A trip to Manchester United is always big for Arsenal but this weekend’s is absolutely massive for my old club – not to lose!
Five games, five wins and top of the table, the Gunners have done everything that could be expected so far. Every team wants a good start and they have it.
But it’s only a start. And the clash at Old Trafford is the first real acid test for them this season.
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I’m not saying United are a great team or anything. But they’re not bad either and a win for them would make it four a row.
Neither club is going to lift the title any time soon. The Gunners may have 15 points from 15 but, in my opinion, they’re a million miles from winning the league.
What they do not want, though, is to suffer defeat at United – and, suddenly, all those cliches about them return.
‘Here we go again,’ ‘Same old Arsenal’, and headlines about being no more than ‘flat-track bullies’. It doesn’t take very long for the mood to turn in football.
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The Emirates is noisier than ever right now, the fans are 100% with the team. But lose to United and Arsenal face even tougher games, against Tottenham and Liverpool, with the pressure on.
Mikel Arteta's side, thanks to their perfect month, have earned the right to make sure they leave Manchester – with at least a point. They don’t need to chase anything.
Don’t get beaten…those Spurs and Liverpool games take care of themselves. There’s actually nothing wrong with being flat-track bullies – as long as you get something against the big boys.
Liverpool did that last season and were a point off winning the title. That shows what can be achieved by holding your own with top-six clubs and winning games you should.
I’m working at the match and it’s brilliant that it counts so much – for both.
Their fierce rivalry goes back way further than the Premier League. I played in 1990 when both were docked points for a mass brawl.
And in 1989 , too, when Michael Knighton came on the pitch, saying he was buying United. Even I had more money than him at that time.
Big credit to Arteta. Like Erik ten Hag at United, the Spaniard is a very strong on discipline. I’m a fan of that. Every successful team needs discipline – on and off the field.
Both managers are doing it their way and that’s the only way – because if they stop following their beliefs, they’ll regret it when it does go wrong.
That’s why even if the top four – which must be the aim for Arsenal – proves just beyond them, I’d expect the board to go with Arteta again.
After all, which other manager could attract the quality of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko to North London…without Champions League football.
It’s incredible he got that world-class pair to sign for us – and what a difference they’re making.
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