setback for them.
They've got to bounce back - in years gone by, we've always praised Manchester United for their ability to bounce back. They have got to show that again.
I think Arsenal's result at the weekend has given United that little bit of hopeStuart Mathieson
Everyone predicted that once a manager as successful as Sir Alex Ferguson went, it was always going to be tough for whoever followed. In fairness to David Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson probably squeezed the last drop out of this side over the past few seasons and got them titles that possibly no one else would have done.
There were elements of the squad that needed attention and weren't really attended to. Although he left them as champions, I think everybody felt there were a few holes.
The fans have stuck by Moyes. Of course, you will always have one or two dissenting voices but Sir Alex Ferguson said before his final game at Old Trafford that the fans had to stick by the manager. Because Moyes was pretty much Sir Alex's choice, I think fans don't want to be seen to go against him. Moyes has that on his side. As the season has progressed, there have been a few more murmurings but generally speaking, the fans are still with him.
Manchester United will go into this game with the big men - Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will be in there. Juan Mata should play and he's got a good record against Arsenal. I think Moyes will go with more experience on the wings than against Fulham. A lot of people would like to see Adnan Januzaj play but I think his games have to be monitored and that's understandable.
Prior to the weekend, I was fearing the worst for United because their form hasn't been brilliant and Arsenal had been going well. I think Arsenal's result at the weekend has given United that little bit of hope - it's certainly given me a bit more belief because, prior to the weekend, I really thought that this was a game that they would struggle to win or even get a point in, but I'm more hopeful now.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 11 Feb 2014