We are around two thirds of the way through the 24th season of the Premier League era and, for the first time, Arsenal are going to Old Trafford as the favourites.
Manchester United have largely struggled through the season so far, scoring just 15 times in 13 Premier League home games, though they do have a good defensive record. To make matters worse (for Louis van Gaal’s side), they are in the midst of an injury crisis.
Following the massive last minute win against Leicester City, the Gunners have been disappointed to draw with Hull City and lose to Barcelona. The performance against the latter was incredibly encouraging, though, and should have boosted the squad’s belief. So should the performance against United in October, and a repeat of that game would be perfect.
With Manchester United at the weekend and two more Premier League games in the next week (including a north London derby), Arsène Wenger acknowledged that this is one of the big stages of the season.
“It is the key period, we work the whole season for this period and that’s where you’re really tested,” said the boss on Friday.
“That’s where you haven opportunity as well to show your quality. That’s why I agree with you, it’s the most interesting period of the season and the period of the season you can show quality and nerves and desire as well.”
The boss wasn’t interested in talk of Arsenal being favourites but, after so many tough years, he must have enjoyed the win and draw at Old Trafford last season. Now, after so long, this must be our best chance to win their in the league the last decade.
In midweek we lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, so there will be a change to the side. As well as the midfield, we could see an alteration to the backline with Gabriel returning.
The big questions, however, remains with the attack: will Olivier Giroud start again? Will Theo Walcott start either up front or out wide? Will Danny Welbeck start and/or star against his boyhood club as he did in the FA Cup last season?
On Friday Wenger was coy on Welbeck, suggesting he is still struggling for full fitness.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Welbeck, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.
After a rough patch, Manchester United have won their last two games. Those games were against Shrewsbury Town and FC Midtjylland, so can they be taken completely seriously?
Of course any game at Old Trafford should be approached with as much respect for the opposition as possible, but there’s no longer a reason to go there with fear. Surprisingly, Manchester United have only lost two of their home games in the league this season, but they both came recently and were against Norwich City and Southampton – they’re far from formidable.
Memphis gave a strong performance on Thursday and will need to step up again for the hosts as Wayne Rooney is out and Anthony Martial is not expected to be fit. Chris Smalling and David De Gea could both return to the side, but United will still be without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young.
Marcus Rashford could start up front after scoring twice on his debut in midweek.
Possible XI: De Gea; Varela, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Herrera; Lingard, Mata, Memphis; Rashford.
The Theatre of Dreams
It’s almost 10 years since Arsenal won at Old Trafford in the Premier League, with Emmanuel Adebayor scoring the only goal early in the 2006/07 season.
For so long, it had not been the Theatre of Dreams for the Gunners. Then Danny Welbeck gave us an incredibly celebration last season. It is, finally, time to end our Premier League nightmare at Danny’s old ground.