After a less-than-convincing win over Rochdale in midweek, Manchester United turn back to the Premier League for Arsenal’s visit on Monday evening. Here’s everything that you need to know ahead of the match.
(1) Not long ago, football fans the world over eagerly checked the fixture list for Manchester United vs. Arsenal. What once was a showdown to determine domestic dominance has instead degenerated into a scrap for fourth between Thursday night mediocrities. What a fall from grace for the original Premier League blue bloods.
(2) In a small dose of good fortune, Marcus Rashford seems to have dodged serious injury. “He’s recovering,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “He’s not very, very bad. We hope to see him before the international break.” With Rashford all but ruled out for Arsenal, Mason Greenwood stands ready to lead the line in his absence. He’s already scored in both the Europa League and Carabao Cup and makes a strong argument as the club’s top attacker alongside Daniel James.
(3) The gulf in quality between each side’s squad depth in their respective Carabao Cup ties this week is sobering. The Reds, despite holding the lion’s share of possession, sputtered to a full-time draw with League One’s Rochdale. If not for Greenwood notching his second goal in as many games, United might be out of the competition altogether. Arsenal, on the other hand, ran riot over a decent Nottingham Forest side and cruise into the fourth round with plenty of momentum.
(4) The United injury situation grows more complicated by the week. Paul Pogba played 90 minutes against Rochdale — yet, curiously, was given neither the captain’s armband nor a spot kick in the penalty shootout. Regardless, he’s probably out again on Monday after his ankle flared up during the cup tie. Mason Greenwood appears fully-recovered from his bout with tonsillitis and Luke Shaw returned to training this week. Solskjaer also ruled out Diogo Dalot, Angel Gomes, and Phil Jones — and hinted that Anthony Martial could be missing until after next month’s international break, too.
(5) Manchester United last faced Arsenal in March, falling 2-0 at the Emirates. That defeat proved something of a turning point for Solskjaer’s Reds, ending a run of 14 wins in 17 matches under the caretaker boss and sending the club into a spiral they haven’t yet pulled out from. United’s subsequent record makes grim reading: 5 wins, 5 draws, and 9 losses.
(6) Based on what we’ve seen from Axel Tuanzebe over the past week, the 21-year-old is not far off from earning minutes in important matches. He’s certainly won Ole over, beating out veterans for a spot on the bench in the Premier League and receiving the (shock) captaincy against Rochdale. Tuanzebe shows strong defensive instincts in all phases and could push Victor Lindelöf for a starting spot sooner than later. It might not be Monday, but his day is coming.
(7) Arsenal sit fourth in the Premier League table with 11 points though six matches. Their only league loss came at Anfield in August, when Liverpool ruthlessly exploited Arsenal’s narrow midfield with bombing runs from their fullbacks. It’s been a rollercoaster season so far for the Gunners, including a fast start, the Liverpool defeat, a second-half capitulation at Watford, and a thrilling come-from-behind win over Aston Villa. There’s still an air of discontent around the club — and Unai Emery — but Arsenal appear to be trending in the right direction.
(8) There’s no doubt that Emery is far more pragmatic than Arsene Wenger, but the Spanish manager has come under fire of late for his insistence on playing the ball out from the back. That tactic backfired spectacularly against Watford when a wayward pass handed the opposition their opening goal and kickstarted another Gunners collapse. If Emery persists with this game plan, United’s press must pounce on any opportunity to force a turnover. Perhaps a chance for Jesse Lingard to finally make an impact.
(9) With Alexandre Lacazette out until October, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has stepped up in a big way. He’s off to a blistering start up top with six goals already in the Premier League, including the late winner against Villa.
16 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 16 goals in his last 16 games across all competitions for Arsenal, including in each of the last four games in a row (five goals). Solution. pic.twitter.com/Glozu3oHwS— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 22, 2019
(10) Edu’s first summer as Arsenal technical director was a busy one. The £72 million signing of Nicolas Pepe smashed the club’s transfer record, David Luiz forced his way out of Chelsea and into the Arsenal backline, William Saliba was purchased and loaned back to St. Etienne for the 2019/20 season, Dani Ceballos came over on loan from Real Madrid, and Celtic’s Kieran Tierney finally got his long-awaited Premier League move. Luiz remains a polarizing figure, but the rest all look to be astute buys.
(11) On Tuesday, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, and Kieran Tierney all made their season debuts for Arsenal. Emery on the returning trio:
It’s amazing to see the people’s reactions to Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, and Hector Bellerin, who played his first 15 minutes. It was a great moment. We can be a better competitive team with them. For us, having every player available is the perfect moment.