Preview by Numbers: Swansea City v. Arsenal

Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Saturday, October 31
11:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Kevin Friend
    • Assistants: Edward Smart and Harry Lennard
    • 4th Official: Andy Davies
  • This Match, Last Year: Swansea 2 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 9 Arsenal wins, 7 Swansea wins, 3 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-W-W-W-W
  • Swansea's League Form: L-D-L-D-W
Glass half-full: Arsenal's loss on Tuesday, crashing them out of the League Cup, means they will not have to play the next round of the competition, which would have been Stoke City away.

Glass half-empty: Random chance totally doesn't work like that and you can't say the drawing would have gone exactly the same way if Arsenal were involved.

Glass half-empty: If they won, Stoke might have lost, and then the next round would have been Chelsea away.

Glass half-empty: No, it doesn't work like that. Stop saying that.

Glass three-quarters of the way empty: We have no fit right wingers.

Glass three-quarters of the way empty: Swansea are Arsenal's biggest bogey team right now.

Glass empty: I'd like another pint, please.

Glass full: Here's to three points!

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Walcott (calf,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Arteta (ankle,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Ospina (shoulder,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)

To those who hate this kit, I hate to break it to you, but we'll
be wearing it in Munich next week.
Eight! Eight players out injured, AH! AH! AH! And seven of them are midfielders (I'm including Theo Walcott as a midfielder here because he'd be starting on the right wing this weekend if he were healthy.)

Three-week injuries to Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will basically leave Arsene Wenger with two tactical choices: he could either bring in Joel Campbell on the right or shift Alexis Sanchez over, bring Santi Cazorla forward on the left, and start Mathieu Flamini.

Quotes from Arsene Wenger's press conference yesterday seem to indicate that the manager will opt for Campbell on the right, as that would allow him to keep the remaining 10 positions operating normally. Shifting Cazorla forward would essentially make two changes instead of one, possibly disrupting the team's offensive rhythm.

Arsenal will play three critical games in nine days with almost no depth to fall back on, so they're going to have to weather a bit of a storm here...

Also, FYI, I can play right wing.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Alexis, Campbell, Ozil, Giroud.

Swansea Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Routledge (calf)

Here's that nightmare I was telling you about.
WHAT? None? Can we average out our lists here? That's just not right!

The only doubt is an extremely slight doubt over Wayne Routledge, who has a calf injury. Routledge has not played since September 22, so I would not expect him to start anyway.

Therefore, there's not much of a need for Garry Monk to change his XI very much. He might opt for a more defensive minded strategy in midfield against the likes of Arsenal, perhaps starting Jack Cork instead of Ki Sung-Yueng, but the other 10 players should be those that started against Aston Villa last weekend.

Predicted XI: Fabianski, Naughton, Williams, Fernandez, Taylor, Shelvey, Ki, Ayew, Montero, Sigurdsson, Gomis.

Current Form

Andre Ayew scores the winner at the weekend.
Tuesday's debacle aside, Arsenal still have a four-match winning streak in the Premier League, so that's something! They will look to extend that streak to five matches for the first time since their eight-match run last spring.

After going unbeaten in their first four league games of the season, Swansea then went winless in five, including losses to Watford, Southampton, and Stoke. Last weekend, they finally won again, beating Aston Villa 2-1, a Swans win that finally cost Tim Sherwood his job with Villa. It was Swansea's first win since August 30 against Manchester United, a period which included crashing out of the League Cup in the third round to Hull City (Hull, meanwhile, advanced over Leicester this week to make the quarterfinals.)

During the winless run, Swansea had fallen from fourth to 14th in the table. They currently sit 12th after last weekend's desperately needed win.

Match Facts

What happened to the Fabianski who used to drop the ball
into his own net, huh?
With Arsenal needing a bounce-back from Tuesday night's loss, Swansea is not exactly the team they want to play, as the Swans have become a bit of a bogey team for the Gunners in recent year. In fact, Swansea was the only team to take all six possible points from Arsenal last season.

