Arsenal v Manchester United
Kick off: November 22nd, 2014 1730 GMT
Two out of the top three most successful English clubs are about to lock their horns today but it looks more like a clash of two boxers who can’t stand on their feet and both of them have a broken hand and leg. Arsenal and Manchester United, despite the fact that both clubs have spent heavily this term, haven’t had the best campaign so far. Actually…
1. The Gunners and The Red Devils have won just four points more combined than the leaders Chelsea have won so far
Arsenal have 17 and Manchester United 16 points. Chelsea are firm on the top with 29 which suggests that both the Gunners and the Red Devils can forget about the league title.
2. Neither of them have beaten a big team so far
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Manchester United salvaged a point against Chelsea thanks to Robin van Persie’s late equalizer but lost to Manchester City mostly due to Chris Smalling’s stupid moves. Arsenal have drawn their home match against Manchester City but lost to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
3. Both teams have suffered an injury crisis
Arsenal have three first-team players out – Debuchy, Özil and Koscielny – while Olivier Giroud is yet to make an appearance after suffering an injury-time injury (speaking of irony, eh) against Everton in August. Theo Walcott probably won’t be ready to face United while Danny Welbeck’s injury in a ridiculously scheduled friendly match against Scotland might mean the Englishman will have to wait for his revenge against the former club. Mikel Arteta has also had problems with an injury picked against Anderlecht.
However, if there is a team in England that can compete with us in terms of injury, it’s Manchester United. Absences of Rafael, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones make their already shaky defence look even less competitive and Luke Shaw is a doubt for this match as well. In fact, Van Gaal has had to use right winger Antonio Valencia as their right full-back. Their midfield – considered to be the weakest link in the team – will depend on Ander Herrera (who has had injury problems as well) and Marouane Fellaini (who has raised his form lately though) due to Daley Blind’s injury. Their star striker Radamel Falcao won’t play today which is a good thing given that he has already scored once this year at the Emirates against us (Emirates Cup, Arsenal-Monaco 0:1).
Anyway, both teams need points and need them as soon as possible. There is bigger pressure on us due to the fact that we’re playing at home but it’s not like United would gain a lot with a draw from this game. Both teams have very strong attacking lines capable of scoring loads of goals – Alexis Sánchez has been in tremendous form lately (unlike his team-mates though), Alex Chamberlain has been the closest to the Chilean and Aaron Ramsey scored the winner in Arsenal’s last victory over United on 1st May 2011. There lies the problem – we haven’t beaten United for three-and-half years and we failed to score a single goal against David Moyes’ United last term which sounds as scary as being beaten at the beauty contest by Wayne Rooney. Speaking of Rooney, he has been inspired to make trouble for us since the beginning of his career and our defensive issues might come as a present for him. Angel Di Maria and Robin van Persie can cause a lot of problems as well – the Argentine is one of the best players in the world when it comes to creating goals for his team-mates while The Lying Dutchman has scored three goals in four appearances against us. Also, given how shaky our defending of set-pieces has been lately, Marouane Fellaini’s aerial prowess might cause a lot of troubles. That’s where Giroud’s possible return might be the biggest reinforcement. It’s worth noting that Juan Mata – if he makes an appearance – should be watched carefully since he has had his moments of inspiration against us as well.
Wojciech Szczesny – after successfully selling himself in FIFA 2015 to today’s opponents – is the only logical choice for our keeper. He will have to be at his best in order to keep our goal safe from the dangerous United attackers.
There is a huge dilemma for our right full-back position. Calum Chambers couldn’t deal with Montero in our last league match against Swansea while Hector Bellerin’s pace is counter-weighted with his lack of experience.
Per Mertesacker will have to improve his form as well. His role in today’s match is the most important one – he is going to be the commander of our young and make-shift defence against some of the best attackers in the world.
Calum Chambers or Nacho Monreal as Mertesacker’s partner? That’s another dilemma. The Englishman is more suited for that role while the Spaniard has more experience under his belt.
Kieran Gibbs is a safe bet for our left full-back position. He might be the key for both our defence and attack if he manages to provide width to our attackers and effectively use presence of Valencia on the right side of United’s defence.
Mathieu Flamini has been under fire lately but his aggression will be needed today. Hopefully his tackles will have better timing in today’s game.
Aaron Ramsey is the only player in the current Arsenal line-up who has scored a winning goal against United. The Welshman should provide us a key advantage in the midfield over United.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has looked sharp lately but today he’ll have to help out our right full-back as well, something he failed to do against the Swans. One of his best appearances for Arsenal happened at the Emirates against United in 2012. We lost that game but most of us still believe that it was due to Wenger’s decision to replace Chamberlain – who created Van Persie’s equalizer – with Andrey Arshavin.
Santi Cazorla hasn’t been very productive this term but it should – it has to – change today. Or else…
Alexis is our greatest hope again. The Chilean has been unstoppable lately and has both scored and created goals on a regular basis for club and country. This time he’ll need much better support from his team-mates. Perhaps he should use a lack of experience from Tyler Blackett to score another brace. Hopefully Alexis won’t miss Welbeck in case the Englishman doesn’t start today.
Olivier Giroud is likely to make his first start in the league. The Frenchman’s physical presence has been missed and it’s good to have him back. He doesn’t have pace like Danny Welbeck has though and that might be a problem given that Alexis has enjoyed working with Welbeck.
My head says: it’s gonna end 4:4 today. My heart says: let’s beat the living crap out of them with a convincing 4:1 victory. Our last victory over United in November happened in 2009 when Samir Nasri’s brace cancelled out the presence of Mikael Silvestre in our defence. Let’s have a sweet November victory over The Red Devils again!
Head to Head
Premier League (EPL) 12 Feb 2014 Arsenal FC 0 – Manchester United 0
Premier League (EPL) 10 Nov 2013 Manchester United 1 – Arsenal FC 0
Premier League (EPL) 28 Apr 2013 Arsenal FC 1 – Manchester United 1
Premier League (EPL) 3 Nov 2012 Manchester United 2 – Arsenal FC 1
FA Cup Replay (FAC) 22 Jan 2012 Arsenal FC 1 – Manchester United 2
Bellerin Chambers Mertesacker (c) Gibbs
Chamberlain Cazorla Alexis
Arsenal 4 v 3 Manchester United