League leaders Arsenal will face a serious test of their title credentials when they travel to Old Trafford to square off against Manchester United on Sunday (16:10 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
United have not enjoyed the best of starts to the season and are eighth in the Premier League table with 17 points from five wins, two draws and three defeats. They are, however, in good form, having won four of their last five matches in all competitions.
United come into the match on the back of a 0-0 draw away to Real Sociedad in the Champions League on Tuesday. Moyes made seven changes from the team that defeated Fulham last weekend but his team still performed competently and could have emerged victorious had Javier Hernandez and Robin Van Persie not been uncharacteristically profligate in front of goal.
There was impressive interplay between Shinji Kagawa and Patrice Evra down United’s left. It was reminiscent of the relationship between Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines that was such a key part of the attacking threat of Moyes’ Everton. Unfortunately Maroaune Fellaini, expensively procured from Everton, was again disappointing and got himself sent off in stoppage time.
The clean sheet was United’s third in their last five matches in all competitions, but this run has certainly not been indicative of the general standard of their defending so far this season. They have conceded 13 goals in 10 league matches, with a lack of midfield protection and poor defensive organisation seeing them regularly give up good quality shots to their opponents.
Last season, Man Utd’s prolific goalscoring (86 goals in 38 matches) disguised their, at times, lapse defending. This season, only Wayne Rooney and Van Persie have offered significant goalscoring contributions and a better balance needs to be struck if the club are to continue their recent climb up the table.
Moyes looks set to welcome Michael Carrick back into the fold after two matches on the sidelines with an achilles injury, while Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley should also be available for selection after recovering from them respective afflictions. Darren Fletcher, Johnny Evans and Rafael will all miss out.
Arsenal top the Premier League table with 25 points from eight wins, one draw and one defeat. They are undefeated in the league since losing at home to Aston Villa on the first day of the season and come into this match on the back of two excellent results.
The first was a relatively comfortable 2-0 win at home to Liverpool last weekend, in which Arsenal’s defensive solidity and attacking verve proved too much for their in-form visitors. The second came on Wednesday, when Arsenal rode their luck at times, but did enough to win 1-0 away to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
The goalscorer in Germany was Aaron Ramsey, who has probably been Arsenal’s most impressive player so far this season. The Welsh international midfielder has scored eight goals and provided five assists in all competitions. The faith placed in him by Arsene Wenger, in face of criticism from supporters, now looks very much justified.
While the transformation of Olivier Giroud (seven goals and five assist) into an able target man and the inventive brilliance of Mezut Ozil and Santiago Cazorla have perhaps taken centre stage, Arsenal’s defence have also been excellent so far this season, doing the best job in the league of limiting their opponents to low quality shots.
There have been rumours that assistant manager Steve Bould was given greater autonomy to work on the defence this season and they have certainly looked a very solid unit. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have formed a strong central partnership, with three clean sheets and just two goals conceded in the last five matches in which they have been paired.
Arsenal will definitely be without ongoing injury absentees Abou Diaby Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Yaya Sanogo for Sunday’s match. Tigerish midfielder Mathieu Flamini is expected to return from a groin injury, while Jack Wilshere will face a late fitness test.
Man Utd v Arsenal Betting Tips Verdict
United won last season’s equivalent fixture 2-1 and have won each of the last five meetings between the sides at Old Trafford. Arsenal have not won away to United since 2006.
This season is probably the closest in quality the two teams have been in some time and Arsenal will fancy their chances of taking at least a point here. The speed with which they are able to manoeuvre the ball through midfield should allow them to get at a United defence who have struggled to deal with teams who attack them with pace.
With Rooney in excellent form, having contributed an average of one goal or assist per appearance so far this season, Man Utd still carry an offensive threat and could profit on the counter attack if Arsenal commit too many men forward.
- Back Arsenal +0.5 on the Asian Handicap @ 9/13 with BetVictor.
- Bet on both teams to score @ 8/13 with BetVictor, Ladbrokes or SkyBet.