Arsenal vs Manchester United is traditionally one of the best fixtures of the season, so can Arsenal maintain their recent run of good form when Manchester United arrive at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday?
Arsenal’s Form ahead of Arsenal vs Manchester United
It’s been a pretty good month for Mikel Arteta’s men in the Premier League over the last month, picking up 16 points out of a possible 18, culminating with a fine 3-1 win at Southampton last Tuesday.
However, Manchester United are in a similar vein of form, collecting 13 points out of 18, including a very decent 0-0 draw at Anfield, followed by defeating Liverpool 3-2 at home in the F.A Cup last Sunday.
But, prior to Arsenal’s 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in early November, Manchester United won 2-1 at PSG, held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw when the Blues were top of the league, and beat RB Leipzig 5-0. They were flying high, but didn’t respond well to this defeat, as they lost the following fixture versus Basaksehir 2-1 in the Champions League.
After a surprising 2-1 home loss to bottom of the table Sheffield United on Wednesday evening, Arsenal will be hoping for a similar hangover to beset the visitors on Saturday.
Arsenal team selection vs Manchester United
Arsenal will need to have all hands on deck, and perhaps an appearance from new signing Martin Ødegaard as well, to keep an in-form United side at bay. But the Gunners will be sweating on the availability of a couple of key players right up until kick-off.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has missed the last two games due to having to return home to take care of his mother, and whilst he confirmed he was on his way back home on Wednesday evening, it might be prudent to give him some time to clear his head and regain his focus.
Add to that the omission of Kieran Tierney, Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari from both of Arsenal’s recent fixtures versus Southampton, all with calf issues, and needing to substitute both Emile Smith-Rowe and Thomas Partey late on Tuesday evening with fatigue/cramp, and Mikel Arteta is left with a rather long list of concerns.
However, Gabriel Martinelli is available after coming off the bench on Tuesday, Gabriel will return to the squad after being rested to help with his comeback from COVID-19, and Pepé’s excellent showing at left wing against Southampton might mean Arteta won’t need to shuffle his pack as much as we may fear.
Arsenal vs Manchester United – Martin Ødegaard: Start or sit?
It’s going to be tempting to throw him straight into the deep end and start him on Sunday. He’s fit and available to play. But….
Ødegaard has played only 516 total minutes this season, starting just two games, and both of those were for Norway, not Real Madrid. In comparison, Emile Smith-Rowe, who up until last month was being used sparingly by Arsenal, has played 594 total minutes this season.
Ødegaard is going to need time to build his match fitness up, and if Smith-Rowe recovers from the knock he picked up on Tuesday then he’ll be given the nod over the Norwegian on Sunday.
We may need to wait a week or two before seeing what our new signing will add to the club going forward.
Manchester United’s form ahead of Arsenal vs Manchester United
It would be bad enough if it was only Bruno Fernandes that was coming into this game in good form, but with Paul Pogba also finally replicating his national team performances for his club, Manchester United come into this game full of confidence.
But in recent weeks, Ole Gunner Solskjaer has deployed Pogba on the right of midfield, with similar intentions as to how Aaron Ramsey would often have fit in on the right at Arsenal when Mesut Özil was in his pomp; too good not to play but having to fill in because there’s already a world-class player in his favoured position.
If Pogba is again picked to play on the right, having Kieran Tierney fit would be huge for Arsenal, as his ability to raid down the left wing would only be enhanced by having a free run at Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
If Pogba is picked at centre-midfield, then it would be a very attacking set-up that Solskjaer would be using, against a team that has proved it can play on the counter very capably.
Arsenal vs Manchester United Prediction
A full-strength Arsenal side is more than capable of beating Manchester United, even with the league table showing that there is a 10 point gap between them.
If they show the same intensity when pressing that they did on Tuesday night, then United’s back line will have similar trouble as to when Liverpool did it last week.
But, with so many match-winners in good form for United, I can’t help but feel that they can get a point from this game.
1-1 for me, Jeff.