Arsene Wenger takes his Gunners to Manchester on Monday night on a two-fold mission which could have multiple consequences – book a return to Wembley via ending the hoodoo at Old Trafford.
There’s been little to separate both teams this season in terms of form but there is a good number of United fans who have had good reason to be suspect of their team’s under-performances this season, meaning the Gunners would just need to smoothen a few edges to nick this one.
- It’s Only versus 11 players, in a large hut
Arsenal have not managed to win a single game at the Theatre of Dreams for eight years now and that is not because Wenger has had to field a team markedly different from Uniteds'; it’s not been about the quality but the mentality. This was not more evident than the defeat in November at the Emirates which, while it was not terrible in performance, was cowardly with regard to approach.
- Take the game to them
While Arsenal’s last victory at Manchester this year may have come from a conservative approach, there is no need to fear United or give them all of that respect shown to City. They have been very ordinary up till now and there is no reason why this Arsenal team should not be matching them pound for pound through every stretch of grass.
That said, United will still be a major threat and Arsenal will have to work very hard to get a victory. It will be necessary to stop United from playing and that is an irony because that will be exactly what United would set out to do, following Fergie’s template over the years. In that case, we won’t have a spectacular FA Cup game with two teams playing like they are on the chess board but what matters in the end is to advance. The margins will be tight; who slips first, loses.
- Pace on the wings
Wenger has a frightening cluster of players who all want to play through the middle and that has worked to the Gunners’ disadvantage in some games, especially against Monaco where both Alexis and Welbeck kept making the aisle ever so narrow. Actually, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw will give Van Gaal’s men good security in the full back areas but they should still have their work cut out with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the side. I’m not sure if both will start but Ozil must look to use whichever of them as a good outlet for attacking moves.
- Chambers must stop Ashley Young
The former Villa man is Van Gaal’s most lethal weapon at the moment and they will look to his deliveries for goals. His cross had caused the collision between Gibbs and Szczesny which led to the own goal in November and Calum Chambers will have to do much better to keep him from floating those into the box too regularly.
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