Arsenal have a big opportunity to take all the points when they host Manchester United at the Emirates on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The Gunners have endured an inconsistent start to the season that has seen them struggle to turn regular domination of the shot count into regular victories. They are sixth in the Premier League, with 17 points from four wins, five draws and two defeats.
Arsene Wenger’s (pictured) side surrendered a one-goal lead to go down to a 2-1 defeat away to Swansea in their last fixture before the international break. Alexis Sanchez gave them the lead just after the hour mark but Swansea struck back with two goals in three minutes to reverse the score, take the three points and jump ahead of the Gunners in the league table.
Sanchez’s goal was his sixth in Arsenal’s last four matches in all competitions and his eighth for the season in the league. After an uncertain start to life in North London, the Chilean has scored or assisted seven of the club’s last eight Premier League goals. He is the only Arsenal player to have consistently turned created chances into goals.
The Gunners have the best ratio of shots taken to shots conceded in the league, and are taking a relatively high number of their shots from good positions. They have not, though, for one reason or another, been able to convert those chances into the anticipated number of goals. In defence, personnel issues have seen them concede more often than expected.
Wenger will definitely be without the injured Abou Diaby (calf), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Mesut Ozil (knee) and Olivier Giroud (ankle), while David Ospina (thigh) and Laurent Koscielny (achilles) are also expected to miss out. Danny Welbeck (hamstring) is hopeful of making an appearance against his former club, while Mikel Arteta (hamstring) could return.
Man Utd travel to North London on the back of just two victories in their last five Premier League matches. They are seventh in the table, one point behind their hosts on Saturday, with 16 points from four wins, four draws and three defeats.
The Red Devils laboured to a 1-0 victory at home to Crystal Palace before the international break. Juan Mata’s 66th-minute strike was the difference between the sides in a match in which United dominated possession and the shot count but were unable to regularly fashion high quality chances against a determined rearguard action from their visitors.
Louis Van Gaal’s side failed to take full advantage of their relatively easy start to the campaign, winning just one of a set of five opening fixtures that included matches against all three of the newly promoted teams. Back-to-back home wins steadied the ship, before draws against West Brom and Chelsea, defeat to Manchester City and the win over Palace.
The unbalanced nature of their early fixtures makes it difficult to accurately assess just where Man Utd stand. The majority of their supporters seem to believe that progress is being made, but that is not entirely backed up by the underlying statistics – as demonstrated by Michael Caley of SB Nation – and more should perhaps be expected given their large summer outlay.
Van Gaal will definitely be without the injured Ashley Young (groin), Daley Blind (knee) and Marcos Rojo (shoulder) for the trip to the Emirates, while there are varying degrees of doubt over the participation of Angel Di Maria (ankle), David de Gea (hand), Johnny Evans (ankle), Phil Jones (shin), Luke Shaw (groin), Michael Carrick (groin), Radamel Falcao Garcia (calf) and Rafael (muscle).
Arsenal vs Man Utd Betting Tips
Last season’s equivalent fixture ended in a 0-0 draw – the first scoreless fixture between the sides since 2009 – while United were 1-0 victors in the early-season encounter at Old Trafford. United have generally enjoyed the upper hand over Arsenal in recent years, winning seven, drawing two and losing just one of the last 10 meetings at all venues.
It is not difficult to identity Arsenal’s strong and weak points. While Sanchez is the only player to have found the back of the net with any regularity, they are attacking well and creating enough chances to win games. But the absence of a top-quality defensive midfielder and a lack of defensive cover have seen them concede far too readily.
Until recently, Man Utd suffered from similar problems but the change to a more conservative approach has seen them become tighter in defence yet less potent in attack. Van Gaal clearly feels that his side are not yet ready to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best and could adopt a comparable strategy to that used against both Chelsea and City.
Both sides have sizeable injury lists, but while Van Gaal is probably the more flexible of the coaches in terms of finding solutions to such issues, Wenger has sufficient firepower at his disposal to suggest that his side should still be capable of securing the three points.
- Back Arsenal to win @ best odds of 6/5 with Betfred, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, Coral or William Hill.
- Sanchez continued his recent hot streak by scoring in both of Chile’s fixtures during the international break. His pace, trickery and work-rate make him a nightmare for any defence and he will fancy his chances of extending his scoring run on Saturday. Back Alexis Sanchez to score at anytime @ best odds of 17/10 with Ladbrokes.