Arsenal have a real chance to confirm that they ARE equipped to go after the Premier League title this season in a game that sparks entertainment from all angles.
Whilst many of the papers have been solely focused on the rivalry Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho share, the majority of us are only interested in picking up three points.
A win for the Gunners at Old Trafford would send a huge statement to their title rivals and only leave the Red Devils hopes of league success more of a dream rather than a reality.
With the firepower that Mourinho added in the summer many of us tipped them to breeze to Premier League glory, but such hasn’t been the case and now unpredictable form has left them struggling.
United have picked up just one win in their last five league outings and Mourinho’s hopes of changing that aren’t helped by the multitude of injuries he has to deal with.
The Gunners suffered a big blow in the form of Hector Bellerin, who will now miss four weeks of action after picking up a nasty ankle injury during the dying seconds of the Spurs game.
There’s still doubt over the seriousness of Santi Cazorla’s injury after it was revealed he hadn’t returned to full training despite having a week to catch up in the international break.
Theo Walcott could miss the trip to Manchester too, his wife is due to give birth to their second child and it’s believed Wenger won’t stand in his way.
There will also be a late decision made on Alexis Sanchez, although by the looks of things everything is good with the Chilean after he bagged a brace and played 84 minutes in mid-week.
Arsenal Absentees: P. Mertesacker (knee), D. Welbeck (knee), L. Perez (ankle), S. Cazorla (achilles), H. Bellerin (ankle)
Problems are starting to pile up on the sidelines, and it isn’t helped that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss this one after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last time out.
Wayne Rooney, Marouane Fellaini and Luke Shaw are all carrying knocks and have a 75% chance of featuring, although Mourinho might not want to risk the whole trio.
Linked with a move to Arsenal in the week, Chris Smalling is also missing as he continues to recover from a toe injury, whilst Antonio Valencia is carrying a nasty fractured arm.
Bastian Schweinsteiger and Eric Bailly are the final two big name players that aren’t available, the latter will be missed in a United defence that will have to be reshuffled completely.
United Absentees: W. Rooney (doubt), M. Fellaini, (doubt), L. Shaw, E. Bailly, Z. Ibrahimovic, B. Schweinsteiger, J. Wilson, C. Smalling, A. Valencia
One’s To Watch
Arsenal – Shkodran Mustafi
Things are looking up for the centre back after another big week in the national team. Mustafi was awarded MOTM during Germany’s 0-0 draw with Italy.
Now, he’s back to club football and his presence is something we’ve needed alongside Koscielny in games like this for a long, long time.
Cast your memory back to Chelsea at home and in my eyes Mustafi was the smartest person on the pitch, getting touch-tight to Diego Costa from the first whistle and giving everything in between.
That’s what we need from him and Kos again on Saturday, with United having to change their attack again there’s going to be players lacking confidence, Mustafi is key to shutting them out of the game and making them overthink what to do with the ball.
Manchester United – Michael Carrick
Many of us think of Rooney or Zlatan when worrying about who will punish us the most this weekend, but this guy often goes under the radar for some reason.
Content with mastering the midfield, Carrick does the bits that nobody else wants to do and with a midfield that is missing Cazorla he could be the key to cutting out Arsenal passes.
United have an incredible record when this guy’s in the starting XI and his work rate is superb, and if we’re going to break him down then Wengerball needs to be quick and fluent.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny (C), Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea, Darmian, Jones, Rojo, Blind, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, Pogba, Rashford, Rooney (C)
Prediction: Manchester United 2 – 1 Arsenal
As much as I’d love us to pick up three points from this place, I think Mourinho has Wenger’s tactics sussed out and will like to sit back and play on the break with Rashford’s pace.
If you look at United’s back four there’s nothing in there that screams confidence so he’ll be relying on Carrick and Herrera to do a lot of the defensive work in midfield.
Arsenal have shown us against Middlesbrough and Burnely that they aren’t too great at breaking down teams who are intent on having several bodies behind the ball.
However, if Arsenal can use their ‘Plan B’ in Olivier Giroud then things might start to open up, Xhaka’s long balls will be key to stretching the play and opening up gaps in an already leaky defence.
I’m tipping United to go against the odds though and pick up all three points because although we remain unbeaten for a while, I don’t think we’ve been brutal enough to win games.
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