The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Man United
Moyes’ softies prepare to feel the wrath of angrier-than-ever Wenger.
“Today was probably as bad as it gets,” lamented David Moyes after bottom-of-the-table Fulham’s 94th-minute leveller made it 18 points that Manchester United have dropped at Old Trafford this season. There's plenty of time yet...
- Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- So'ton 2-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-0 Coventry (FAC)
- Arsenal 2-0 Fulham (Prem)
MAN UNITED FORM
- Man Utd 2-2 Fulham (Prem)
- Stoke 2-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Man Utd 2-1p S'land (LC)
- Chelsea 3-1 Man Utd (Prem)
The team famed for scoring last-gasp goals are now conceding them; four in the final five minutes of league games this term, while late concessions also contributed to their exit of both domestic cups to Swansea and Sunderland.
The regularity of United’s crossing is no new revelation, yet their one-dimensional approach reached unprecedented levels on Sunday. The team formerly known as champions wanged in a whopping 81 balls from wide areas, 30 more than any team has attempted in a Premier League game in 2013/14. Goalkeeper David de Gea and captain Nemanja Vidic were the only players not to have a go at sticking one in the mixer. “I hadn't headed as many balls since the Conference," quipped Fulham’s 6ft 7in former Darlington defender Dan Burn.
Moyes bemoaning his side’s “mental softness” has only attracted more finger-pointing at the manager himself rather than the players, having been able to call upon Rooney, Van Persie and Mata in recent outings. The Scot’s hard luck story is starting to wear thin.
Still, what better than a trip to the Emirates to focus the minds; a venue where United have lost just one of their last five visits. The knives are also out in the red half of north London, after Arsenal’s latest ‘big test’ resulted in a Merseyside mauling.
"After 19 minutes we were 4-0 down and it was like a car crash,” opined Mikel Arteta on being blown away by Liverpool. "The manager was really upset at half-time. It was the angriest I have seen him." Poor performances in crunch clashes have shaped Arsenal’s season (and several before it) with Mesut Ozil copping considerable flack for his Anfield failings; not the first time the Gunners’ club-record signing has struggled in games of significance.
While United pose no immediate threat – 14 points behind them in the table – a second stumble against Moyes’ men, particularly at such a low ebb, will set a worrying tone with Liverpool and Bayern lying in wait.
Thomas Vermaelen is returning to fitness, but don’t expect to see Aaron Ramsey, Yaya Sanogo, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Kim Kallstrom anytime soon/ever.
United have a sextet of sidelined souls in the form of Nani, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley.
Player to watch: Juan Mata (Man United)
Moyes must start getting much more from attacking trident ‘Juan van Rooney’ and varying the play would be a good place to start, rather than the ‘get it wide and get it in’ approach that Rene Meulensteen’s men were able to combat at Old Trafford. Mata swung in 11 crosses against Fulham and 9 at Stoke; in just three outings for United he has put in almost a third of the total number of crosses he did all season for Chelsea.
The Spanish schemer scored on each of his last two outings at the Emirates for the Blues, also teeing up Fernando Torres to net in last season’s league meeting. With license to roam in the final third, Mata was Chelsea’s best passer and completed 3 of his 4 take-ons while making a team-high 8 ball recoveries.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- United 1-0 Arsenal (Prem, Nov 13)
- Arsenal 1-1 United (Prem, Apr 13)
- United 2-1 Arsenal (Prem, Nov 12)
- Arsenal 1-2 United (Prem, Jan 12)
- United 8-2 Arsenal (Prem, Aug 11)
Wenger’s November defeat at Old Trafford was only his fourth loss against a side managed by Moyes, who can boast a 100% success rate as United boss against the Frenchman. In one game with Preston and 25 with Everton, the Scot drew six and lost 17 against the Gunners, including a 7-0 humping at Highbury in 2004/05.
The pair have not always seen eye-to-eye, with Wenger’s claims that Everton were over-physical in last season’s goalless draw at the Emirates attracting the ire of the Toffees’ boss. "I'm not here to make friends... I thought [Wenger was disrespectful]," he snapped.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- 12 of Arsenal’s last 14 home games against top-half teams have had fewer than 3 goals.
- Arsenal have lost 7 of their last 9 league matches against United.
- United won 4 of 6 trips to top-four finishers in the previous 2 seasons (W4 D1 L1) but have lost all 3 of their trips to the current top four this term.
- United have kept just 2 clean sheets in their last 15 away matches but have scored in 23 of their last 24 games on the road.
- Arsenal have drawn the first half in 8 of their last 11 home games following a defeat.
- Best Bet: Between 2-3 goals scored in 90 minutes @ 2.05
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Another 2-2 draw for United, but this one they're more satisfied with after an entertaining tussle.