Arsenal will welcome Manchester United to the Emirates in the marquee Premier League fixture of the weekend, with a lot riding on the game for both sides.
The games continue to come thick and fast in the Premier League, with Gameweek 21 of the 2020/21 season already set to get underway, just two days after the culmination of the previous round of fixtures. The big game this weekend will be played at the Emirates on Saturday when Arsenal will play hosts to Manchester United.
Arsenal have been on a resurgent run in the Premier League in the past month or so, having gone on a six-game unbeaten run, with five of those results being wins. This revival of sorts has been ignited by the brilliance of young Bukayo Saka, with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette all stepping up in recent weeks.
All of this has meant that the Gunners are now up to 9th in the standings. The ongoing week has not been a memorable one for Manchester United, though. The Red Devils went into their midweek fixture versus Sheffield United on the back of a fighting 3-2 win over bitter rivals Liverpool last weekend and were perched atop the table.
However, a paltry display against the Blades did not just pave the way for another home loss but also saw them drop down to second on the Premier League table, behind neighbours Manchester City, who also have a game in hand. However, the Red Devils are the only unbeaten team on the road in the competition and have dropped points just twice in 10 outings.
The reverse fixture, played at Old Trafford back in November, saw Arsenal eke out a narrow 1-0 win over Manchester United, in what was the Red Devils’ last Premier League defeat before their loss to Sheffield United earlier this week. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Mikel Arteta does not have any fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. On Saturday, the Arsenal manager could be bereft of the services of as many as four first-team players.
The major concern continues to loom around the availability of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Arsenal captain has been unavailable in the past week or so due to personal reasons but could be available soon. Apart from Aubameyang, no other player is sidelined, although there are several who are working their way back to fitness.
These include Pablo Mari and Dani Ceballos, who have recovered from their respective calf strains and have rejoined training. The latest update on Kieran Tierney, though, is not positive and it is likely that the trio will miss the visit of Manchester United. Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey, though, should be fit enough to start after having picked up knocks in Arsenal’s midweek tie against Southampton.
Partey should pair up with Granit Xhaka in the midfield double pivot, while Smith Rowe ought to reprise the no. 10 role. As a result, Martin Odegaard, who joined Arsenal on loan from Real Madrid this week, will only make an appearance off the bench, replacing Smith Rowe later in the game.
Smith Rowe and later Odegaard, along with Bukayo Saka, will provide Arsenal the creative impetus in the final third, with Xhaka and Partey carrying the ball forward behind them. On the left flank, Nicolas Pepe will aim to be more direct, taking up central positions, where Alexandre Lacazette will also be stationed, putting in a shift when off the ball but also looking to get into scoring positions.
At the back, Cedric Soares will likely deputise for Tierney once again if the Scottish international is not fit enough to start. On the right flank, Hector Bellerin is a certainty, with David Luiz partnering Rob Holding at the heart of the Arsenal defence. In goal, there is no looking past Bernd Leno.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Cedric; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe; Lacazette
Unlike his counterpart in the Arsenal dugout, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a fresh fitness issue to contend with ahead of the trip to the Emirates. On Saturday, the Manchester United manager will likely have to make do without one first-team player, with Eric Bailly battling to recover from a knock that forced him to miss the game against Sheffield United.
While Bailly could be available, it is likely that Victor Lindelof will get the nod despite his ongoing battle with a chronic back complaint. The Swede will pair up with captain Harry Maguire at the heart of the Manchester United defence, and the duo will need to be diligent, after Maguire’s sub-par display against Sheffield United.
Luke Shaw, whose presence was sorely missed in the midweek game, will likely be back as well and his return will have a twin effect. The English international will invariably boost Manchester United’s defensive output but also in the final third, where his link-up with Marcus Rashford likely to be beneficial for the Red Devils.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be the other full-back, whose defensive outlook ought to help versus the mercurial nature of Nicolas Pepe. The Manchester United defence will provide cover to David de Gea in goal, with the Spaniard also in need of stepping up after his gaffe earlier this week.
Up ahead in midfield, Fred and Scott McTominay should form a defensive-minded double pivot, as is the norm in the bigger games for Manchester United. That means that the in-form Paul Pogba will be stationed on the right-wing, from where he will look to link up with Bruno Fernandes and stitch together clever interplays. Finally, Edinson Cavani should lead the line against Arsenal, with Anthony Martial making way.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani
1. Manchester United to win @ 2.45
1. Bruno Fernandes to score anytime @ 2.75
- Arsenal are undefeated in the past four Premier League meetings with Manchester United (D1 L3), keeping three clean sheets in the process. In fact, the Red Devils are at risk of losing three successive top-flight away games against the Gunners for the first time since 1991.
- Manchester United are currently on a club-record 17-game unbeaten run in away Premier League games (W13 D4).
- Arsenal have won five of their past six Premier League games, drawing the other. The Gunners have scored 14 goals in those matches, two more than in their opening 14 fixtures.
- Manchester United have come from behind to win seven Premier League matches this season – all of them have come on the road.
- Six of Marcus Rashford’s seven Premier League goals this season have been scored away from home. Rashford scored twice on his Premier League debut against Arsenal in February 2016 but is without a goal in his subsequent 10 outings versus the Gunners.
Player to Watch
Bukayo Saka, who was so brilliant against Southampton earlier this week, will invariably have a lot of eyeballs on him. However, another young English forward gets the nod in this section, as far as this weekend’s game between Arsenal and Manchester United is concerned. We are, of course, talking about Marcus Rashford.
The English international has been one of the better performers in the final third for Manchester United this term. But, his finishing has often left a lot to be desired, which has, in turn, heaped the pressure on Bruno Fernandes and lately, Paul Pogba. To that end, it seems as if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been putting in extra work to get Rashford’s finishing up to the required levels, as per reports.
The first test of such drills in training will come against Arsenal, against whom Rashford has not been able to score for the longest time. Killing two birds with one stone will be on his agenda and he will look to do exactly that as he looks to make amends after a horrible showing against Sheffield United.
Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United
This is a game wherein the margin for error will be wafer-thin. Mikel Arteta has had the measure of Manchester United so far as the Arsenal manager, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has just not been able to get the better of the Gunners, who have been the bogey team for the Norwegian as the Red Devils’ boss. Conventional wisdom, therefore, suggests another winless result for United.
However, while Arteta could become the first Arsenal manager to win his first three Premier League games against Manchester United, the visitors’ brilliant away form is undeniable as well. Of late, though, Solskjaer & co. have been leaving things too close for comfort, which should once again be the case on Saturday.
One thing is certain. Arsenal’s run of home Premier League games without conceding a goal should come to an end this weekend, with Manchester United expected to once again deliver on the road. The game, though, should be too close for comfort, going right down the wire, with the Red Devils hitting back after a poor display to get their title challenge back on track, as they have so often this season.