For the Symposium topic this week, we asked our panel what they expected, in terms of points and performances, from our next three tough away games against Arsenal, City and starting with Old Trafford this Sunday. This is what they said:
By Paul Tomkins:
I’m looking for three points from these fixtures. One win or three draws would be good going; indeed, it’s a run when failing to win – but failing to lose – feels better than getting one amazing win but two defeats.
That said, two draws and a defeat wouldn’t look too bad. I feel that one win should be possible as in a run of any three games there’s a chance you’ll have a better day than your opposition, and having failed to get more than one point from the three home games against City, United and Arsenal it feels as if a win is almost overdue. The best place to win would be Old Trafford, for obvious reasons. It’d be nice to dent their title challenge a bit, and especially nice after all the aggro over the past couple of years.
Three defeats wouldn’t be a disaster if we can pick up enough points elsewhere, but I want us to prove we can get something from the biggest tests.
By Chris Rowland:
Utd – I really believe we’re due something there – a Howard Webb penalty in the last minute for a nothing tackle on Suarez in front of the Stretford End perhaps? Worried about our openness through the midfield, which Utd will punish, and about Van Persie, who for Arsenal and Utd (though not for Netherlands) never seems to miss a chance. And he’s scored a few against for us. But Utd’s defence and keeper are hardly rock solid. I expect them to press us hard and high up the pitch. Wonder whether it might be worth playing three CBs with Johnson and Downing as wing backs? We haven’t drawn at OT since 2000 (1-1, Berger), and have lost five of the last six, so I’ll go for a draw here.
Arsenal – I expect a decent performance here too, better than the one against them at Anfield anyway. They’ve got pace, but again their defence seems less than watertight. Won 1, lost 1, drawn 4 out of the last six league games there. Another draw.
City – I think we’ll lose this one, narrowly, 0-1 or 1-2, despite more than holding our own on the pitch. A little angled through ball from Silva or Nasri maybe. They could be missing both Toures (ACN) and Balotelli (cast into the desert), who who knows who they might have in their line up by Sunday Feb 3rd- Cavani, Falcao? Only won one of the last six there in the league, and none since they became any good.
So 2 points out of 9, which would actually seem very decent if it all pans out as I’ve described.
By Daniel Rhodes:
Expected points return: Nil
If you were to pick three games, from a season, that you’d expect to lose, last year’s 1-2-3 in the league, away from home, are likely to be the ones you’d pick. I did, at the start of the season.
I won’t be disappointed if we lose all three. I expect we will. I expect to beat Villa at home, I expect to get a result away at West Brom and Sunderland. I don’t expect the same with our upcoming away games.
Nevertheless, this is the interesting balance; when we played these three at home, early in the season, our performances against the two Manchester clubs were up there with the best I’ve seen all year. The best for quite some time. But, I want points – not performances – this time round. I’d be over-the-moon with five points. Unbeaten, one win, two draws. I don’t want a barnstorming performance, dominating all over, only to be robbed by individual errors or refereeing blunders. I want tactical balance. No men sent off. No major injuries. No controversy. I’d take a win at Old Trafford, a defeat at the City of Manchester stadium and a draw at Ashburton Grove. Four points. Fergie frustrated. Job done
This article is for subscribers only.