Arsenal preparations for Manchester United ‘trickier than usual’, Mikel Arteta admits

Michael Carrick will again take charge with new interim manager Ralf Rangnick yet to receive a work visa

George Sessions
Wednesday 01 December 2021 10:46
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Reaction from Mikel Arteta and Eddie Howe

Mikel Arteta has admitted Arsenal’s preparation for the trip to Manchester United has been trickier than usual but is determined to make sure last season’s victory at Old Trafford was not a one-off.

The Gunners’ opponents sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last month and on Monday appointed German Ralf Rangnick as interim boss until the end of the campaign, but he will not be in the dugout for Thursday’s fixture.

Rangnick, who is widely credited for bringing to prominence the Gegenpressing tactic of high-pressing to win the ball back, is still awaiting a visa so caretaker Michael Carrick will remain in charge.

Arteta said of the new Red Devils boss: “He has been one of top coaches and, in every involvement he has had in game, not just coaching, he has made some radical changes in areas so he is a really interesting person in the football world and a really interesting appointment.

“We tried to gather information to understand more about what to expect and we don’t know. We didn’t know if he would be sitting on the bench, taking training sessions so in terms of the preparation it was a little trickier than usual because you don’t really know the influence the new coach will have.

“You do know what to expect when you play at that stadium, in front of the crowd and with a team and squad that is probably one of the most talented in the league, so you know the situations you are going to face.

“It is very difficult tactically because you don’t know how they will prepare for the game, the options they can play and the formations they can vary. So, it is focused more on ourselves, what we have to do and to make sure the team is prepared to go there and beat them.”

After a poor start to the season, including a 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City in late August, Arsenal have turned around their form and lost only one of their last 10 Premier League games – a painful 4-0 defeat at Liverpool last month.

Arteta, who led Arsenal to a first league win at Old Trafford since 2006 last term, said of the importance of beating the top clubs on the road: “It is (missing) because we lost against City and Liverpool.

“It is true we beat Leicester, who has been one of the teams that have been in that range in recent years, but that’s what we want, to have the confidence to go to any ground against the top teams and beat them.

“It is not about doing it once. When we won last year (at Old Trafford), Arsenal didn’t win there for 14 years so obviously that (sort of winless run) cannot happen if we want to be at the top level.”

Arsenal will check on Bukayo Saka’s fitness before facing United after he was forced off with a muscle injury during the weekend win over Newcastle.

“I am hopeful but we don’t know,” Arteta said of Saka. “Obviously it is a really short turnaround and the player has to be comfortable playing with a little injury so let’s see how it is (on Wednesday).

“We are not going to risk our players if we believe that can go against us.

“Playing with an injury means he had to leave the pitch and if someone has to leave the pitch I believe he is injured even if they are willing to continue.

“That injury can be 24 hours, 72 or a year, but Bukayo is really willing. He has been preparing the last two days because he wants to play and let’s see how he is.”

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