Mikel Arteta admits that it’s “trickier than usual” trying to second guess how Manchester United will lineup against Arsenal tomorrow night because it’s unclear how much influence new interim coach Ralph Rangnick already has.
The German, appointed on an initial six-month contract in the aftermath of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal, won’t be in the dugout tomorrow night due to visa complications, it’s understood he’s already visited Old Trafford and spoken with caretaker boss Michael Carrick.
Whether that conversation dictates the Red Devils tactics is anyone’s guess although Carrick already sprang a surprise ahead of last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea by relegating Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench.
Ahead of the trip to Old Trafford, Arteta was asked about Rangnick’s profile in his pre-game press conference.
“He has been one of the top coaches in every involvement he has had in the game, not only in coaching,” said the Spaniard.
“He’s made some radical changes in some areas and he’s a really interesting person in the footballing world, and a really interesting appointment for the club.”
While he wouldn’t be drawn on whether he’d specifically spoken to Per Mertesacker, who he crossed paths with at Hannover in the early noughties, the boss confirmed his team had been doing their homework.
“We try to gather information to understand more what to expect,” he said.
“We didn’t know if he was going to be sitting on the bench or if he was taking training sessions, so in terms of the preparations, it was a little bit trickier than usual because you don’t really know the influence that the new coach is going to have.”
Arsenal head into Thursday’s match on a five-game unbeaten run against United; the first time we’ve managed such a streak since the late nineties. While no crowd was there to see it, we even managed a win at Old Trafford last time out thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty.
Despite overcoming our mental block, Arteta is expecting a tough encounter under the lights.
“You know what to expect when you got to that stadium and play in front of that crowd,” he said.
“They are a team, a squad that is one of the most talented in the league. You know the situation you are going to face.
“It is very difficult tactically because you don’t know how they are going to prepare the game, the options that they can play, the formation they can [have] so it’s focused more on ourselves, on what we have to do and make sure the team is prepared to go there and beat them.”
He also knows it’s vitally important that we prove we can match our big six rivals after tepid defeats against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
“We lost against Manchester City and we lost against Liverpool,” he noted. “It’s true that we beat Leicester, who have been one of the teams in that range in recent years, but obviously that’s what we want. To go to any ground and have to confidence to go out there against the top teams and beat them.
He added: “That’s what we have to try and do [win]. It’s not about winning once. I think when we won last year [at Old Trafford], Arsenal hadn’t won there for seventeen years so obviously, that cannot happen if we want to be at the top level.”