Match Previews

Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United

Photo via Arsenal FC

With a trip to North London in midweek which eventually led to a win, there’s a chance to get another win.

The Premier League winning run can be a catalyst for United getting back into their stride as they face Arsenal this weekend in a crucial outing.

Will the fire between Arsene Wenger and José Mourinho be lit once again?

Kick-off: 5:30pm – Saturday

Referee: Andre Marriner

With this campaign being the first season since the turn of the millennium that the Gunners aren’t competing in the Champions League, their domestic needs are greater. A change of system towards the end of last season has had its obvious benefits. Yet, there is still the same chaos surrounding Wenger as usual.

They set out in that eluded to 3-4-2-1 formation with the aim of outplaying their opponents in beautiful style yet harbouring a grit about them. Thus they have a strong spine of workers & physical players, and rely on pace-ridden wing-backs along with skillful play-makers to do the fancy work. The team is usually started off with Mourinho’s former reliable goalkeeper Petr Čech that he sold to his current club. The experienced stopper has many times come in the way of United players and the net to stop them scoring. A back trio of most often captain Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, and Nacho Monreal gives them a solidity allowing the wide men Héctor Bellerín and Sead Kolašinac who possess speed and strength respectively to push on and be expressive with or without the ball.

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The duo in midfield is expected to be Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka, who hold the team together when it’s most needed, but Mohamed Elneny could come in as well as the now infamous Jack Wilshere who can be truly impacting on his day. Up front, the big guns are out including two men who are constantly linked with coming to Manchester. Exquisite playmaker Mesut Özil has worked with the Red boss previously and Alexis Sánchez has worked with the Blue boss. They prove the true quality of the teams with assists and goals being a huge part of their individual games respectively. Both have been criticised for not getting their hands dirty in big games but one man who hasn’t had too much of a chance is striker Alexandre Lacazette, who holds off fierce competition from fellow Frenchman Oliver Giroud, Mancunian Danny Welbeck, a now matured Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi (a much talked about prospect who is yet to fully get his chance at the big time). However, the star summer signing is ruled out of the match through injury.

A huge battering of Huddersfield Town was their midweek result in which they looked scintillating at times to buoy their confidence high before this encounter. That followed a very late win over Burnley away from home at the weekend, which came after a Europa League shock defeat to Köln also away from home. As they’re now back at the Emirates, they will be hoping to recapture the magic of their last match there as it was a convincing win over Tottenham Hotspur. The question is, can they yet again to turn up a big game?

It’s no surprise people are doubting Mourinho’s men for this match as much as they are Wenger’s. The poor record in big matches does not bode well. A more defensive system and “boring” style has been undone numerous times, hence a new strategy is to be anticipated.

United’s injury list remains with Michael Carrick’s name on, along with Eric Bailly and Phil Jones. It’s likely that as usual, whenever a three-at-the-back system is used by the opposition, United go to one themselves like in midweek. It was another impressive performance in that game from Victor Lindelöf, who aims to keep his place ahead of his first true test of his abilities. The praised Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo had moments of weakness despite numerous occasions of brilliance, so are well in contention now. At possible wing-back themselves, Antonio Valencia (who will make the record of most appearances in the league for a South American player when he next plays) and Ashley Young (who is fine form to say the least) will be relied upon to win the flanks.

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There’s no confirmation whether Nemanja Matić is fit to play, but Paul Pogba should be, as well as Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini. With Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial impressing so much in midweek, they could start ahead of out of favour and form Henrik Mkhitaryan, as well as Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford. The conundrum up top may be won by Romelu Lukaku by the fact he offers more counterattacking play as oppose to Zlatan Ibrahimović’s regular target man approach – which, if you look at his appearances since his return, is not something he is necessarily sticking to which is especially surprising after likely losing pace due to his injury. As we can thus see, whatever type of system is chosen there are a range of options that offer such difference to combat a more well-oiled machine.

Due to Arsenal clearly having more of a good time in these matches than United did last season as well as the prior, it’s more the home side’s expectation to win which leaves pressure off the away side.

A clash of two half-sleeping giants in the division is upon us again and the battle could be won or lost by fine margins. Like any match between the two, the sidelines should also be intriguing to watch. Whatever the result, it’s sure to be a thriller.

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