Unai Emery admits that Arsenal face a very tough challenge on Wednesday even if Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are struggling for form and have injuries to key players.
The Gunners have repeatedly failed to take advantage of the Red Devils travails in the post-Ferguson years, seemingly suffering from a mental block as soon as they take to the pitch.
Since Emmanuel Adebayor sealed a 1-0 win in 2006, we’ve lost eight and drawn three of the last 11 Premier League encounters at Old Trafford.
Looking for his team to build on Sunday’s win against Sp*rs and further consolidate their top four credentials, Emery told his pre-game press conference:
“It’s a new match, a new challenge, a big challenge. It’s away and we need to continue improving our mentality away.
“We know we need to change to get more competitive away. I think the team is doing that, but it’s a new challenge because we’re going to play against Manchester United away, and the challenge is bigger than other matches.
“For us, it’s a very exciting match. The preparation for this match is also a big motivation for us. It gives me a big motivation for Wednesday. If we are stronger now, we need to [show that] on Wednesday.”
He added: “We have the same points as Tottenham but we are travelling to Manchester United on Wednesday and we need to keep our [level of] performance and improve.
“We know – you maybe better than me – that it’s very difficult to win there. I prefer every day to work, thinking about the next matches. At the moment, we have the consistency in our mentality.
“We are calm, we know we need to improve and enjoy each moment, like yesterday. It’s a short moment though, today we are working and thinking about Wednesday.”
Arsenal’s win on Sunday saw us climb above Sp*rs on goal difference but the gap on top two Manchester City and Liverpool is still an intimidating eight and six points respectively. Understandably, Emery has been keen to play down talk of a title challenge.
“At the moment, one thing is clear: some teams have an advantage [over] us. One is very clear, it’s Manchester City. The difference between their points and our points. But also for the goals and conceding goals, there’s a big difference to us.
“Another difference [is] between Liverpool and our moments [which are] not very big, but I think it’s an important difference also. With the performances, with the points, with the goals scored and conceded, we are the same as Chelsea and Tottenham – that’s the reality.
“We want to progress and not think about them, but think about the next match. The Premier League is the first competition for us, but we also have very exciting [prospects] in the Europa League, Carabao Cup and the FA Cup.
“I want us to do one way, to think about the possibility – maybe not this year, because it’s difficult – but [in time], to approach one title here with the team. It’s about progress, improving and our demands.”
Whatever happens on Wednesday, we know Alexis Sanchez won’t get to do an RVP and score against us. The Chilean, who has looked a shadow of his former self, is out for six weeks with a thigh problem.
United will also be without the suspended Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof is injured while there are doubts about Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian.