Manchester United kick off 2020 with a tricky trip to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. Here’s everything that you need to know ahead of the match.
(1) Manchester United closed out the decade with a solid 2-0 win over Burnley on Saturday. That result lifted the Reds up to fifth in the Premier League — and, most importantly, kept them in touch with Chelsea for the final Champions League spot. It’s never pretty at Turf Moor, but goals from Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford (not to mention a wonder save by David De Gea) sealed the victory.
(2) Unfortunately, both Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay missed out entirely, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with the rather uninspiring midfield duo of Fred and Nemanja Matić. Solskjaer on Pogba:
Paul has played in two games now and been out for a while. We didn’t feel it was right to bring him today.
He had 45 minutes, but he’s been out for a while and he didn’t feel right. He reacted to that one, so we’ll just have to take our time and get him ready for next time. When you’ve been out for such a while, it’s always going to take time to be 100%. He just needed another day, probably, of recovery.
(3) And a more worrying update on McTominay:
We haven’t done the full scan yet. Over the weekend, we’ll know more. It didn’t look good, but we hope it’s going to heal quickly.
I wouldn’t expect Scott to be back within a few weeks, no. Not the next couple of weeks, I don’t think we’ll see him.
(4) Saturday also marked United’s first Premier League clean sheet since September. Oddly enough, the Reds did it with top defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka resting in favor of Ashley Young. AWB should be back in the starting eleven for the trip to Arsenal. Plus, Brandon Williams earned MotM honors with another strong performance at left-back.
United keep their first Premier League clean sheet since Leicester’s visit to Old Trafford on September 14th. #MUFC pic.twitter.com/5wPBVhPWn7— United Xtra (@utdxtra) December 28, 2019
(5) It’s been a disastrous few months over at Arsenal. Unai Emery, already on thin ice after an underwhelming 2018/19 season, proved to be in way over his head and left the club in November. And there’s been no new manager bounce for either caretaker Freddie Ljungberg or permanent appointee Mikel Arteta. The Gunners have won only once in the Premier League since early October.
(6) Arteta, though, gives jaded Arsenal supporters some reason for hope. On Sunday, the new boss looked well on his way to a first home victory, before two quick goals from Chelsea consigned the Gunners to another discouraging defeat. This is a group short on confidence and belief, so it will take Arteta some time to get it turned around.
Arteta can’t fix everything that’s been done terribly wrong for the last 18 months in a week. We actually played the best half of football of the season, keep the faith.— Spanish Gooner (@elspanishgooner) December 29, 2019
(7) After years of frugality and absentee ownership, this is one of the poorest Arsenal squads in recent memory. Arteta no doubt hopes to install a more possession-based approach, but do Arsenal have the talent to make it work? Perhaps, especially if Mesut Özil keeps up his rampant form of late. Exiled under Emery, Özil could be Arteta’s reclamation project.
(8) Granit Xhaka, meanwhile, just wants out. Now. He’s already agreed terms with Hertha Berlin and is pushing the Arsenal hierarchy to allow him a fresh start back in Germany. Xhaka began the season as Emery’s captain, before losing the armband in a spat with supporters in November. He missed the Chelsea match with an undisclosed illness, so don’t count on him for Wednesday.
He’s more important to this team than most fans realise. Granit Xhaka is our main link between defence and attack and we saw that when he wasn’t in the side this season we didn’t get any better. He shouldn’t have been made a scapegoat. All the best Granit. #afc pic.twitter.com/AaGs4VlaIY— now.arsenal (@now_arsenaI) December 28, 2019
(9) After the loss to Chelsea, Arsenal sit just six points above the relegation zone. Arteta on whether or not his new team finds itself in a relegation battle:
I don’t know. I have to go day by day and step by step. If we had got the result that we wanted, we’d be talking about something different. I don't want to make any different predictions.
(10) When all else fails, though, Arsenal still have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Even with his club crumbling around him, the 30-year-old has scored 15 goals in all competitions this season. Nicolas Pepe, on the other hand, looks just as lost as ever. It’s been a tough adjustment for the Ivorian winger, who’s managed only two league goals in his debut season and has played a combined 12 minutes under Arteta so far.
(11) Solskjaer on the threat posed by Arsenal:
In football, you’ve got to earn the right to win every single game. Every one gives you a different challenge. Arsenal away is a completely different challenge. We handled what Burnley threw at us, but Arsenal will give us other things to think about. We’ll be ready for it.