A seemingly ascendant Arsenal will seek to continue their impressive recent run of form when they host Manchester United in the Premier League at the Emirates on Saturday (5.30pm).
It wasn’t long ago that Mikel Arteta seemed to be in danger of losing his job on the Arsenal bench. A seven-match winless run of five defeats and two draws from early November through mid-December left them down in 15th, just four points clear of the bottom three.
Results have picked up significantly since then, with an unbeaten run of five wins and a draw, with 14 goals scored and just two conceded, powering them up into ninth. They are possibly even back into European contention, although most of the teams now ahead of them and the two directly below do have at least one game in hand on Arteta’s side.
The latest win came away to Southampton on Tuesday. Arsenal conceded within three minutes, only to strike back through Nicolas Pepe shortly thereafter. Just as the home team were again ramping up the pressure, Arteta’s side grabbed another through Bukayo Saka to go in ahead at the interval. A third followed from Alexandre Lacazette on 72 minutes.
Considering the issues they had in scoring, particularly from open play, earlier in the season, Arsenal have really hit a rich vein of form in front of goal in their current run, averaging over two goals per match. Saka and Lacazette have scored four and five goals respectively in that time. It has also been accompanied by a very strong run defensively.
So are Arsenal finally hitting their stride under Arteta? It’s probably too early to tell, but it is a promising sign for them that the recent uptick in results has been accompanied by a similar improvement in their underlying numbers.
The Gunners saw off Chelsea to kick off their current unbeaten run and now face another team with whom they may have hoped to compete this season. Arsenal were the winners when they faced United at Old Trafford earlier this season. They also won last season’s equivalent fixture at the Emirates, under Arteta, so they may well fancy their chance of emerging victorious again.
Man Utd have had a strange season. Serious questions were being asked of head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after they won just two of their opening six fixtures, with the defeats including a 1-6 home reverse against Tottenham Hotspur. They then went on a long, 13-match unbeaten streak of 10 wins and three draws to top the table as recently as last week.
All seemed well. Their underlying numbers weren’t as strong as results but they had trended in a similar upward direction. They had gone from being just one of many viable contenders to secure a top-four finish to an odds-on favourite to do so.
One result certainly doesn’t change the overall picture, particularly given that they were probably somewhat unfortunate not to take a point. However Wednesday’s defeat at home to Sheffield United has certainly knocked a bit of gloss off of Solskjaer and his side.
Sheffield United were marooned at the bottom of the table with just a single win to their credit all season coming into the match, but it was they who came away with all three points. They took an early lead with a header from a corner. While United’s pressure eventually told with an equaliser from Harry Maguire not long past the hour mark, again a header from a corner, the visitors struck 15 minutes from time to take victory.
Solskjaer was clearly unhappy with his side’s performance, bemoaning the sloppy mistakes that had led to their defeat. He will be keen for them to get immediately back on track this weekend against an Arsenal side still some 10 points behind them in the table.
That may, though, be easier said than done. The Gunners are the in-form team, and while there is no clear favourite in a match that could easily go either way, they are playing good enough football to potentially steer them to victory on Saturday. As for a bet, this is our betting tip for this Arsenal vs Man Utd match preview:
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