A tasty looking encounter between two of the form sides in the Premier League takes place on Saturday tea time, as Arsenal host Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners’ early-season collapse finally seems to have subsided, with Mikel Arteta’s switch to a back four system reaping rewards recently.
Starting with their 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day, Arsenal have won five of their last six league games, with only Crystal Palace managing to avoid defeat. The run has got the Gunners up to ninth in the table, and well positioned for a late run for a European place.
The form of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe has been central to Arsenal’s improvement, while even Nicolas Pepe recently started showing signs of being the player expected when he signed from Lille for over £70m last summer.
The trio combined to put Southampton to the sword last time out, deputising well for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed that game due to personal reasons. The Arsenal captain is likely to miss this game as well.
Pablo Mari and Dani Ceballos have only recently resumed training with the squad after injury, and unlikely to play any part when Man United visit London, but Arteta is hopeful Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey can play. New signing Martin Odegaard could also be involved, albeit likely from the bench, if at all.
Manchester United were shocked by basement boys Sheffield United at Old Trafford last time out, and will be hoping to regain the form that saw them lead the Premier League for the first time since 2013 recently.
Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof could return after missing that game through injury. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed that the Ivorian was due to play against the Blades but suffered a knock in training, meaning Axel Tuanzebe deputised.
Brandon Williams and Phil Jones are injured, while Marcos Rojo and Facundo Pellestri are set to leave the club before the transfer deadline. Rojo is set to return to Argentina, while Pellestri is joining Deportivo Alaves on loan for the rest of the season.
Edinson Cavani could replace Anthony Martial or Mason Greenwood up front for United, with the Frenchman turning in a lackadaisical performance against Sheffield United, as he once again failed to find the net. Cavani’s record of a goal every 132 minutes is the best in the United squad, so he’ll be hoping to get the nod ahead of his younger counterparts.
A win for United would see them at least maintain the gap behind rivals Manchester City, and ensure Leicester City don’t overtake them.
Arsenal could go level on points with North London rivals Tottenham before they play on Sunday night – something that didn’t look possible just over a month ago as Arsenal flirted with the relegation zone and Spurs topped the league. It’s been a funny old season.
Arsenal take on Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, January 30th. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.