I’ll begin with a bold statement: Arsenal should beat Manchester United at Old Trafford tonight. Definitely.
Because they’re a better team. It’s as simple as that really.
Whilst there’s not too much that separates the two sides in the League at the moment – just a solitary point – the reality is that United are a shadow of their former selves, and whilst they may be going through a transition, they really shouldn’t be anything for Arsenal to fear.
The trouble is, history suggests that that’s exactly what Arsenal do.
If we think back to last season, it seems utterly absurd that United managed to beat the Gunners, but that’s exactly what happened. Despite United being in a total mess under David Moyes, Arsenal still turned up to Old Trafford, lost their heads and were muscled into submission.
Many a worse team than Arsenal rocked up to Manchester and beat Moyes’ boys last season, but not the Gunners. The question is, has anything changed this year?
When one considers the players that Wenger has at his disposal and the way that they can play together, one would have to make Arsenal favourites for this clash. In Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, they have three of the paciest forwards in the League. Add in the touches of class from Mesut Ozil and the driving runs from Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere in midfield and you’ve got a team capable of beating almost all the teams in the division.
Certainly a team that’s capable of beating a Manchester United side that haven’t really played well all season and have limped on through a combination of stubbornness and good fortune.
So why is there a question mark over whether Arsenal can go to Old Trafford and do the job that needs doing on Monday?
It’s simple really – Arsenal are yet to prove that they’re mentally strong enough to win these sorts of fixtures. Their gritty win against Man City was a start, but in essence, Arsenal need a bit more of what United have.
This might seem slightly counterintuitive given that I’m suggesting that Arsenal should beat United, but bear with me.
United, despite playing well below par for pretty much the entire season, are in fourth. Arsenal, playing above expectations and looking impressive, are just one point ahead in third.
United have that ability to grind out wins when not playing well. Arsenal, not so much. And in these tight games, that’s exactly what counts.
Very rarely does a clash near to the top of the table result in a landslide victory for one team. Sometimes it does, but not very often. Therefore, the ability to win by hook or by crook is vital. And it’s not one that Arsenal have. Or at least, not one that they’ve proved they have yet. Let’s see whether they can prove it on Monday.