The rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United is rich with tales of title tussles and iconic Premier League players but both clubs have much to prove in Monday’s meeting at Old Trafford.
Unai Emery and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are in the spotlight following unconvincing starts to the season that have left their teams cut completely loose from conversations about which side might lift the title at the end of the season.
But while performances have been inconsistent, both bosses have received backing in the transfer market and from powerful figures at their respesctive clubs.
Patience has been requested and it could well be awarded if three important points are obtained.
UNITED ATTACK V ARSENAL DEFENCE
Solskjaer might have left the London Stadium intent on remaining “very positive” but there was no masking the weaknesses which were on display in his team’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend.
United mustered a single shot in the first half, threatened sparingly thereafter and, to compound the concern, lost Marcus Rashford to a groin injury.
Anthony Martial’s fitness now becomes a matter of extreme interest with the Red Devils in desperate need of a cutting edge in attack.
Could they rediscover a sense of adventure against the Gunners, though?
Newly promoted Aston Villa managed to put two past Arsenal, as did both Watford and Tottenham before them.
Emery’s men also shipped three against Liverpool at Anfield and are now on the cusp of conceding two or more goals in five successive top-flight games for the first time since 1985.
Chelsea are the only team above the bottom five to have conceded more Premier League goals this term, the kind of generosity a shot-shy United must look to exploit.
HEAD TO HEAD: NEMANJA MATIC V GRANIT XHAKA
United have appeared toothless in attack, Arsenal vulnerable at the back and neither side can claim to have much strength in between.
Nemanja Matic and Granit Xhaka could occupy a similar portion of the Old Trafford pitch and might take a moment to exchange sympathies after coming in for continued criticism.
Solskjaer only granted a starting place to Matic, a signing during the Jose Mourinho era, after losing Paul Pogba to injury and the Serbia international has struggled to grasp the opportunity.
His inability to create a chance in 160 minutes of action has added to United’s creative limitations, likewise a passing accuracy of 80 per cent.
Xhaka’s numbers are stronger in both departments but the Arsenal captain offers decidedly less when out of possession.
He averages 1.7 fewer tackles per match, concedes 2.1 more fouls and wins possession less often than Matic, doing so 8.1 times every 90 minutes compared to the United man’s average of 9.
Coming from behind with 10 men to beat Aston Villa 3-2 crucially ended Arsenal’s three-match winless run in the Premier League.
A heavily rotated team trounced Nottingham Forest 5-0 in the EFL Cup but United found the going far tougher at home to Rochdale, needing penalties to progress. Still, neither of Monday’s combatants will be taking much from their midweek exertions, considering the line-ups selected.
More pertinent is that Arsenal managed a 2-2 draw away to a Watford side that lost 8-0 to Manchester City in their following fixture.
United, meanwhile, may be carrying some scars from last month’s deflating 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
They edged out Leicester City upon returning from the international break but the club’s past six Premier League home matches still contain three defeats, as many they suffered in their previous 52 fixtures in front of their own fans.
Jesse Lingard could be the saviour for United. No, really.
The England international, introduced as a makeshift striker against West Ham, boasts four goals in all competitions against Arsenal, more than he has scored against any other opponent.
He was absent when United lost 2-0 to Arsenal in March but could be elevated into the starting XI at Old Trafford, where the visitors from north London are winless in 12 Premier League trips.
Solskjaer will hope the away side’s 13-year drought helps him avoid becoming the fourth United manager in the club’s history to lose each of his first two league games against the Gunners.
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