The Premier League season is a long, drawn out campaign with skirmishes and battles, victories and defeats. For tomorrow’s massive matchup with Manchester United, we’re polishing the cannons and donning our war paint. TSF is ready.
[insert your favorite movie general voice here] “Well lads, tomorrow the enemy will be upon us. But the Emirates is nigh impregnable. We’ve defended her for 12 matches in a row and NOTHING is going to change that. North London is RED. ARSENAL RED. And so, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu tells the reader to “know your enemy,” and so with that in mind, we sat down with Brent Maximin (@brentmaximin) from The Busby Babe to get the inside scoop on Manchester United. Thanks to Brent for taking the time and make sure you stop by their site to see our answers to them!
As much as I hate to say this, it looks like United are the Premier League's best hope of anything resembling a title chase this season. Honest opinion, can they do it?
I believe we'll be in the hunt right to the end, unless Pogba goes down again (more on that below). The squad is deeper and more balanced than it has been in a long time. That said, we're in a stretch now where some of our key attackers are out of form, and both first choice center backs are injured. Getting through Arsenal this weekend and City next week will be a massive test. Annoyingly, City look absolutely brilliant at the moment. Injuries and scheduling catch up with everyone eventually, but City look built to withstand any brief wobbles. Having an 8 point cushion already doesn't hurt either.
Talk to us a little bit about what makes Paul Pogba so special / important. United look like a different team with him in the lineup.
He’s the best midfielder in the league. Even last year while he was still bedding in, there was a black hole of creativity when he was missing. It's not necessarily as bad this time around, but he's still practically irreplaceable. He gets up and down the pitch, has excellent control in tight spaces, can play any pass, and never hides. Having an excellent holding midfielder next to him in Matic has liberated his play as well. With Herrera having a poor season, the drop off in quality to either him or Fellaini is stark. De Gea may be our only unquestionable world class player, but Pogba isn't far behind.
Any concern about how Zlatan will re-integrate with the side / rotation? He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to be happy playing second fiddle to anyone.
Not yet. He still has a way to go before he's up to full match sharpness, and even though Lukaku's goals have dried up lately, he's still working hard in the team and doing other things well. Lukaku's mobility also allows the team to play a more fluid and expansive style, and be more of a counter-attacking threat. Ibrahimovic's hold up play is probably still the best in the world, but his presence up front changes the way that United attack. There may be opportunities for him to get starts as a playmaker behind Lukaku, since neither Mkhitaryan nor Mata are in good form right now. And with the next month being as busy as it is, he'll probably have a few chances to start upfront when Lukaku is rested.
Now, will be happy still being second fiddle when he's fully fit and we start approaching the business end of the season? That remains to be seen. But for now, I'm not worried.
United have given up the fewest goals in the league so far. How do you break down their defense?
Right now, with Bailly and Jones injured, the best answer to that question might be "wait for Smalling, Rojo, or Lindelof to do something stupid." Mourinho may opt to play all 3 at the weekend like he did against Watford, which will mean that the group will be more difficult to break down. But Lindelof is only now starting to look like a player than can be trusted, Rojo is barely match sharp after a long layoff, and we've all long suspected that the error-prone Smalling is spiritually an Arsenal defender (sorry).
What did the FA get to not ban Lukaku for a few matches for his kick last weekend?
A fine bottle of vintage Portuguese red.
Prediction for the match? You think Arsenal will win 3-0, right?
Our top scorer has 1 goal in his last dozen games, our only real holding midfielder is probably injured, the middle of our defense is decimated, and our main playmakers are out of form.
3-1 United, obviously.