Arsenal vs Manchester United preview: Gunners to face tough test against title contending Reds
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Thomas Partey of Arsenal is put under pressure by Paul Pogba of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 01, 2020 in Manchester, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal, unbeaten in six league outings, welcome title-challenging Manchester United to The Emirates Stadium this Saturday. United will seek revenge from their 1-0 loss at the hands of The Gunners back in November, one of only four defeats The Red Devils have succumbed to this campaign.

The Gunners have won their previous two Premier League matches against United, last winning three in a row in September 1998 under Arsène Wenger.

Off the back of a 2-1 loss to Sheffield United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be eager to return to winning ways as they look to remount their title charge.

Arsenal are experiencing some of their finest form this season, all sparked by a 3-1 win versus Chelsea on Boxing Day. Since that victory over their London rivals, Arsenal have won five and drawn only one, helping them to climb up the table after a disastrous start to the campaign.

 

  • Ones to watch

Bukayo Saka continues to shine for the North London side, spearheading their mid-season rejuvenation with four goals and three assists in his past six outings.

The 19-year-old’s stellar performances put him in good company too, with only Cesc Fabregas being involved in more league goals for Arsenal as a teenager (two goals, 11 assists) back in 2006-07.

Another Hale End academy product, Emile Smith Rowe, has arguably been Mikel Arteta’s breakout star of this season, contributing with four assists of his own in his past six league matches also.

 

Currently sat second in the table, a point off their noisy neighbours- Manchester City, United are just as threatening on the offensive end. Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford lead the way for The Reds and together have scored 51.43% of United’s league goals between them so far this season.

Five of Fernandes’ 11 goals this season have come from the penalty spot. This weekend’s referee, Michael Oliver, has awarded United seven penalties in 33 matches; but more interestingly, in 39 matches he has given 11 against Arsenal- the most he’s given against any team he’s ever officiated.

Where it once looked certain he would move away from Manchester this summer, Paul Pogba has since had a change of fortunes and is proving to be pivotal for his United in their title push. The 2018 World Cup winner has scored twice in his past four matches but has also worked valiantly on the defensive end- most notably versus Liverpool in United’s 3-2 FA Cup triumph.

  • Last time out

Arsenal ran out 1-0 victors at Old Trafford last time the two sides met, where a Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang penalty sealed a convincing win for Arteta’s men. The loss to Arsenal has proved to be a turning point in United’s season, as they have since been on a 13 game unbeaten run, winning 11, only to be brought to a halt by Chris Wilder’s Blades.

 

Thomas Partey was ultimately the key man for The Gunners on that occasion, completely bossing Pogba in the process. The new-found form of the Frenchman, however, sets up what could prove to be a decisive battle between the two for the reverse fixture.

  • Injury news

The Gunners boast the second-best defensive record in the league- only topped by first-placed Manchester City- but will likely welcome United with a depleted squad this weekend.

Arteta has confirmed that Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari have returned to training with the first team. Kieran Tierney will face a late fitness test, having experienced some muscle soreness in previous weeks and club captain Aubameyang’s availability is also uncertain, as he continues to deal with family issues.

 

On a more positive note, new signing Martin Odegaard could feature having signed with Arsenal on a six-month loan earlier this week.

As for United, Eric Bailly picked up a knock in training as confirmed by Solskjaer after the Sheffield United game. The Reds’ other centre-half option, Victor Lindelof is also a slight doubt as he continues to suffer from an ongoing back problem, which could see Axel Tuanzebe line up alongside Harry Maguire for the second match in a row.

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