qualities are good enough and the full-backs sometimes get caught high up the pitch. United look more vulnerable at the back this season but that’s not necessarily the defenders’ fault. Defending has to come from all over the pitch.
Just how good a player have United signed in Robin van Persie?
Robin van Persie has gone from being an injury-prone player who only delivers in fits and starts to a mature, world-class forward. He’s not only scoring goals but his general all-round play is also good. Arsenal obviously know about his qualities – they know he likes to drag the ball back onto his left foot when he comes infield, they know he can make darting runs in front of defenders – but it’s one thing knowing about a player and another stopping him.
What’s been missing from Arsenal teams in recent years? They’re always competitive and yet ultimately fall just short.
In my view I don’t think they’ve been strong enough mentally and I think that comes from the manager. The way Arsene Wenger gets frustrated and makes excuses for his sides offers the players a get-out. They’ve also not been good enough defensively for quite some time – and I’m not talking about the back four in isolation, I’m talking about a lack of a defensive strategy all over the pitch.
Arsenal’s commitment to youth is admirable, but has it also cost the club in some respects?
I think it’s a bit of a myth when people talk about Arsenal developing all these young players. Jack Wilshere is an exception to the rule but not too many other Arsenal youngsters have come through the system in recent years. Instead, Arsenal buy young. They buy young players from abroad and, fair play, they were one of the first clubs to do that and give them an opportunity. But they don’t produce an awful lot of players.