At the Liberty last November, Arsenal led 1-0 on 63 minutes through Alexis Sanchez. Swansea, however, scored twice in three minutes, with the winner coming in the 78th from Bafetimbi Gomis, taking advantage of his height... well, advantage, over Nacho Monreal playing at center back. At the Emirates in May, Gomis had the winner again, against the run of play, in the 85th minute. Arsenal had 68% possession, took 23 shots, and put nine on target, but ex-Gunner Lukasz Fabianski kept the clean sheet.

All-time in league play, Swansea have more wins than Arsenal against each other, by a six to five margin. Arsenal are winless in their last three against the Swans.

The Referee

Oh, that's what number Bellerin wore last year.
The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend. I've definitely made the "more like Kevin Enemy, amirite?" joke here before, as Arsenal's record is not great with Friend in the middle. In fact, Friend (Enemy?) was the referee for the aforementioned loss to Swansea at the Emirates back in May. He was also in charge of Arsenal's 2-2 draw at Everton, as well as wins at Sunderland and QPR last year.

Swansea's record with Friend was similarly mixed last season, with wins over Arsenal and QPR, a draw with Everton in which Jonjo Shelvey was sent off, and a 4-2 loss at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

Friend has only taken charge of eight matches in total this season, tied for fewest in the Select Group. He was in charge of the cup tie between Stoke and Chelsea earlier this week, in which he sent off Stoke defender Phil Bardsley. Even in those eight matches, he's already shown four red cards.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Chelsea v. Liverpool; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Manchester United; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Norwich City; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Stoke City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Watford v. West Ham United; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Leicester City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (early): Everton v. Sunderland; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Bournemouth; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Monday (night): Tottenham Hotspur v. Aston Villa; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is running out of ideas for this section. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to give him some ideas.

Preview by Numbers: Sheffield Wednesday v. Arsenal, League Cup Fourth Round

Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield
Tuesday, October 27
3:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Graham Scott
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Michael McDonough
    • 4th Official: Nigel Miller
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 56 Arsenal wins, 36 Wednesday wins, 35 draws
  • All-Time in League Cup: 5 Arsenal wins
  • Arsenal's Premier League Form: W-L-W-W-W-W
  • Wednesday's Championship Form: W-W-W-D-D-W
Arsenal puts their second goal past a bald, American
highlighter on Saturday.
For approximately 22 hours, Arsenal were top of the league this weekend. They couldn't hold onto the top spot, of course, as the Manchester derby bore draw saw City climb back to first on goal difference, but the feeling is there. Arsenal, who were in dead last place after their opening weekend loss to West Ham, are now firmly in the title conversation with just over a quarter of the season played.

Arsenal's form is truly the best it has been all season, which is why the League Cup brings a little bit of a bump in the road. You could see fatigue set in during the latter stages of Saturday's win over Everton and with Swansea away, Munich away, and the North London derby on the fixture list to follow, Arsenal will not get a better chance to rotate between now and the November international break.

So, join me in the squad news section below for a discussion I shall call "Who the hell will we bring to Sheffield?"

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (ankle,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Ospina (shoulder,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)

Rotation finally explained!
Yesterday morning, I was having a conversation with my girlfriend over whether or not Petr Cech would have to start. I was pretty certain he would not, with Matt Macey getting a look instead. At the same time, Arsene Wenger was giving a press conference where he said I was wrong and she was right. Macey is not ready to start and David Ospina is still out with a shoulder injury. It's a worrying thought: Macey isn't ready to play against the likes of Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, but is a heartbeat away from being Arsenal's starting keeper.

Elsewhere, Per Mertesacker is available again after missing Saturday through illness; I would guess Laurent Koscielny drops, since he's the only center back to play all three matches since the last break. Perhaps Calum Chambers gets a game as well? Same for Kieran Gibbs and Mathieu Debuchy? The three of them all started (along with Mertesacker) in the last round.

