As we all know, Arsenal fans world-wide are unique in the special desire to get one over our arch-rivals from Manchester. Arsenal haven’t had much luck in the clashes against United since our move from Highbury to Emirates. We have played nine league games at home against United, won just three of them and none after the victory on 1st May 2011 when Aaron Ramsey scored the match-winning goal.
It might sound crazy but United fans should cheer for Arsenal today. As I’ve written earlier, Arsenal have beaten Manchester United three times at the Emirates (2006-07, 2008-09, 2010-11) but each time United have won the league. United have beaten Arsenal three times at the Emirates (2009-10, 2011-12, 2014-15) but none of these seasons ended with Manchester United winning the league.
The Gunners enter this match on the back of a nasty defeat to Olympiacos in the Champions League. We have lost three out of our last five games in all competitions so a victory against United is much needed.
Unfortunately, our troubles with injuries continue as we have Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky on the sidelines (via Arsenal.com). Whilst the absence of Koscielny is arguably the biggest individual loss for us, the fact four central midfielders are out suggests that this is an area that we should be even more concerned about. United have arguably the best central midfielders in the league – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin and Marouane Fellaini can all occupy two places in the middle of the pitch. Our central midfield is down to three players – Francis Coquelin’s partner is likely to be Santi Cazorla as Arsene Wenger prefers Aaron Ramsey on the right wing, especially in big matches in order to get pile in more players in the middle.
United have a chance to return to the top of the table. In order to do that, they need a victory. Their form has dramatically improved since the arrival of a super-expensive Anthony Martial from AS Monaco. The 19-year-old striker has been impressive with three goals to his name (via Whoscored.com). Memphis Depay is also a quality signing and will possess a serious threat for Petr Čech, especially with his long shots.
However, the biggest threat at the moment seems to be Juan Mata. The Spaniard, who was close to joining Arsenal before he signed for Chelseam has finally found his feet at United and that spells bad news for all of their opponents. He has scored four goals against us, all for Chelsea, and three of those were from outside of the box (via Transfermarkt.co.uk). His ability for a decisive pass is astonishing as well so Nacho Monreal, who’ll play on Mata’s side, will have to be very careful.
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Wayne Rooney is a familiar old foe, one that has enjoyed a lot of great games and goals against us including this fixture last term. Hopefully we can nullify him with Coquelin and Gabriel de Abreu in charge. Only Aston Villa have conceded more goals from Rooney than Arsenal (via Transfermarkt.co.uk).
It may sound a bit odd but the joint top defence of the league is the weakest link in the whole story. Yes, David De Gea is a superb goalkeeper, Matteo Darmian is an excellent right full-back, Daley Blind has an eye for a pass from the deepest position…but Luke Shaw is out after a horror-tackle and Marcos Rojo is also injured which means Van Gaal has to use a make-shift left full-back. It’s either Darmian (which means he loses his best right full-back) or Ashley Young. Yes, the very same Ashley Young that had been compared to Messi and Ronaldo in 2008 (via Telegraph.co.uk).
Our team pretty much picks itself.
Petr Čech is a rock-solid bet for a start today.
Hector Bellerin is likely to start on the right side of the defence. He’ll need all the possible help from our right winger, especially if Young starts for United.
Per Mertesacker and Gabriel are likely to lineup together. It’s not going to be an easy game for them but with focus and calmness, we can keep Rooney, Martial et al at bay.
Nacho Monreal’s role will be huge today. He scored a goal in our FA Cup victory against United but today he’ll have to keep an eye on the in-form Mata.
Francis Coquelin’s selection is a no-brainer. His role in protecting our back-line is going to be crucial.
Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey for his partner? It’s likely that Wenger will opt for Cazorla with Ramsey on the wing even if I’d go with a combination that earned us a draw in the second half of the last league clash between the sides – Ramsey in the middle and a real winger on the right with Cazorla on the bench.
Mesut Özil will have to create plenty of chances for our attackers. It’s time for Özil to decide a big match with his decisive pass for once.
Alexis Sánchez has scored four goals in last two matches and will be the biggest threat for De Gea.
Theo Walcott is likely to start down the middle again. His goal-scoring record has been excellent recently.
Finally, our right winger… It depends on our central midfield. If Ramsey starts in the middle, Chamberlain will start on the right. If Wenger goes with Cazorla in the middle, Ramsey will start on the right.
I would advise our attackers to shoot to De Gea’s right-hand side as it seems to me he is more prone to conceding that way.
Hopefully, we’ll break the hoodoo and win the game. I will say: 3:1 for us, two goals from Walcott and one from Alexis with Rooney to score for the visitors.