Casting a cold eye on the opposition

Picture: Getty

Arsenal v Man Utd
Arsene Wenger’s relationship with Alex Ferguson may have been famously tetchy, but the Arsenal manager has expressed confidence Louis van Gaal can live up to the standards set by his old rival.

Arsenal and Manchester United were once the Premier League’s dominant forces, but go into today’s showdown at the Emirates Stadium 12 and 13 points, respectively behind leaders Chelsea.

Wenger, though, is confident this is a temporary state of affairs and he paid tribute to Van Gaal’s strength of personality.

“We are of the same generation,” Wenger said. “He is passionate, competent, intelligent and has personality; without those qualities, you don’t last for such a long time like he has in international football as well, so he has the qualities to do it.”

Referring to Arsenal and United’s current league positions of sixth and seventh, Wenger added: “It’s unusual, but I’m sure that won’t last. You have to look further than the table and look at the quality of the players. I think it’s a very exciting game to watch.”

Wenger has every confidence Danny Welbeck would provide just as much of a goal threat if deployed out wide.

England striker Welbeck is expected to overcome a minor hamstring problem suffered on international duty to face his former club Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium today.

With France forward Olivier Giroud back in contention following three months out with a broken leg, Wenger will soon have a selection decision to make.

Theo Walcott, doubtful to face United because of a groin problem, will soon be available to offer another option in attack, along with industrious Chilean Alexis Sanchez, who has been in great form since a summer move from Barcelona.

Welbeck made it clear the major reason he left Old Trafford in a £16m (€20m) deadline-day transfer was the chance to play down the middle for Arsenal, something he did not manage to do on a regular basis at United.

Wenger, though, sees no reason why Welbeck, who has scored five goals in 12 appearances, should not be able to have just as much of an impact when cutting in from wide, as he does so often with England.

“You have players who play on the flanks who score goals. I don’t think that will stop him from scoring,” said Wenger. “He had chances the other night when he played on the left, with his pace.

“[Cristiano] Ronaldo played all his life on the flanks and scored more goals than games he played. I don’t think that will stop him. What is a problem for him is to play.”

Wenger is confident Welbeck can fit into whatever role he is asked to perform.

“Recently we played 4-4-2 with Sanchez and him up front, and in some games you adapt. Danny is adaptable, the modern player is adaptable,” said the Arsenal boss. “Sanchez can play wide left and wide right, and through the middle. Welbeck as well.

“It is so important on the flanks to have pace and work rate, that sometimes in some games you have to put them there because they can absorb the quantity and the quality of the work.”

Wenger believes Welbeck could grow into a free-roaming wider role, much like Thierry Henry.

“When he played there at a young age, you get habits in the position you play. He looks comfortable there because he knows what to do,” said Wenger.

“We all have preferential vision and sometimes players see better on their right and sometimes players see better on the left, so, when you have better right vision and you play on the left, you see the whole pitch.”

Wenger will assess Sanchez ahead of the United game, with the Chile forward, who has scored 12 goals, drained from travelling back from South America following friendlies against Uruguay and Venezuela.

“It is a concern. He looked a bit jaded before he went and I will have to check him before Saturday,” said Wenger, who has not spoken directly with the Chilean federation about its use of the player. “Don’t ask him the question [about being fit to play] because he will say he is perfect,” the Frenchman added.


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