Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford now has an added flavour. Garry Monk and Swansea’s 1-0 win at the Emirates last weekend means that the last automatic champions league spot is still up for contention. Manchester United’s season objective has been achieved. They will be playing European football next season to the joy and relief of everybody associated with the club. It is now mathematically impossible for Liverpool to catch United in the fourth spot. But Louis Van Gaal will not be content knowing that he could finish the season with a bang by grabbing a third place finish and demoting Arsenal to their familiar fourth spot.Wenger
Both managers will have tactical decisions to make going into the match at Old Trafford. Louis Van Gaal seems to have mastered the art of ball possession but still needs to work on using all that possession to mount a meaningful attack. The win at Selhurst over the weekend was hardly convincing and they are not playing the free-flowing football characteristic of Manchester United. Arsenal looked lacklustre against Swansea with no sharpness in their attacking play. They cannot afford to carry that kind of form into the final 3 games ( Arsenal have a game in hand) of the season.
What Wenger needs to change
- Change of Formation
The last couple of weeks have seen Wenger change from his usual 4-1-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1 formation. This change forced Santi Cazorla to feature in a deeper defensive midfield role alongside Francis Coquelin. While the new formation gives more protection to the back four , it has reduced the potency of the midfield attack. Wenger should reset to the formation of the past. An attacking midfield which features the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla will make offence the best defence against any team. Even one which has been Arsenal’s nemesis away from home in the past decade. Cazorla is well adept at taking shots from outside the box while dribbling past defenders. This adds another weapon to Wenger’s arsenal, pun intended.
- Striker Options
Olivier Giroud has been quiet for the past few matches. He not only failed to score against Swansea but seemed absent when Arsenal were building up any form of attack. Wenger will be tempted to try his hand with Danny Welbeck and let the striker start against his old team. Welbeck and Giroud offer different kind of options. Welbeck has more pace and presence in the box whereas Giroud is aerially dominant. It is good managerial sense to give Welbeck a chance and see if he adapts better to the kind of attacking play that is leaving Giroud on the fringes.
- Coquelin’s mission
Coquelin needs to one thing and one thing only and that is to man-mark Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian will be Arsenal’s biggest threat with his aerial prowess and dominant physicality. Coquelin is the best-suited arsenal player to take him on. United use Fellaini to hold the ball in that sensitive area just outside the box. He fends off physically weaker defenders and then plays the ball forward. Coquelin will need to stop exactly this. A defensive midfielder is usually required to sweep the area in front of the back four thwarting any developing attack but on this unique occasion, Coquelin should be assigned to one individual player.