Arsenal entertain Manchester United in what is a huge match for both sides. This fixture normally receives plenty of attention regardless of both teams’ situations but with the weekend results in mind, this game becomes even more important. Gone are the days of Viera and Keane, where these two sides were top dogs in this country. However, with the talent on show in such a high-stakes match, it should prove to be a fascinating encounter.
The home side will go into the match on the back of a demoralising shock 5-1 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday. The Reds blitzed Arsene Wenger’s side and were 4-0 up within just 20 mins, something Arsenal will have addressed in order to avoid a similar scenario in this match. With the title race being so close, Arsenal now sit in 2nd place having been overtaken by Chelsea, but can see themselves either regain top spot or drop down to third after the midweek games commence. The weekend result was not the ideal start to what is an incredibly tough run of games. After Man Utd on Wednesday night, Arsenal then play Liverpool again but this time in the FA Cup, followed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Man Utd on the other hand are languishing in 7th place, on the back of a 2-2 draw at home to bottom club Fulham. It was a match which Man Utd dominated, but lacked cutting edge and suffered some of their own medicine by conceding a late goal and subsequently dropping 2 points. With their hopes of claiming a Champions League spot already unlikely, that result meant they are now nine points behind Liverpool, who have a superior goal difference. United will hope to bring back the character and desire shown whilst Ferguson was in charge for a late push, hoping the teams around them are able to slip up.
Fixtures between Arsenal and Man Utd have always been tense with a rivalry which came to life during the early 2000’s. These two teams were title rivals for many years and this was shown during the meetings which were normally feisty affairs. The days of Viera and Keane may have gone but the rivalry is still present. With the sale of Van Persie to United from Arsenal, it has created a bitter taste for some fans, especially after Van Persie has scored a number of times against Arsenal since moving, including the reverse fixture earlier this season which ended 1-0.
Arsenal lacked solidity in midfield on Saturday and a reason for that was the missing Flamini. The French midfielder serves the last of a three match ban so again will be absent for the crunch match. New signing Kim Kallstrom is out injured along with Walcott and Diaby. Vermaelen is close to a return but this game may have come too early for him and Ramsey is set to return to action next month. Wenger is likely to make changes to the starting line up with Gibbs, Rosicky and Podolski all looking at first 11 places.
Phil Jones may return to the United starting line up having recovered from a concussion suffered against Stoke City two weeks ago. Fellaini, Nani and Ferdinand are all facing spells out, along with Cleverley and Evans who have recently picked up injuries.
- The Gunners have won six of their last eight Barclays Premier League games at home by a 2-0 score line.
- Arsenal have won just one of the last 10 Premier League games against Manchester United (W1 D2 L7).
- This is the first time that Arsenal and Manchester United will meet in a Premier League match after both failing to win their preceding fixture since April 2008.
- Arsenal have kept 10 clean sheets in their last 11 matches in all competitions at the Emirates Stadium and conceded just one in the other match.
- Robin van Persie has scored in the last 5 Barclays Premier League encounters between these two sides (3 for Man Utd and 2 for Arsenal).
- Wayne Rooney has scored 10 Barclays Premier League goals versus Arsenal; the most he’s scored against one team.
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
Record signing Mesut Ozil had a tremendous start to his Arsenal career, but he has really hit a slump in form with no goals and two assists in his last eight games compared to his first eight games in which he scored two and assisted five. The match against Liverpool was arguably his worst game of the season, giving the ball away for two of Liverpool’s goals and contributing very little offensively. With that being said, the quality that Ozil possesses, it shouldn’t take long for the German to find his feet again and play to his capabilities with huge fixtures coming up. When Mesut Ozil has played well this season, he has shown his world class abilities especially creatively. Ozil has managed to create a total of 56 chances so far, contributing in eight assists with a passing accuracy of 88%. The former Real Madrid man has also notched four goals so far and another goal on Wednesday will do his confidence a world of good.
Man United: Robin Van Persie
It has been a tough season for Robin Van Persie, with injuries keeping him out of the side for majority of the season so far. However, Van Persie hasn’t lost his touch in front of goal and has scored three in his last three games and has regularly scored in this fixture, for both sides. Van Persie has only made 13 appearances so far this season but has managed to score 10 goals, giving him an average of a goal every 114 minutes, impressive considering his stop start season so far. The Golden Boot winner for last season has been clinical so far, scoring 7 out of 12 of his clear cut chances. By creating 12 chances and contributing two assists, United have missed Van Persie greatly and may be in a different position had he been fit for most of the games played. Having scored the winner in the match between the two earlier in the season, he will be again aiming to rubber stamp his mark on the game on Wednesday night.
This match is likely to be as exciting to the neutral as it is for both sets of fans and expect tough tackling as well as entertaining attacking play. United are yet to see the best of their star trio in Van Persie, Rooney and Mata but will hope they work in tandem here. Arsenal themselves will want their attacking foursome on song but will more importantly look to keep the defence tight with all players playing their part on both sides of the pitch. This is a match which both will want to win but both will probably take a draw and that’s how I think it will finish.