Back to Premier League action this afternoon at the home of Wenger’s biggest opposition club, Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Gunners travel to Manchester after a disappointing end result against Atletico Thursday night but are still in with a big chance of a European final, so another confidence boosting win would surely go down well.
Arsenal welcome back Henrikh Mkhitaryan and he will be more than up for a big stint on the pitch against his old employers – fingers crossed we see him get some pitch time. Besides Elneny and Cazorla, Arsenal have no other injury concerns so Wenger will have plenty of options at his disposal. Just a note on Santi; how good is it to see the little magician back training? Still early days in his comeback but it was great to see him running and kicking the ball around the Emirates pitch Thursday evening. He is still in with a slim chance of making an appearance this season so fingers crossed for the midfield man.
With the second leg against Atletico only a few days away, I expect Wenger to ring the changes. Koscielny continues to manage his achillies problem and according to reports, has not even travelled. Other rumoured first teamers to not have travelled include Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi so its logical to think that Chambers and Holding coming into the back line. Kolasinac or Maitland-Niles may also see some time at left back or left wing back, deputising for Monreal, depending on the formation Wenger deploys. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should also come back into the starting XI after missing the Europa League game through the cup tie ruling. Welbeck and Iwobi should flank PEA in the wide forward areas. With no Elneny, the recent midfield trio of Ramsey, Wilshere and Xhaka would be ideal but its more likely that Mkhitaryan will feature centrally at some point, with Xhaka and young Willock starting from the off.
Manchester United will be looking to turn us over. They love it, Mourinho loves it, and their fans love it. Regardless of Wenger’s now ending tenure or the FA Cup final only being weeks away, Mourinho will start his big boys. I expect to see Alexis Sanchez try and make a big impression but let’s hope like recent weeks, he’ll be unsuccessful in doing so. Lukaku will more than likely start up top and will love a run at Chambers et al so our defence must be alive and on point. Cech will be busy in goal with the likes of Pogba, Lingard, Sanchez and Rashford popping up from all angles. Matic, and more than likely Herrera, will backbone the midfield behind Pogba, freeing him up in the process. Xhaka and co should be aware that two out and out holding midfielders will be tough to break down, and any sustained periods of possession must be made to count.
After Thursday night’s late drama, Arsenal should be looking to again start fast. Old Trafford can be an intimidating place should United get up a head of steam. However, the likes of Jones, Smalling and Lindelof remain shaky in the heart of the Red Devil’s defence so the Gunners need to stretch these players with Aubameyang’s pace, from the off. A big pitch and playing a rapid centre forward means we must test them early. Get them on the back foot and pressurise right away, anything less and we could be under the cosh for long periods of time and see very little ball. Start well, maintain and threaten, and we could be in with a point or maybe even three. Whatever the outcome, this is always an exciting fixture so let’s hope for something big!
Prection: 2-2; Aubameyang and Welbeck scoring a goal each.