Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Manchester United

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, February 12
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Mike Mullarkey and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Lee Mason
  • Reverse Fixture: Manchester United 1 - 0 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 1 Manchester United
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 79 Arsenal wins, 92 United wins, 47 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-D-W-L
  • Manchester United's League Form: L-W-L-W-L-D
  • Weather: Light Rain and Windy, 6 C / 43 F
Arsenal have lost an absurdly high number of clunkers this year, including the Killa' v. Villa to open the season, the Fester in Manchester in December, and the Yield at Anfield just days ago. After the previous two shockers, however, Arsenal have rebounded resiliently; they went unbeaten in 12 after the loss to Aston Villa and unbeaten in 10 after the loss to City, a streak snapped by the 5-1 hiding to Liverpool. Sometimes, in the wake of confusingly devastating losses, it's hard to see the forest for the trees.

The Gunners still hold their fate in their hands: they can go top again with a win and they still play Chelsea and Manchester City this season; win both and they have to be title favorites. When you trail 4-0 after 20 minutes, it isn't easy to remember that those three points count the same as the others. So, while the Internet ridiculously debates the merits of Mesut Ozil in midfield (really, Internet? Really?!) the professionals get ready to right the ship the only place they can: on the pitch.

In that respect, it could be either a blessing or a curse that they're square in the middle of DEATHRUN 1. Seventh place Manchester United comes calling to the Emirates tonight, a place where Arsenal have not lost since October. Three points will likely get everyone to calm down a bit. Anything less and we'll start having serious discussions as to whether loaning Ju-Young Park to Watford led to some sort of witch's curse (which is to say, the conversation will get out of hand.)

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Kallstrom (back,) Vermaelen (knee,) Ramsey (thigh,) Walcott (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Suspended: Flamini (third of three, violent conduct)

There's no significant change in the injury list from Saturday, with the only exception being the fact that Yaya Sanogo is now available. So, that's something, right? Mathieu Flamini will serve the third match of this three match ban and will be available for Liverpool 2: Electric Boogaloo on Sunday. Thomas Vermaelen remains out with a knee problem, Aaron Ramsey is still out with his thigh injury, Theo Walcott is still out for a long while, New Swedish guy remains Diaby'd, and Diaby remains New Swedish guy'd, or something.

As for predicting a line-up, here's what I want to see, but that actually happening is a whole other story:
  1. Kieran Gibbs should return at left back.
  2. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should get another run in the center of midfield. For all the talk of how "at least Jack Wilshere showed spirit" in the loss at Liverpool, I thought his positioning was a liability. He was a holding midfielder; he didn't do much holding.
  3. Either Lukas Podolski or Tomas Rosicky should start on the left wing. Arsenal sorely missed Rosicky's drive during those fateful 20 minutes.
Predicted XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud.

Manchester United Squad News

Out: Nani (hamstring,) Evans (calf)
Doubts: Cleverley (knock,) Fellaini (groin,) Jones (concussion,) Ferdinand (knee)

"Scapegoat" Tom Cleverley could return from a knock to replace Darren Fletcher in the midfield, while Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones, and Rio Ferdinand all remain doubts. It's expected that Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling will start in the center of defense, as Jonny Evans remains out with a calf injury.

As Nani is out with a calf injury himself, United will likely start with an attacking trio of Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, and Wayne Rooney. As for the other midfielder, it could be either Adnan Januzaj or Ashley Young.

Predicted XI: De Gea, Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Fletcher, Mata, Rooney, Janet Jazz Jazz Jam, Van Persie.

Current Form

Well, so much for Arsenal's form. As mentioned above, Arsenal had been unbeaten in 10 across all competitions before the Yield at Anfield, but a margin like 5-1 will make you forget anything that's happened up to that point. So, let's look at Arsenal's home form at the moment: they've won five straight at the Emirates since back-to-back draws against Everton and Chelsea and are unbeaten at home since losing to Chelsea in the League Cup in October. It is important that this continue; this match starts a streak of four consecutive home games across all competitions.

As for United, well, suffice it to say they've seen better days. They went out of the League Cup in the semi-finals on penalties and they went out of the FA Cup to Swansea in the third round. On the other hand, only Olympiacos stands between them and the quarterfinals of the Champions League. But, most importantly, they are 7th in the Premier League. They have won twice in six league fixtures in the 2014 calendar year; they've lost to Spurs, Chelsea, and Stoke in the process. Last weekend, they scored twice in quick succession to turn a 1-0 deficit against last place Fulham into a 2-1 lead, yet then let Darren Bent equalize at the death. We've been there...

Match Facts

Manchester United have had the better of Arsenal in recent meetings, which you probably know already (because I continuously copy and paste this section from my previous United previews while only changing the numbers.) In 2006/07, Arsenal won both league meetings between the sides. Since that year, across all competitions, United have met Arsenal 17 times. Arsenal have won two of those matches, drawn three, and lost 12. Then again, Arsenal had lost once in their last 12 against Liverpool and we all know how Saturday went...

In the reverse fixture in November, some guy scored the lone goal in a 1-0 United win, because Arsenal can't win at Old Trafford even if they're favored. In this corresponding fixture last April, United came to the Emirates having already won the league earlier in the week. Arsenal opened the scoring pretty much right away through Theo Walcott, but that guy again scored from the penalty spot to make it 1-1 at halftime. In the end, it was a vital point for Arsenal in the hunt for fourth place.

The Referee

The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Arsenal have three wins from three matches with Clatts this year, including their 2-1 win at Swansea, the 2-0 win over Southampton, and the 2-0 FA Cup win over Tottenham. Manchester United also have three wins from three with Clattenburg in the middle this year, though they have yet to have him in a league game. They've won 1-0 over Wigan for the Community Shield and 1-0 over Liverpool and 2-0 over Stoke in the League Cup.

This will be the first time Clattenburg has worked a league match for Manchester United since sending off two Chelsea players in a 3-2 United win at Stamford Bridge in October 2012. Clatts didn't work a league game at all for a month after that, considering Chelsea accused him of a racial slur. He later worked a 4-1 United win over Fulham in the FA Cup last year.

Around the League
  • Tuesday: Cardiff City 0 - 0 Aston Villa
  • Tuesday: Hull City 0 - 1 Southampton
  • Tuesday: West Ham United 2 - 0 Norwich City
  • Tuesday: West Bromwich Albion 1 - 1 Chelsea
  • Wednesday: Everton v. Crystal Palace; Goodison Park, Liverpool
    • Reverse Fixture: Crystal Palace 0 - 0 Everton
  • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Sunderland; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
    • Reverse Fixture: Sunderland 1 - 0 Manchester City
  • Wednesday: Newcastle United v. Tottenham Hotspur; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
    • Reverse Fixture: Tottenham Hotspur 0 - 1 Newcastle United
  • Wednesday: Stoke City v. Swansea City; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
    • Reverse Fixture: Swansea City 3 - 3 Stoke City
  • Wednesday: Fulham v. Liverpool; Craven Cottage, London
    • Reverse Fixture: Liverpool 4 - 0 Fulham