Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's travel to Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Manchester United’s injury crisis means they might be without up to 12 players for Sunday’s game - and leaves Louis van Gaal without many major decisions to make.
While the Dutchman was a serial formation switcher last season, this term he’s generally stuck to a 4-2-3-1 system. United are compact without the ball and comfortable in possession across the park. However, there have been frequent complaints from supporters about the lack of incision in possession, and United have often started home matches extremely slowly.
The latest significant injury is the loss of Wayne Rooney with a knee problem, which has changed their attacking shape significantly. Whereas previously Anthony Martial was starting from the flank, now he’s the only realistic option up front.
His considerable pace is an obvious weapon, and he’ll generally pull towards the inside-left channel, up against Per Mertesacker. Martial repeatedly tried to dribble past opponents in the reverse fixture, but only had a 20 per cent success rate.
Martial thrives on through balls, and these are most likely to come from Juan Mata, who is now being consistently used in his favoured central role, having previously been used out on the right.
Jesse Lingard, a neat and tidy wide player, has impressed with his contributions on the edge of the box in recent weeks, while left-sided Memphis Depay will enjoy a quick battle against Hector Bellerin.
In the reverse fixture, Van Gaal selected Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick in the deeper role, asking them to press heavily - but Arsenal played around the pressure easily. United needed more mobility from that zone, and therefore at least one of Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera will play in central midfield alongside Carrick.
At the back, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind have formed a decent partnership - Smalling’s marking has been particularly impressive, while Blind supplies the passing quality. At full-back, United will probably be relying on the inexperienced pairing of Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The latter is the greater threat going forward, and offers fine crossing from the left.
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