The battle for the lucrative final Champions League spot in the Premier League table is in the frame of focus this week as Arsenal host Manchester United, who still haven’t tasted defeat in domestic football since the arrival of caretaker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Arsenal vs Manchester United Preview and Prediction
The only question is whether the Norwegian can continue the streak by either holding track position with a draw, or choosing to go for the win given Chelsea’s games in hand.
Fact of Interest:
- Man Utd have a massively favourable record against Arsenal, regardless of venue. The Gunners have only managed 1 win in the last 7 competitive encounters, with the Red Devils winning 4 in reply.
- Man Utd have won the last two matches at the Emirates by the same 3-1 scoreline.
- Arsenal’s last win against Man Utd in all competitions came at the Emirates in May 2017, courtesy of a 2-0 win.
- Arsenal have the 3rd best home record in the league, with 12 wins from 15. Along with Liverpool, they have the best current unbeaten home streak (14 consecutive home league games), and they’re currently enjoying an 8-game home winning streak, the best in the league. The Gunners have also not failed to score at least once in any of their home games in those 14 matches.
- Man Utd are tied for the 3rd best away record in the league, with 9 wins from 15, 6 of them arriving under the guidance of Solskjaer. The 6 consecutive away wins is also the best streak of its kind in the league. Man Utd have also managed to score in every away league match they’ve played thus far.
- Arsenal have scored 62% of their goals this season in the second half of matches.
- Man Utd have scored 47% of their goals this season in the latter 15 minute periods of each half.
- Both Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have scored once in 3 matches against Man United.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored 3 goals in 16 matches against Arsenal, but none yet while playing for Man United.
- Marcus Rashford has scored 3 goals in 16 matches against Arsenal, but last did so in Feb 2016.
- Paul Pogba has scored once in 5 matches against Arsenal.
Both clubs had away trips in France for European duties in midweek. Arsenal travelled to Rennes for a disappointing away defeat, while Man Utd’s heroic away trip to Paris for the 2nd leg Champions League against PSG was the first of 3 consecutive away matches, including the visit to Arsenal, to be followed by a FA Cup tie away to Wolves.
Apart from long term absentees Welbeck, Holding and Bellerin, Arsenal are awaiting news on the day to day progress for right back Stephan Lichtsteiner. Man Utd have something of an injury crisis with Martial, Herrera, Mata, Lingard, Jones and Sanchez all day to day doubts, while both Matic and Valencia are out with midterm injuries.
Expected Line-ups and Tactical Considerations:
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has implemented a fair degree of tactical flexibility in his tenure as caretaker and the result continues to deliver a team that is creative in width and resilient in holding scorelines. The team’s systems have varied from 433, 4222, 4312 and 4231 with specific focus on affording as much attacking freedom as possible to Paul Pogba. The injury drama that unfolded at home to Liverpool has left Solskjaer’s squad shorter of depth than he’d like, but crucially, the stability in the backline along with some excellent compensatory performances from others in the team haven’t prevented them from winning the subsequent games.
Solskjaer’s choice between 433 and 4312 will be a key dynamic in the result that Man Utd could earn from the match; the latter system has been preferred of late to offer more creativity, but the Norweigan will be reliant on having the right talent available to fill the roles. The back five has been and should remain the same as it has been – De Gea in goal with Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw across the back from right to left. In midfield, the combative trio of McTominay, Pereira and Pogba should retain their places with the Brazilian in particular having impressed against Southampton. It’s the frontline that poses the mystery – Lukaku and Rashford are certain starters, but if Alexis Sanchez or Anthony Martial don’t win the fitness race… who Solskjaer employs to fill the gap is a definitive question of significant interest.
Arsenal’s form has recovered somewhat since their defeat at the Etihad, and while coach Unai Emery still has his many critics for inconsistent tactics and perceived mishandling of certain star players, the results are improving. Arsenal’s home form is excellent at the moment, but they too have injury challenges, and crucially, the suspension of Lucas Torreira, to complicate the team selection against Man Utd.
Arsenal is most likely to retain the 4231 employed against Spurs, but the rotation should change to try and compensate for Man Utd’s speed and width. It’s difficult to anticipate the Spaniard’s choices but the most reasonable conclusion should include a backline of Leno, Kolasinac (or Monreal) and Maitland-Niles (or Jenkinson) at fullback with Koscielny and Sokratis in the centre. Guendouzi and Xhaka are most likely to prop up the midfield double pivot behind a frontline configuration of Aaron Ramsey or Ozil alongside Iwobi or Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang, with Lacazette leading the line.
Match Facts & Summary
|Head to Head||Arsenal||Man Utd|
|Current Season Record||Played 29, Won 17, Drawn 6||Played 29, Won 17, Drawn 7|
|Current Season Top Scorers||Aubameyang (16), Lacazette (12)||Lukaku (12), Pogba (11)|
|Last 10 Competitive Matches||Arsenal 3 Wins, 3 Draws, Man Utd 4 Wins|
|Last 10 Competitive Matches at Emirates||Arsenal 3 Wins, 2 Draws, Man Utd 5 Wins|
|Last Season’s Result||Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd|
|Odds of Interest (as at 2 Mar)||Arsenal||Man Utd|
|Odds – Result (Draw = 2.56)||1.37||1.95|
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The nuances couldn’t be more beautifully set – the best home record in the league against the best away record in the league, Man Utd injury ravaged yet with an excellent record away to the Gunners, and still riding the wave of optimism in the wake of their win in France, and Arsenal also injury plagued (albeit less so) with key players either suspended or short of form. The historical intangible drama this fixture usually generates is also a factor, especially with Solskjaer unbeaten and in need of holding onto 4th in the table at the least.
Man Utd’s capacity to hold Arsenal will be tested far more in this fixture. Against Liverpool, the Red Devils arguably escaped with a fortunate point due to the inherent lack of creativity employed by Liverpool in meaningfully threatening Man Utd’s backline. Arsenal will be different, if nothing else because despite the mixed feelings on form, there have been enough impressive showings of performance from the likes of Ozil and Mkhitaryan in isolated matches to give confidence that they can produce this consistently.
There are records in favour of both sides, and Man Utd still have a very good backline in form and intact. However, if there was ever a moment and a match for Solskjaer to taste domestic defeat, this may well be it; because for all the (remaining) talent at the Norwegian’s disposal, Emery’s tactical flexibility, home ground advantage and fewer injuries should make it almost improbable that the Red Devils should steal the win.
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest EPL Betting Odds