Pre-Match Report

#AFCvMUFC: All that you need to know

Exclusive Wenger quotes, classic goals, team news and a quiz. This is your pre-match briefing ahead of the Manchester United clash at Emirates Stadium.


It is never a good week when you have to deal with the aftermath of a defeat, and that is especially true when that defeat comes in a north London derby.

The past five days will have dragged for Arsene Wenger and his players as they analyse what went wrong at White Hart Lane, while waiting for the chance to make amends.

Approved kits


OP = Outfield Players
GK = Goal Keepers

That opportunity arrives on Sunday as Manchester United arrive in town for a game that, beyond the usual fanfare for a clash between two of the Premier League’s heavyweights, is make-or-break for our top-four hopes.

If the Gunners are looking for a blueprint of how to approach Sunday’s game, they do not have to search too hard.

Last season’s 20-minute opening blitz against the Red Devils at the Emirates was a high-class dissection of one of our biggest rivals, and while Wenger would be delighted to see a repeat performance this weekend, he will take the win no matter how it comes.

“Ideally you would like [to start like] that, but no matter when you can score the goals that win you the game, you just want to win the game,” he told Arsenal Player. “Even if you have to suffer, we are ready to do it, we just want to win the game.

“We want to respond after a disappointing performance, sometimes there is no better way to do it than in a big game.

“We know [United] are on a strong unbeaten run, but they are not too far from us, that means they have had many draws. All the games are very tight so we just want to focus on our performance.

“Let's not focus on what they do or what they have done. Let's just focus on us. We know we can beat any team if we turn up with a strong performance


What is for sure is that we cannot play with the “restricted attitude” that the manager said we adopted against Tottenham when we entertain Mourinho’s side on Sunday.

Wenger admits there is an element of truth to the theory that we have sacrificed attacking fluency for defensive solidity with our new-look 3-4-3 formation, but he says it remains too early to assess its effectiveness.

Team News

Arsenal: Cazorla (ankle), Xhaka (ankle - doubt)

Manchester United: Young (hamstring), Rashford (knee – doubt), Shaw (foot), Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Ibrahimovic (knee), Rojo (knee), Wilson (knee)

“Yes, you can say that [it means we aren’t as fluid in attack],” he said. “But we conceded too many goals before and I tried to restore a bit of confidence and defensive solidity by having a bit more of a protective system.

“I feel as well that in the games where we played well, the system didn’t stop us from scoring or creating chances so it would be a bit too easy to put all the offensive inefficiency just on the system.

“We analyse a bit of everything [when judging how 3-4-3 is working]. It depends as well, it’s not especially the system that makes you defensive, it’s the number players who have more offensive or defensive qualities that makes the system more or less offensive.

“Overall, I believe that you need longer experience in the system to judge completely [whether] it suits your players or your team, or not? One game is always difficult to change it all again.”


One of the players to benefit from playing three at the back has been Petr Cech, who has responded with a string of impressive displays.

The goalkeeper made an outstanding save in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final to deny Yaya Toure then followed it up with an equally impressive block to deny Riyad Mahrez against Leicester City.

Cech saved his best for last weekend, denying Tottenham with a series of sensational stops before they finally broke through. Even after our rivals had moved into an unassailable lead, the 34-year-old continued to deliver a goalkeeping masterclass to push away efforts from Victor Wanyama, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.

Wenger is understandably pleased with his contribution, and says he he is equally important off the pitch as one of the squad’s undisputed leaders.

“I feel that basically this system should help Petr Cech because he should get better protection,” the manager said. “I feel he is focused and sharp in recent games, so he is in a good period.

“He is a player who is very professional, very concentrated and it is true that at Tottenham he made some good saves.

“He is a positive character who wants to do well. He’s first in, last out [of training] - he’s this type of player. But when a player gets to have such a long career, it’s never a coincidence.

“The guys who come in when they are 20 years old and you have to tell them to be on time and after training he goes out quickly, you can forget about after 30. These type of players don’t last. So he has a real passion about the game.”




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