Arsenal welcome Manchester United to the Emirates on Sunday with a hope to recapture some form and erase some of the embarrassment of the 8-2 thrashing they received at Old Trafford at the start of the season. Arsenal are coming off the back of two defeats, having been given the run around by Swansea in their last game, and will hope that their home form can continue to defeat the Red Devils who are three points off top spot.
The symmetry in United’s visit to the Emirates with Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford is hard to ignore. On this occassion, as was the case in August, Arsenal are coming off the back of poor form, with injuries taking their toll and dissenting fans voices becoming louder, some of it unnecessarily venomous. Arsenal’s injury crisis has deepened with the news that both Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen are both likely to miss out on the clash. Arteta’s absence was evident in the defeat to Swansea as Arsenal failed to hold onto the ball and dominate possession as is their norm. The calmness he has brought to the midfield would have been vital on Sunday, with United’s weakness no doubt lying in their midfield, and compared to one of the best deep-lying midfielders in the league, Yaya Toure, Arteta certainly holds his own.
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It will be interesting to see who Wenger uses to replace him. Ramsey played a deeper role than normal against Swansea and was forced to try too hard to make something happen, his cause wasn’t aided by the game completely passing Benyoun by. I hope to see Rosicky take his place as in just 485 minutes this season he has created 15 chances including an assist, including an impressive game against Villa where his appearance turned the tide in the Gunners’ favour.
While United look likely to call back Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to their back-line, Arsenal’s defensive line-up looks set to be Djourou- Mertesacker – Koscielny – Miquel again. As against Swansea, United are likely to attack the stand-in full backs of Djourou and the inexperienced Miquel. Worryingly, while Swansea exposed the problems of playing a centre-back out of position, Man United have Nani and Antonio Valencia, the latter looking increasingly impressive and establishing more of an understanding with Rooney with every game he plays. His 7 assists and 1 goal so far showing his importance to United’s midfield.
Up top for Arsenal, Arshavin and Walcott will more than likely occupy the wings with Van Persie up front. Henry is 50-50 according to Wenger and with him only being a loan signing, his inclusion into the squad is highly unlikely. This could mean Wenger will hand a place on the bench to the promising Ryo Miyaichi who he has been talking up recently.