This mouth watering clash between Arsenal and Man Utd is the featured game as the late kick-off on Saturday and should be a fascinating spectacle to savour given this fixture’s history.
Both teams have had a poor start by the high standards set by clubs of their size, however a win for either side will take them into the Top 4 if other results go their way.
It will also be a big game for former Arsenal captain Robin van Persie who will no doubt be jeered by the home fans, and will want to prove he still merits a starting spot in this United side.
Both teams have a serious backlog of injuries in their squads.
Arsenal will have to make do without Mathieu Debuchy, Mesut Ozil, Abou Diaby. Players close to returning are David Ospina, Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta and Serge Gnabry. Strikers Danny Welbeck and Oliver Giroud are both a small doubt but have a good chance of featuring.
United are reported to be without Rafael, Marcos Rojo and Jesse Lingard, while there are concerns over the availability of David De Gea, Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Angel di Maria, Daley Blind, Ashley Young, Michael Carrick and Radamel Falcao.
Alexis Sanchez is the man to watch in the Arsenal shirt, he has almost single-handedly kept Arsenal afloat in recent matches, with six goals in the last four games, therefore contributing 75% of the Gunner’s goals with a total of eight scored by the team. He had a slow start when he arrived at the London club, with huge expectation following three fantastic seasons at Barcelona and an impressive World Cup performance for Chile, but he has sure made an impression now.
With a several potential major absentees for United, like di Maria and Falcao, I think that it will lie on the captain, Wayne Rooney, to provide a match-winning performance, as he has for his country during international duty, to carry this possibly weakened team and keep up United’s fine record against Arsenal.
Arsenal are currently sitting at 6th on the Premier League table, one place above Man Utd coming into the match, and will be looking to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat at Swansea just before the international break. A concern for Wenger may be the high number of draws (5) in comparison with clubs above and around the Gunners.
Arsenal do have four wins this season, 11 games in, next to their name, but they’ve been against opposition they were favourites to beat anyway – Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Burnley – so to beat United would be a good next step.
Van Gaal has had a tough start to his reign as United boss and has since stated that it will “take three years to rebuild” the club – doesn’t he know what happened to Moyes? Regardless of getting the excuses in early, there will still be huge disappointment if the club were to miss out on Champions League football for a second season running. So far it looks like a serious possibility with the surprising seasons of Southampton and West Ham really asking questions, the great consistency of Chelsea, leaving just one spot left, currently filled by rivals City.
The main worry has been the defence, the attacking quality is simply mouthwatering, but while the best form of defence is attack, becoming unbalanced in the process isn’t really a solution. Already there have been far too many defensive pairings, and with a possibly injury to De Gea, this is a big area Arsenal can exploit, although United could say the same if Monreal starts at centre back!
Last five league meetings:
Wed 12 Feb 2014 Arsenal 0 – 0 United
Sun 10 Nov 2013 United 1 – 0 Arsenal
Sun 28 Apr 2013 Arsenal 1 – 1 United
Sat 03 Nov 2012 United 2 – 1 Arsenal
Sun 22 Jan 2012 Arsenal 1 – 2 United
With potentially key defensive absentees for both sides, on paper it looks like we might be seeing a match with more goals than the last meeting at the Emirates, not that that will take much beating! I think that the home advantage will be enough for Arsenal to finally get a win in this fixture. While both sides have had a relatively poor start, I have faith that Arsenal will have a bit more about them and break this bad record. I’m going for a high scoring game.
3-2 home win.