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Have Arsenal finally found a cure for the counterattack? | Jacob Steinberg

The Gunners have long been vulnerable to conceding goals on the break but Arsène Wenger’s change in formation has helped in addressing the problem

A common sight at the Emirates Stadium in the past decade has been the away team storming into acres of space to seek reward on the counterattack, with Arsenal’s defensive players nowhere to be seen. The weakness has often flared in the biggest games and one of the best examples was the goal Cristiano Ronaldo scored to clinch Manchester United’s victory over Arsène Wenger’s side in their Champions League semi-final in 2009. United ruthlessly exploited Arsenal’s gung-ho approach, breaking at exhilarating speed, Ronaldo hurtling into the area to finish off a move he had started with a backheel deep on the right flank.

It was a regular occurrence when Sir Alex Ferguson brought his team to north London – take the goals Wayne Rooney and Park Ji-sung scored in a 3-1 league victory in January 2010 – and it would be logical for José Mourinho to construct a similar plan when United pay Arsenal a visit on Saturday evening. Plenty of other top sides have followed the Ferguson blueprint, after all. Monaco pounced on two occasions on the break when they knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League in 2015 and Barcelona exposed the same flaws a year later. There were 20 minutes to go in a goalless first leg when, inexplicably, Nacho Monreal was left as the last man back, unsure about whether to stop Neymar’s dribble or mark the forward to his left. Neymar’s pass was perfect, Lionel Messi put Barcelona ahead and the tie was effectively over.

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