Former Arsenal strikers Ian Wright and Thierry Henry have warned the Gunners about a possible “new manager bounce” when they face Manchester United and fears his former club could get blown away if “main guy” Thomas Partey is stopped.
Henry qualified his views with a call to the Gunners to make a statement to the premier league top sides starting with the match against the Red Devils.
Arsenal recovered from their humbling 4-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool to beat Newcastle in their last Premier League outing and could rise into the top four with victory at Old Trafford tomorrow evening. The Gunners ran out 1-0 winners in the same fixture last season and take on a United side without a win in their three most recent matches in the English top flight.
However, United can take encouragement from their recent 1-1 draw away to league leaders Chelsea, with Ralf Rangnick taking over the reins on an interim basis following Ole Gunnar Slokar’s dismissal.
Wright is looking forward to the heavyweight meeting at the Theatre of Dreams and is confident about Arsenal’s chances, with the north London outfit losing just one of their last 12 games in all competitions.
But the ex-Arsenal striker is equally wary of the threat United pose and believes the influence Partey is allowed to have in the middle of the park could be key to determining the result.
“I think people have recognised, especially against Newcastle the other day… Partey did 13 passes towards Martin Odegaard and people are starting to realise that he’s our main guy,” Wright said on Ringer FC’s Wrighty’s House podcast.
“If you stop Partey then I feel like, ‘Oh my gosh’, with a Manchester United team at Old Trafford who probably won’t play with three in their midfield because they will want to go at us, there’s an energy. People have got to understand that there is a new manager bounce, whether it goes into games or whether it’s on the training ground because you know there’s a new manager there.
In his message, Henry wants Arsenal to make a “statement” against Premier League rivals Manchester United and called for more “improvement” from Mikel Arleta’s side on the back of their encouraging run. Following a dismal start to the season, Arsenal have won 10 of their last 12 games in all competitions to climb to fifth in the table, one point outside the Champions League places with a game in hand.
Henry insists Arteta is doing a good job but insists the team’s recent record has been flattered by some favourable fixtures, and needs to start beating their top-four rivals. Arsenal’s only defeat since August came at the hands of Liverpool last month, with the Reds easing to a 4-0 win at Anfield. Henry wants his former club to start competing with the best teams in the Premier League.
Arleta’s side travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United tonight and while Henry acknowledges that the Red Devils are not the force they once were, he says the fixture represents an opportunity for Arsenal to make a “statement”.
The opinion is shared by Wright when he commented on midfielder Partey’s role. Wright says, “You want to make sure you’re one of the people who, when he (Partey) comes in, he goes, ‘Oh, I like him!’, so everybody gets a fresh start. You look at Manchester United’s team and the players they are able to put out there, with a manager that is really focused on team shape, pressing and everything they’re going to do.”
Wright feels there was a noticeable difference in United’s intensity levels at Stamford Bridge, despite the fact Rangnick is still yet to appear in the dugout. The German has been awaiting his work visa and is expected to watch on from the stands at Old Trafford.
“Look at the way United pressed Chelsea – I know [N’Golo] Kante was missing – there’s no way that [Cristiano] Ronaldo does that at the intensity that Jadon Sancho was doing it, at the intensity Bruno Fernandes behind him was doing it,” Wright added.
“You see [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka coming up, you see Rashford coming across, that was a press that I’ve not seen at Manchester United. We know that Ralf is all about the press and winning the ball up there.”
Arsenal summer signing Nuno Tavares has impressed in recent weeks at left-back and Wright hopes the Portuguese continues his run in the side to face United. But the former England international has been disgusted by the “ridiculous” way some Arsenal fans have treated Kieran Tierney during his absence.
“I hope Tavares plays. I’m seeing people say they don’t do business with Kieran Tierney anymore. What is wrong with the fanbase, man?! It’s so ridiculous,” he went on.
“We’ve now got a player now where even if we wanted to play Kieran Tierney on the left side of a three, we could, then you could play Tavares still there. Tavares can do anything because he’s chaos. He can go left, he can go right, and I’m looking forward to seeing him up against Wan-Bissaka because we know that Wan-Bissaka is hench in respects of stopping people.”
Asked about Arsenal’s recent form, Henry told Prime Video, “It showed we can beat Newcastle at home. We can beat Burnley, we can beat Aston Villa before Steven Gerrard arrived. We can beat Leicester with 27 per cent possession.
“I think personally winning against those teams – and I’m not having a go – but I expect it from Arsenal when they play one game a week. Now the improvement is can you beat the teams at the top? That’s the improvement I want to see and am waiting to see tomorrow at Old Trafford. Every time they play a team, they should lose against they not only lose but they get smashed. The improvement I want to see is can they get top-four?
“I’m an Arsenal fan and I think Mikel Arteta is doing well, but I want to see that improvement. “Manchester United are not in the top-four but it can be a statement to go there and win and win well. We’re talking about Arsenal. I’m not over the moon by a Newcastle win, I want to see them win at Old Trafford tomorrow.”
Arteta, meanwhile, has admitted preparations for Thursday’s Premier League clash have been made trickier by the changing circumstances around the Manchester United managerial situation.
German boss Ralf Rangnick was appointed interim manager at Old Trafford on Monday but will not be in the dugout for the Arsenal game as he is still waiting for a work permit, although he is expected to be in the stadium.
“It’s very difficult tactically, because you don’t know how they will prepare,” said Arteta.
“Their squad is one of the most talented in the league, so you know the options they have and the formations they can vary. We didn’t know if he [Rangnick] would be sitting on the bench or taking training sessions.
“We tried to gather information to understand more, but we don’t know the influence of the new coach. It’s been trickier than usual.”
While Arsenal have been climbing up the Premier League table, Manchester United were just seventh when former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked and find themselves 10th ahead of the visit of Arsenal.
- A Tell / Metro report