Manchester United & Arsenal
For 2 of the biggest clubs in England Manchester United & Arsenal, the season hasn’t exactly started according to plan. Manchester United limped to a 2-1 victory over Leicester then suffered a humiliating defeat to Brighton while Arsenal have lost both of their opening games. Here, we analyse what is going wrong with these two giants of English football.
RESULTS SO FAR
Manchester United opened the season with a win over Leicester but this merely papered over the cracks. The Foxes had more attempts and, somewhat surprisingly, more possession at Old Trafford. Then, this past Sunday, United travelled to Brighton and were beaten 3-2, going 3-1 down by the halftime whistle.
Arsenal, meanwhile, can be somewhat more positive about their games than United, despite losing both. Against champions Man City, they were defeated 2-0 but did manage to create some good chances. In their second game away at Chelsea, the Gunners lost 3-2 but created a hatful of clear-cut opportunities.
Jose Mourinho was desperate to sign a centre-back in the summer, and on this weekend’s showing, you can see why. Eric Bailly, often tipped as United’s best defender, was awful, giving away a penalty in the process. A centre back partnership of Bailly and Lindelof will not worry the likes of Harry Kane (who United will have to play next) and Sergio Aguero and neither will any replacements Mourinho has at his disposal. On the bright side, Luke Shaw is finally starting to show why United spent so much on him.
For Arsenal, their problems against Chelsea were down to the full backs. Hector Bellerin has always been good going forward, but question marks remain over his defensive capabilities. Emery may look to summer signing Lichtsteiner in future. Nacho Monreal, usually a solid performer, was also caught out numerous times. Also, Petr Cech played very well against Chelsea, despite conceding 3, but against Man City, his lack of ability on the ball almost led to an embarrassing own goal.
It’s difficult to blame the United forwards for being wasteful when they are not given the service you would expect from a Manchester United team. Jose Mourinho, and Louis Van Gaal before him have sucked any joy out of watching the Red Devils since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. The fact that United’s 4 goals this season have been from 2 penalties, left-back Luke Shaw and a Lukaku header shows the lack of creativity in the side.
On the other hand, Arsenal’s defeat against Chelsea was all down to the wasteful forwards. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Iwobi both missed easy chances in the first half and if Arsenal could’ve put those away, we would be talking about a famous Arsenal win. Against Man City too, they created a few great chances but never troubled goalkeeper Ederson. They need to find their scoring boots soon or they will fall way behind the top 4.
Against Leicester, Jose Mourinho probably didn’t have much choice picking his starting eleven due to injuries and returning World Cup stars. However, against Brighton, why would United start with Pereira, Pogba and Fred. They were crying out for a Jesse Lingard to run in behind. Also, Juan Mata played out on the wing, which he is capable of, but what a waste of his abilities. Anthony Martial started too, despite not progressing at all since he first joined.
Unai Emery’s team selection has been a bit bizarre in a couple of ways. Firstly, he continues with Petr Cech in goal despite signing a keeper in Leno who is far more suited to his wishes to play the ball out from the back. Secondly, Granit Xhaka continues in midfield instead of new boy Torreira who is exactly the type of midfielder Arsenal have been crying out for many a year.
Looking at Ed Woodward’s face in the directors’ box as United fell to defeat at Brighton, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Jose Mourinho got sacked. His constant negativity, calling out players, complaining about transfers seem to have taken their toll on the players. His tactics seem outdated for a top side. You will not see Man City or Liverpool go to the Amex and play such negative football. Mourinho needs to adapt and excite the United faithful instead of constantly moaning and boring everyone.
For Arsenal’s new manager Unai Emery, you can see he is trying to change the way Arsenal play. He will be given time to implement his changes as the squad adapts to new methods. There were positive signs against Chelsea and he has been unfortunate in that Arsenal could not have been given a more difficult start. Emery will be looking to the next 3 games to finally make his mark.
Things will not get any easier for United as they host Spurs next, who have won both of their opening games. Harry Kane has broken his August scoring duck so will be confident of netting at Old Trafford. Beyond that, United travel to last season’s surprise package Burnley and then to Watford who have made a blistering start to this season.
Arsenal should be looking to pick up maximum points from their next 3 games. Up next is a home game against West Ham. West Ham themselves are adapting to a new manager and a lot of new signings. After that are away fixtures to Cardiff and Newcastle. Both could prove tough as no game in the Premier League is easy. But if Arsenal are to challenge for a top 4 spot again, these are must-win games.
All the time Jose Mourinho is in charge, United will not be pretty to watch. With better team selection, which should come as players recover from their World Cup exploits, United should improve massively. However, with City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs all starting brightly, the top 4 will be a massive ask if United can not shake the negativity surrounding the club.
Arsenal have had horrible luck with their opening fixtures. For a club like Arsenal, however, these are games which they need to stop fearing. If they can go on and win the next 3 games like they will be expected to, then their season and running. However, any more slip-ups and the Wenger Out brigade may turn into the Emery Out brigade.
– Robert Shiers