03 October 2015

Arsenal-Man U Preview: Look to the Alexis-Theo duo to devastate the Devils...

I'm going to go out on a limb here to suggest that the pervasive mood of gloom and doom is just a bit excessive. Yes, I know full-well what's going on. No, I haven't taken leave of my senses. In recent weeks, we've suffered injustice at Stamford Bridge but bounced Tottenham from the League Cup and trounced Leicester—but this is all bookended and overshadowed by back-to-back losses in the Champions League group-stage. Add in a clash against Manchester United, refereed by Anthony Taylor, and the only ingredient from a disastrous recipe is Old Trafford.

However, we'll be at home, and we will have something to prove. Last I checked, our last two trips to Old Trafford didn't turn out all that badly. We did well enough in fact to end a seven-match losing streak to our old rivals, ousting them from the FA Cup, and they needed Chris Smalling to clear the ball off the line to salvage a draw in the second-to-last matchday of the Prem season (a result that essentially slammed shut the door on Man U's hopes of finishing above us). In other words, while we can't quite say we now have Man U's number, our lads have to feel confident despite the setback earlier this week.

One take-away from the Olympiacos debacle, though, is the growing partnership between Alexis and Theo. They not only erupted against Leicester, they very nearly rescued us on Tuesday all on their own. They've tallied six goals and two assists in those two matches (each assisting the other against Olympiacos), but their interplay cannot be overlooked. Theo is still learning the nuances of playing through the middle, and the rest of the side is adjusting to having him there instead of Giroud, but Alexis and Theo are starting to feed off of each other. It's hardly Bergkamp and Henry or Brady and Stapleton, but the duo could become every bit as dynamic and devastating in due-time.

For as much as we may fret about missing out on Scheiderlin, Depay, and Martial, or facing the threat that the latter two pose going forward, Man U will have to find a way to cope with  two of the quickest, most-incisive attackers we've had at Arsenal in quite a while. The idea that they're only starting to scratch the surface of their partnership has got to have Van Gaal up into the wee hours trying to figure how to slow them down long. Something tells me that right-back Matteo Darmian, with three yellow cards to his name already, is in for a long, difficult Sunday...

LAST THREE
Man U 1-1 Arsenal (17.05.2015)
Man U 1-2 Arsenal (09.03.2015)
Arsenal 1-2 Man U (22.11.2014)

FACT FILE
Arsenal won the first match between the two clubs, 3-2 over then-Newton Heath on 1 August 1894.
Arsenal have not beaten Man U in a Prem match since 2011.
Man U have conceded four goals in their last away-matches in the Prem.

INJURIES

Welbeck, Wilshere, Rosický, and Arteta have all been ruled out; Čech, Koscielny, and Flamini face late fitness tests.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Cazorla, Coquelin; Alexis, Özil, Ramsey; Walcott.

Despite sitting second fourth on the table, Arsenal have a lot to prove and a dramatic fixture in which to do so.

PREDICTION Arsenal 2-1 Man U