The EPL Cheat Sheet: Arsenal vs. Manchester United
The football gods have blessed us with back-to-back big-name matchups in our late Saturday afternoon kickoff.
We had Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea last Saturday, and this time around we have another titanic clash between two of the EPL’s “Big Six” as Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United makes the trip south to take on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium. The matchup always delivers drama, passion and controversy, but who’ll deliver us the W?
Here’s a quickfire guide to everything you need to know ahead of the game.
+185 Manchester United
United has the historical edge over Arsenal, having won 81 league games between the pair compared to Arsenal’s 69, but when it comes to recent form between the two sides at the Emirates, it’s the Gunners’ home advantage that has held sway.
Arsenal defeated United 2-0 at home last season, with two goals in four second-half minutes from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck giving the Gunners the victory. The previous season, Wenger’s men thrashed United 3-0 at the Emirates, with all three goals (two from Alexis Sanchez and one from Mesut Ozil) coming inside the opening 20 minutes of the game.
One stat worthy of note is the fact that Arsenal has scored against United in each of their last seven meetings in all competitions – a run stretching all the way back to February 2014.
United’s last victory at the Emirates was in the EPL back in November 2014, when a Kieran Gibbs own goal and a Wayne Rooney strike helped the Red Devils to a 2-1 away win.
RECENT EPL FORM
Manchester United: LWLWWW
Both sides head into this weekend’s clash at The Emirates in excellent form, having both won their last three EPL matches. The Gunners are perfect at home in the EPL this season, winning all seven league games at The Emirates. United, meanwhile, has steadied its road form, beating Watford 4-2 at Vicarage Road after a run of three away EPL games without a win.
Arsenal has been untouchable at home this season and, crucially, they’ve looked defensively solid. After their crazy 4-3 win over Leicester in the season opener, the Gunners have conceded just once at home in the league, and they’ve yet to drop a point at home. They’re +225 to keep a clean sheet against United on Saturday, with a shutout win priced at +365.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
When Arsenal and Manchester United go head to head, there’s always a LOT at stake. The two sides have been bitter rivals throughout the Premier League era and, now, Jose Mourinho is in charge at United, the rivalry only goes up a few more notches. Mourinho and Wenger have had a simmering rivalry throughout their time in England, with more than an occasional word exchanged between the pair on the touchline – and during press conferences – over the years.
Aside from the personal clashes between the two sides, there’s also the small matter of the EPL itself. Both sides want to secure Champions League qualification, and United is desperate to overhaul crosstown rivals Manchester City and prevent the Sky Blue half of Manchester from celebrating another Premier League title.
WHERE WILL THE MATCH BE WON (AND LOST)?
Midfield will be the crucial battleground at The Emirates, with Arsenal’s easy-on-the-eye, precision passing style often dominating the possession stats. But against a side like United, who has Paul Pogba back in the heart of their midfield, the Gunners aren’t likely to have their own way. United has it in their game to be more combative in the areas that matter, but it’s crucial they don’t allow Arsenal to score first.
THE MEN MOST LIKELY…
…to bully the Gunners’ defense: Romelu Lukaku
If there’s one criticism of Arsenal, it’s that they have a soft center. They’ve been bullied by sides in the past, and much will hinge on how Laurent Koscielny copes with the sizable threat of United’s big No. 9, Romelu Lukaku, who has used his size and power to overwhelm many a Premier League centre back in recent seasons. He’s +450 to open the scoring this weekend, and +160 to score at any time during the match.
…to gift Arsenal a penalty: Marcos Rojo
The Argentinian defender has returned to the United side, and he gave Watford a way back into the game in midweek by giving away a needless penalty. He’ll need to be up to speed and cut back on the needless lunges if United is to be successful this weekend.
…to annoy and frustrate SOMEONE on matchday: Mesut Ozil
Arsenal’s German playmaker is one of the best in the world on his day. The trouble is, you can never predict when “his day” actually comes around. He has gone missing in key games for the Gunners in the past, leading to criticism from pundits and Arsenal fans alike. But when he’s on, he can run a game like few others in the EPL. Ozil scored in both games against United two seasons ago, and he’s priced at +275 to find the net at any time against United this weekend. If you fancy him to score the opener, you can take him at +800. One thing’s for sure, whether he’s on form or off it, one set of fans will be left cursing the German after the final whistle.
Arsenal’s pace and movement could cause United’s likely back three of Lindelof, Smalling and Rojo some significant problems, and they’ve showed they have the big-game mentality to win at home in their 2-0 win over Spurs two weeks ago. With that in mind, Arsenal looks suitably equipped to claim victory again here at +150.
[Main image credit: Wikimedia Commons]