Arsenal VS Manchester United ( Dec 2, 2017 ) Tactical Preview
So Manchester United are going away to the Emirates to take on Arsenal. There is little room for error as Manchester City are setting an incredible pace at the top, and the derby looms. At the very least, an 8 point difference should be the maximum point separation between the Manchester clubs come derby day, and this means Manchester United absolutely need to beat Arsenal; 3 very crucial points. So how to set up for the game? I'm going to try and give a broad plan ( there are so much more specifics in terms of passing schemes, positioning, transitions, etc ).
One thing that sways how i'd set up my team is the possibility of a central midfield numerical superiority, i see it as very important, for so many reasons. Arsenal predominantly set up in 3-4-2-1 formation. The 3 CB's, 2 CM's, 2 Wingbacks, 2 AM's, 1 striker. In order to get the midfield advantage in numbers, I'd go for a 3-5-2 for Man Utd: 3 CM's. 2 matching the Arsenal ones, and one roaming free to create ( by passing or driving through), or in a defensive phase, roam and add numbers. My choice for this ideally is Mkhi, but we all know he's in a bad frame right now. The 2nd choice, the most similar profile to him in that role, is Jesse Lingard. He can do it very well, is intelligent off the ball, and can also contribute to defensive and high pressing. So that's ideally going to be Pogba, Matic ( if he's fit ), and Lingard.
My back 3 would ideally be Lindelof to the right, Bailly at the centre, and Rojo to the left. In a defensive phase, the 3 of them would match in numbers the 2 Arsenal AM's and 1 CF, but remember, there's also a Man Utd CM free cos we have 3 and they have 2, so one of them ( Matic or whoever ) will always be a spare defensive option during this phase, adding an extra number.
Wingbacks are Valencia and Ashley. The wingbacks will cancel out the Arsenal wingbacks in terms of match up. Forwards would be Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku. Martial is very crucial here as his movement and ability to drag defenders everywhere, and punish them with dribbles, will come in handy. Lukaku can benefit from this and hopefully get a goal which would be great for his low confidence right now.
The Arsenal players are all very good ball players ( at least most ), giving them time on the ball is a no-no. Pressing hard, cutting out supply to Ozil, and when he gets it, harrying him intensely should be a priority. If Ozil wiggles away, he has multiple runners to find ( Alexis, and Ramsey or Giroud ), it is important to track each and every one of them ( having that spare man like i mentioned earlier would help with this ). This is easier said than done as Ozil can find a needle in a haystack, but look at this as a 3 point security, first intercept so he doesnt get the ball ( Fergie used this vs Arsenal and cut off a lot of supply to Fabregas and it helped ) , if interception fails and he now has it, harry and press and try to dispossess him, if this fails, it's entering a dire situation. Last bet is to have your men correctly track his runner options. I cant stress this enough. it's easier said than done, but with the right focus and practice, it's possible.
Pressing the Arsenal defenders when they have the ball too is important, luckily, Lazazette is not playing. If he was, the long ball out would have been more difficult for them. Giroud would play, and this in my opinion is bad for Utd. Giroud gives a different dimension to Arsenal, i'm mad he is going to play.
Anyways, i like stuff like this and that's why i wrote it. This doesnt in any way mean Manchester United will win, but i hope so.
Post Match Review:
Manchester United beat Arsenal by 3 goals to 1. The 3-5-2 formation was used as described, with Smalling the only difference as Bailly was still out injured. An initial high press to instigate mistakes and transitions was used. Lingard, Lukaku, and Martial pressed high. First 2 goals came from such transitions. Later on, a deep block with Pogba leading transitions and Lingard, Lukaku, and Martial as the runners was used. The 3rd goal was scored this way. De Gea was on his A game, but other than that, a perfect attacking organization set up by Manchester United.