Arsenal currently sit in 6th, in the Premier League Table, but are only 3 points behind Manchester United, who are now second after Manchester City pulled off an emphatic 6-1 win, in the second half, against Newcastle United.
The Gunners could take United’s top spot if they win by 3 goals or more. However, the last 8 match ups between the two clubs haven’t seen more than 3 goals being scored.
The last time that more than 3 goals were scored in a Manchester United Arsenal match up, was in August 2011, when United destroyed the London club 8-2.
In the previous fixture, hosted at The Emirates, Manchester United walked away with the 3 points, after a 2-1 victory but, Arsenal won in the FA Cup, at Old Trafford. The teams ended in a 1-1 stalemate in their most recent game at Old Trafford last season.
Arsène Wenger’s men are coming into this match up after a crushing defeat to the hands of Olympiacos in the Champions League, where the North Londoners lost 3-2.
Prior to losing to the Greeks, Arsenal had beaten high flying Leicester City, in the Prem, and local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, in the League Cup.
Despite the Champions League loss, a certain Chilean superstar further proved that he has returned to his usual goal scoring form. Alexis Sánchez has now scored 3 goals, and set one up, in his last 2 games. After a bit of a goal drought, the powerful winger has returned to the score sheet.
This means trouble for the Red Devils as the Argentina beating, Copa América winner prefers to play on the left, and United’s right back position is currently a bit uncertain.
Manchester Untied will either play one of two wingers, Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia, at right back, but their lack of defensive mentality will quickly be exposed by Sánchez’s skill and pace. Or, Matteo Darmian will be moved back to his preferred position, leaving the left back role to, most probably, Ashley Young.
The injury to Luke Shaw has left Manchester United’s defence in a bit of a state, with United’s manager, Louis van Gaal, having no natural replacements for the left back in his current roster.
Arsenal however, are in a far worse state, injury wise. All of Laurent Koscielny, Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Tomáš Rosický and Danny Welbeck are currently dealing with injuries.
Koscielny could feature in the game but won’t be 100%. The Frenchman has been the core of Arsenal’s defence this season.
In all of their domestic games this season, the Gunners have lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, just as Manchester United have. Their striker has swayed from Olivier Giroud to Theo Walcott, as the season has progressed, but the Frenchman has still been getting game time as a substitute.
Sánchez (3), Giroud (3) and Walcott (2) are Arsenal’s only Premeir League goal scorers this season with their top assist trio being Mesut Özil (3), Santi Cazorla (2) and Nacho Monreal (2). All of these players are fit to feature in today’s big game.
The Manchester United defence will have to be very cautious, the complete opposite of how they played in the first 30 minutes against Wolfsburg.
If they get caught on the break, as they did many times in midweek, they will get caught out by the lightning pace of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chaimberlain or Alexis Sánchez.
Arsenal have so much top class talent in their midfield. Aaron Ramsey, Cazorla, Sánchez, the Ox, and Mesut Özil could all start against United, who could really do with someone performing as Bastian Schweinsteiger did for them in midweek.
Bastian’s dogged style cut off Wolfsburg’s central play. He was relentless on the German side’s midfield. He also played a key role in distributing the ball to his team mates. to allow them to keep up the onslaught of attacks.
He’d cause the likes of Özil and Cazorla real problems as they try to tee up their strikers.
As he played in midweek, the German’s chances of starting against Arsenal are slim and, as Michael Carrick has been deemed fit to play, he will most likely start on the bench.
Wenger decided to play second choice keeper, David Ospina, midweek, and he has taken the brunt of the blame for the loss, so it’s nearly certain that Arsenal’s only first team signing, Petr Cech, will man the net today.
This is by far Manchester United’s toughest challenge yet. Arsenal posses so many attacking weapons that it’s hard to see the defence, or David De Gea, having a smooth game.
If Koscielny is fit, then he will make sure that Anthony Martial doesn’t enjoy his return to The Emirates. The French striker got an assist in A.S. Monaco’s 3-1 win in North London last year.
Arsenal will not enjoy the presence of Juan Mata. For a start, he has 4 goals and 2 assists against the Gunners in just 7 matches but, he will also be a nightmare for their left back, most likely Nacho Monreal.
Mata doesn’t really behave like a normal winger, running up the line and crossing, he always prefers to cut inside and either crossing from deep, running into the box or, shooting from near the edge of the box.
This means that Arsenal’s centre backs may need to implicate zonal defence, to hold off Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, all of whom pose a real goal threat. If Koscielny is not fit to play, they may struggle at the back.
It will be a tough and heated game, with every chance of ending in a draw but, I think that Manchester United’s form (currently on a 4 game winning streak) will pull away with the victory.
Manchester United to win 3-1 is what I’m going for but the game will be won, and lost, with teach team’s back four’s ability to handle the opposition’s striker force. If Arsenal expose United’s weaker full back then Arsenal could easily take the three points.