Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Man United: The Inside Track

By Rob Kelly

THE QUOTE

“You have to compare it to Leicester - we got a fantastic result as they had not lost a game. We want to continue our run in the Premier League against a big opponent. It is very tight up there and we have a good opportunity.” - Arsene Wenger

THE PREVIEW

In the wake of a shock defeat, managers must deal with a something of a psychological conundrum.

Do you drill down into the detail of what went wrong in an effort to iron out the issues or simply focus on what you can control - namely your preparations for the next game?

That's the quandary Arsene Wenger has found himself in since Tuesday’s Champions League defeat to Olympiacos. It was, the manager admits, “a very tough night” and while he accepts his side must learn from their mistakes, he is keen for them to remember how well they played at Leicester City the previous weekend.

Analysis is one thing, but you do not want to focus all your energy on it for fear of letting fear spread among your squad - especially when Manchester United are next on the menu.

“We have been quite consistent in the Premier League recently,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “It’s difficult to replicate the physical performance we had at Leicester three days later against Olympiacos.

Team news:

Arsenal: Koscielny (hamstring), Arteta (muscular), Flamini (hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee) Manchester United: Shaw (leg), Rojo (hamstring), Carrick (doubt), Herrera (leg)

“We haven’t managed to do that yet but if you look at our away form in the Premier League we have been outstanding. At home, we’ve not yet been completely at our best.

“In the Champions League it’s a bit different because we’ve lost against two teams who accepted our superiority and caught us on two or three occasions on the counter-attack. That’s where we were caught.

“You have to compare [Sunday’s game] to Leicester - we got a fantastic result, as they had not lost a game. We want to continue our run in the Premier League against a big opponent. It is very tight up there and we have a good opportunity.”

ONE TO WATCH

Amid the disappointment on Tuesday night, one positive to be gleaned was Theo Walcott’s goalscoring performance.

The England international is flourishing as a central striker, and with 10 goals in his last 12 starts in all competitions the stats are backing up his long-held belief that he can lead the line.

His pace is certain to trouble a Manchester United backline that tends to push up, but Wenger says there are other aspects of his game that have progressed more over the past nine months.

 

Theo Walcott

“There’s a lot more to come from him,” the manager said. “What you want from him is more participation in the game and more physical commitment as well.

“Where he has made big strides forward is the quality of his movement, the quality of his finishing and his technical level has improved a lot compared to a few years ago. Those are important qualities because he plays in areas where he is not allowed the room.”

Walcott was voted the Arsenal.com Player of the Month for September, and Wenger says it is important for him to feel the warmth of the fans.

“It makes you stronger because your confidence level is higher,” he said. “Who doesn’t like to be loved? That can only help. It can also be an incitement to do more because players at that level are never loved enough, so they always want more.”

DANGERMAN

For all the talk about Anthony Martial’s impact since his arrival this summer, perhaps the man Arsenal must keep quietest on Sunday is Juan Mata.

Opta Facts:

Since making his Premier League debut in August 2012, Santi Cazorla has provided more Premier League assists than any other player (32) Theo Walcott has netted 12 goals in his last 13 Premier League starts Manchester United are unbeaten in four away games against Arsenal - they’ve never gone five without an away defeat to the Gunners in the Premier League era

The Spain international played primarily as a No 10 at former club Chelsea, but has been moved to the right side of the attack under Louis van Gaal and is thriving.

Mata delivered arguably his best performance for Manchester United in Wednesday’s Champions League victory against Wolfsburg, and Wenger knows that he will pose quite a danger at Emirates Stadium.

“He is an intelligent player and his position is a bit secondary,” he said. “What is important is the timing of the moment to get rid of your marker and the quality of your vision, and Mata’s quality of vision is very high. Let’s not forget at Chelsea he was twice voted player of the year so that is a quality he always had.

“United have a few dangerous players. The danger can come from Martial, Mata and Depay. Maybe Mata has been in top form of late but with these types of games it is important you are focused on defending well as a team as the danger can come from anywhere.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES