Arsenal-Manchester United, two philosophies but the same grit
With a very young squad, Mikel Arteta took Arsenal to the top of the Premier League. Erik ten Hag shaped Manchester United in his own way to get the Red Devils back on track. Shock expected this Sunday (5.30pm).
The folly of youth in the face of an almost perfectly oiled collective. This Sunday, Arsenal welcome Manchester United to their home at the Emirates Stadium. A real clash between the leaders of the Premier League and the fourth in the league, which only needs one point to get on the podium.
Arsenal, a champion pace
Since the start of the season, Arsenal have been remarkably consistent in the Premier League. Only two draws and one defeat in 18 league games. Second attack in the league thanks to its fiery and complementary young players (42 goals scored, behind Manchester City and its 50 players). A solidity found behind. After some trial and error at the start of the season, Mikel Arteta found the magic formula: 14 goals conceded, only Newcastle did better (11).
Only one defeat in the first leg of the championship for the Gunners, against … Manchester United. On 4 September the Red Devils won 3-1 at Old Trafford thanks to a goal from Antony and two goals from Marcus Rashford. “We still have to learn», tempers Mikel Arteta in a press conference, he who has one of the youngest teams in the Premier League.
“There have been important lessons about this gamecontinues the Spanish tactician. Many times we have had complete control of the game, but we know that it is one of Manchester United’s qualities to go on the counterattack. We will have to be at our best level to win on Sunday.»
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Manchester United is recovering
After three defeats in their first seven league games, including a scathing 6-3 defeat at the Etihad in the derby, Manchester United are back to their mistakes. Since then alone, the northern English club has had a string of strong performances. Only one Premier League defeat since 9 October. After 19 matches, the Red Devils have 12 victories and can more than ever dream of the Champions League, they are still in the running in four competitions.
Fourth level on points with third-placed Newcastle, Manchester United are six points clear (and one game down) over Tottenham and eight clear of Brighton. “I think we have a good group, a competitive groupsays Erik ten Hag simply and humbly.
Yet the Dutch tactician has a lot to do with the Red Devils’ return to form. If 4-2-3-1 has been installed since the beginning of the season, the players diverge on the lines. Now an orphan of Cristiano Ronaldo, who rebounded in Saudi Arabia, Erik ten Hag can compose his team as he wants. In recent weeks, Luke Shaw has often taken a central position alongside Raphaël Varane, leaving the left lane for Tyrell Malacia, a young Dutch defender strongly desired by his manager.
A repositioning that leaves Harry Maguire on the bench, still part of this team, and Lisandro Martinez, recruited for over 50 million last summer. Casemiro now finds his full measure in the centre, most often accompanied by Christian Eriksen. Wandered to the right at times, especially due to Jadon Sancho’s injury (“He still has a long way to go to get back”explains Erik ten Hag), sometimes on the axis, Bruno Fernandes is one of the key men of this team. Starter in 18 league games, most often with an armband. Marcus Rashford, son of the club, also rediscovers his brilliance, with four goals in his last five games.
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A duel to revive the title race
“His work is very impressive. I think he changed things pretty quicklysays Mikel Arteta, speaking of his counterpart on the Mancunese bench. He set up a very clear way of playing. The players seem to have accepted, they have great energy and a lot has changed in a very short time.»
“Arsenal are in great form but it’s up to us to stop this good run. We know what we want to do and we need a very high performanceacknowledges Erik ten Hag for his part.
In the event of a victory at Arsenal, Manchester United could return to a draw on their local rival (Manchester City receive Wolverhampton at 3pm) and just five points behind the Gunners. If the first crowning glory in the league after 19 years of waiting seems to come to the London Reds, the title race could be revived. For a return stage to three of the craziest contenders.