The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Arsenal v Man Utd preview

We are back in Premier League action on Saturday when Manchester United are the visitors to Emirates Stadium.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke examine our opponents in detail.


MC: Arsenal fans need little introduction to Jose Mourinho. His sides tend to fare well during his second campaign in charge, and there’s been a noticeable improvement this term. Whereas Manchester United spent the majority of last season in sixth, their eventual finishing position, this time around they’ve launched a title charge.

AC: I don’t know whether Jose will be as defensive this time around. Something tells me he might try to spring a bit of a surprise by getting at the Arsenal back three on occasion. I don’t think he’ll be parking the bus this time around. I don’t have any reason for that, it’s just a hunch. 


MC: Mourinho has been particularly flexible with his formation this season. His first-choice formation is a 4-2-3-1 with Paul Pogba used in a deeper midfield role, given license to burst forward. But Mourinho has also deployed Pogba as the most advanced midfielder with two secure players, like Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, behind him. But Mourinho has also experimented with a 3-4-1-2 system, using Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young as wing-backs – both are former wingers now often deployed at full-back, so the role suits them. It’s become increasingly difficult to predict United’s shape.


MC: United are perfectly comfortable taking the game to the opposition at home, or away against weaker sides, but Mourinho’s big game approach is still largely based around deep defending and counter-attacking – a familiar sight at the Emirates. United have often looked at their most impressive when already ahead going into the final 20 minutes of matches – when opponents push men forward, the speed of Martial, Lukaku and Rashford has proved devastating on the break.

AC: I’m worried about Martial and Rashford. They’re the two game-changers for United at times. Their pace and movement in the attacking third is excellent and I think that they are two players who have the potential to cause our defence problems.


MC: Paul Pogba has looked particularly sharp since his return from injury, driving forward from midfield and playing some wonderful arced through-balls for United’s attackers. He must be watched carefully.

AC: Paul Pogba is back and he is a matchwinner. If he’s on his game, he can really hurt Arsenal. 


MC: Victor Lindelhof has endured a couple of nervous moments since arriving in the summer, while Marcos Rojo has recently returned from injury and conceded a penalty with a clumsy foul in the midweek victory over Watford.

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