Lineups from 13:05
Manchester United: De Gea; Varela, Carrick, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Herrera; Lingard, Mata, Memphis; Rashford.
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott, Welbeck
(The Arsenal Perspective by @JamrockRover)
The next week is a crucial one for Arsenal with three Premier League games to play as they attempt to keep pace with Leicester at the top of the table. Leicester needed a last minute goal to win at home to lowly Norwich yesterday, but that win gave them s five point lead over Arsenal and Spurs who both play today. Arsenal face a trip to Manchester United while Spurs are at home to relegation threatened Swansea.
It’s been 10 years since Arsenal emerged from Old Trafford with all three points from a league game, but they desperately need those three points today. They did win 2-1 away to United in the FA Cup last season though and they play a United team struggling under Luis van Gaal. He may have qualified them for this season’s Champions League, but they went out at the group stages and are outside the top four as we speak.
United are not playing well at the moment and have only won three of their last 13 league games. They have only won two of their last six league games at home, but they have the best defensive record at home in the Premier League. They managed to get through to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday night despite an injury crisis which looks like it should belong at Arsenal.
Of course it’s easy to say United aren’t playing well, but Arsenal aren’t exactly setting the world alight either. They performed admirably against Barcelona for 70 minutes on Tuesday night, but lapses in defensive concentration proved to be their downfall like they have done on so many previous occasions. Those lapses might not have been quite so important if Arsenal had performed better at the other end, but there is no doubt they are struggling in front of goal at the moment.
Alexis Sanchez is having an awful time since his return from injury and his lack of form has become a real worry. There is no question of leaving a player of his class out of the team, but his contributions are nowhere near what is expected or needed for that matter. If Arsenal are going to win the league they need Alexis to find some form and find it quickly.
Mesut Ozil has been by far the best provider of assists in the league so far this season, but their flow has decreased since the turn of the year. I don’t think Ozil is doing anything differently or wrong for that matter, but he has become a marked man with three or four players converging on him at every opportunity. His set piece deliveries are still top class and he creates more chances than any other player in the league, but he can’t make others finish those chances.
While Olivier Giroud has struggled for goals recently he is the only player who has found the net on a consistent basis this season. It’s easy to criticise him at the moment, but the rest of the team have not contributed enough goals to the cause this season. He’s the only player with a decent return of goals so far this season and that has to see him keep his place in the team despite any doubts about his status as a top class striker.
Arsene Wenger won’t make too many changes from the team which lost to Barca, but he will have to replace the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The most obvious choice in that position has to be Theo Walcott, but Danny Welbeck is probably the player the majority of fans would like to see get the nod. Welbeck still hasn’t completed 90 minutes since returning from a 10 month injury lay off, but his goal was crucial in the cup win up there last season and he might just get the nod.
Otherwise I think we’ll see the same team and if they go about the job in the right way then three points are a real possibility. When you look at the probable United team today there’s not one of them you would want to see in the Arsenal line up and it just shows how little you can get for your money these days. The best spell of football I have seen from Arsenal this season was the opening 20 minutes in the 3-0 win at home to United and that’s what we need to see again today.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be happy with a dodgy performance as long as Arsenal fudge a victory, but they have a chance to lay down a marker in the title race. A commanding performance combined with a solid victory would show that they mean business and strike fear into the other title contenders too. Arsenal should be the best team in the Premier League this season and take the title, but there comes a time when you have to live up to the billing and surely today is such a day.
10 years is a long time for Arsenal not to have won away to United and it’s about time they put an end to that statistic. They have a great opportunity to do just that this afternoon and they need to take that opportunity. The Premier League is still there for the taking and Arsenal need to step up today and show just how much they want to win it.