herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Wenger expects 'strong' United to go on attack

Mourinho seeks first win away to top six team since taking Red reins

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is expecting an entertaining encounter against his old rival Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United side tomorrow
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is expecting an entertaining encounter against his old rival Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United side tomorrow
Olivier Giroud has hailed Mesut Ozil (right) as a “key player” for Arsenal ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Manchester United

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is not expecting Manchester United counterpart Jose Mourinho to park the bus when the sides clash tomorrow.

The Red Devils travel to the Emirates Stadium sitting second in the Premier League and on the back of a 4-2 win at Watford in midweek.

But Mourinho has yet to win an away game against a fellow top six side since taking charge at Old Trafford, with seven games at Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham yielding just three points and one goal.

That run includes a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal last season as Wenger recorded his first competitive victory over Mourinho at the 16th attempt.

The pair have shared a tumultuous relationship over the years but Wenger does not believe Mourinho, renowned for his defensive tactics in such matches, will only be eyeing a clean sheet in north London this weekend.

Asked whether he expected Mourinho to park the bus with a defensive outlook tomorrow evening, Wenger replied: "No, I don't expect anything special.

Chance

"I just expect us to be ready to recover now. Man United is a strong team and I expect us just to cope with the problems they will give us. They will attack as well. They will not only defend.

"It is a game between Arsenal and Man United at home. I just want to focus and to prepare well my team, and give my team a good chance to win the game. Man United is doing well at the moment, we are doing well at the moment, so it looks to be a promising game."

Arsenal welcome United having won their previous three Premier League games to move into the Premier League top four.

Victory in the north London derby at home to Tottenham was followed up with a last-gasp win at Burnley before Huddersfield were dispatched 5-0 at the Emirates on Wednesday night.

That was a 12th successive home win as Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil all got on the scoresheet while Olivier Giroud hit a brace.

It was not all positives for Wenger, however, as Lacazette was substituted at half-time with a groin injury, while Sanchez was also replaced late on after feeling his hamstring.

Wenger expects Sanchez to be fit to face United, but said club-record signing Lacazette will "certainly be out" of the contest. "Sanchez had a little hamstring problem - that's why I took him off but I think he will be alright," he said.

"Look, we have offensive weapons, you know. We have Danny Welbeck, we have Giroud, we have Jack Wilshere who all came on. They are all offensive players. I will see what I do for Saturday but ideally you wanted him (Lacazette) there."

Contract

Meanwhile, Olivier Giroud hailed "key player" Mesut Ozil's commitment to Arsenal and said that the Gunners need to keep hold of the Germany international.

Ozil, who is out of contract at the end of the season, starred in Arsenal's 5-0 win over Huddersfield.

The 29-year-old provided two assists in the space of 76 seconds before adding his own strike to the tally as he collected his second successive man of the match award at the Emirates Stadium following his display in the derby win over Tottenham.

Having been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United in recent weeks it remains to be seen if Ozil will stay at Arsenal past the January transfer window, let alone sign a new deal beyond 2018.

Asked if Ozil has shown his commitment to Arsenal with his recent displays, the France striker said: "Yes, of course. He is a top player and we need him.

"He makes the best choice most of the time. He knows when he has to pass the ball or to shoot and when you are in a good position you always think he thinks assist before scoring, even if he scored tonight. I am very happy for him. He is our playmaker and is a key player."

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