On Sunday at 4:30 pm, Arsenal will be facing off against their first “big” six rival when they take on Manchester United, the unruly neighbours of the team who went on to beat them to the title last season.

So far, despite being touted in the minds of many – fans and plaudits alike – as being a real favourite to challenge for the league title this year, they have so far failed to show their credentials as a hungry team who can go on to become champions. They have failed to replicate their performances from last season, one of their best seasons for quite some time. They left an impression on many people but yet like good old Arsenal it was still short of the mark.

Starting this new season, they seem to still be carrying over the mistakes that soiled their last campaign, things like stupidly conceding an early goal and having to fight back, and dropping points against “small” league teams.

Now a real challenge lies ahead of them in Manchester United, a team that humbled them during the preseason. Traditionally, this fixture has been a real showdown, most especially during the late 90s and early 2000s. With a downturn in Arsenal’s form and eventually, Man U’s, the Man U/Arsenal fixture fell off and gave way to other more deserving rivalries.

In recent times though, with an upturn in Arsenal’s status, the fixture has now come back to prominence, with both teams being ready to give the other a run for their money.

Against the backdrop of Arsenal’s last two fixtures, if they are going to get anything away from the match, they would have to be ready to up their game and get their leg on the clutch, putting themselves back in control.

Tactical Consistency and Role Familiarity

There’s a saying that goes “If it’s not broken don’t fix it”. In other words, don’t go about tampering with what is working just right.

For the last two games, Arteta has been trying his hand at a new tactical shape resting some regular starters, playing some players out of position and trying to tweak his formation to try to fit his new signings right into the team, mostly especially Havertz.

On paper, he still employs the regular 4-3-3 but with Partey at RB who is now expected to sometimes play as a normal fullback on the wing, helping Saka on the flanks and giving him more options in front to play with and then at other times, he is expected to play as an inverted fullback coming to sit in the midfield as the pivot and allow Rice to run up front and be more involved attackingly.

As has been said all that tweaking is done to fit Havertz into the team. Havertz’s natural position is upfront playing as a false nine or in the 10 role but aside from the height advantage, Havertz does not have any other qualities that make him suited for Arsenal’s CF in a 4-3-3 as he most importantly does not have the movement and awareness, the speed and the finishing to be the front man in Arsenal’s Tiki-Taka. Also, due to his lack of speed, the attacking wide position is not one for him to play as Arsenal currently have better tactical options there and so the only other space open to him is the CM but in a more advanced role and that’s where the Partey tweak comes in.

So far, aside from the basic stats like most duels won, Havertz has still not shown an iota of his credentials in any way as in the two matches, he has looked out of place on the field.

And then if you would notice, aside from Fulham’s goal from the corner, the other two goals that Arsenal have conceded so far this season, have come from entry to their final third from the right side of the field where Arteta currently has Partey playing. It tells of one thing, in the match against Man U, if they want to go home with maximum points, they should go back to the basics and play a backline of their best available players who are accomplished in those positions.

Manchester United is a team that can play haram football, have less than 45% possession, give away possession carelessly and then still go on to win a match, it’s just the kind of devils they are. If there is one thing you can’t take away from them is that while their midfield might not always be the best or their attack the most effective, they are very good on the counterattack. The threat Man U poses on the counter is not one to be overlooked and that adds an extra reason to why Arsenal need to be in good tactical shape both in their defence and midfield.

Sure, it is good to be innovative but then there are times when sticking to the basics and playing your ace game is just what’s needed and I’m strongly of the opinion that against Man U, that’s what Arsenal needs to take home all three points.

A back line of Gabriel and Saliba in the centre, with Zinechenko at the Left and Ben White on the right. Partey should go back to his natural position while Rice and Odeegard should play above him. Havertz should sit out this match as this is not a match to take chances.

While Arteta is a manager who is known for being stubborn and wanting to keep throwing mud against the wall until it sticks, he must realise that quite a lot of ground can be lost while doing so. In the game against Man U, he should drop the thinking cap he wants to inherit from his mentor and stick to that which can make them win.


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