Arsene Wenger also added that there are no new injuries from Saturday, then added that Mikel Arteta remains out. I didn't know Arteta was out to begin with; he was on the bench against Bayern but not against Everton.

There are some guys who need a rest in midfield: Francis Coquelin, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez... I'd consider resting any number of them, though you can't drop too many and maintain any cohesion in your play. I would think some, but not all, of these guys will be on the bench to start.

All right, time to make some guesses...

Predicted XI: Cech, Debuchy, Chambers, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Campbell, Ozil, Walcott.

Sheffield Wednesday Squad News

Out: Turner, Lopez, Matias, Sougou
Doubts: Westwood, Hutchinson, Loovens

Joe Wildsmith, who recently earned his first England U20
cap, will start in goal.
Number one and ex-Sunderland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is not expected to start this match and Joe Wildsmith will deputize; Wildsmith recently earned his first England cap for the Under-20s in a win over the Netherlands.

Defender Michael Turner (on loan from Norwich) and midfielder Alex Lopez (on loan from Celta Vigo) are definitely out injured, as are forward Marco Matias and midfielder Modou Sougou. There are also doubts over defender and club captain Glenn Loovens and midfielder Sam Hutchinson.

Aside from those injuries and the rotation at goalkeeper, there's no reason to expect manager Carlos Carvalhal to deviate from his usual lineup; winning this match would be a huge scalp for the Owls.

Assuming Loovens is fit, he'll start in the center of defense along with Tom Lees, while the fullbacks should be Jack Hunt and Daniel Pudil, both on loan from Premier League clubs. Sam Hutchinson, booked more times than any other Championship player, is on loan from Chelsea and should anchor the midfield if he passes fit. Their wingers should include Barry Bannan, formerly of Aston Villa, along with Ross Wallace while up top, Wednesday have struggled to find a regular goal scorer.

The Owls have committed more fouls than any other club in the Championship and have scored one-third of their goals from set pieces, which should make this just as tricky as you'd think an Arsenal away cup tie against a Championship side would be.

Predicted XI: Wildsmith, Hunt, Loovens, Lees, Pudil, Hutchinson, Lee, Wallace, Bannan, Joao, Forestieri.

Current Form

Olivier Giroud counts to six in the pouring rain.
Arsenal extended their Premier League and overall winning streaks to five games over the weekend with their 2-1 win over Everton on Saturday. There's no doubting that this was a critical series of fixtures for the club and all signs seem to point to the fact that they have rounded into form at just the right time to mount a title challenge. At the same time, you have think that a match like this one disrupts that rhythm a little bit. The result here likely won't have much of an influence on the fixtures that follow, at least one would hope. Remember, even after losing in this competition to Bradford City in 2012, Arsenal responded with a three-match winning streak in the league.

Sheffield Wednesday have not lost since September 12. They increased their unbeaten streak across all competitions to eight games with a 2-1 win over Rotherham United on Friday night. This eight match streak includes seven league games in the Championship, as well as their third round win over Newcastle United last month. The Owls now sit 9th in the Championship table, four points behind Birmingham City for the last playoff spot.

Match Facts

This is the best picture I could find of Arsenal's last win at
Hillsborough; it's a screenshot from a YouTube video.
Arsenal have not played Sheffield Wednesday since the Owls were relegated in 2000. The Gunners have not won in any of their last six trips to Hillsborough, but again, since that all dates back to 15+ years ago, that's not a very relevant statistic.

Still, you have to go back to August 21, 1993 to find the last time Arsenal won away at Sheffield Wednesday; Ian Wright scored in the 8th minute to give Arsenal a 1-0 victory. That win was just months after Arsenal defeated Wednesday in the 1993 FA Cup Final (in a replay.) Since then, Arsenal have two draws and four losses at Hillsborough.

In fact, Arsenal have won just one of their last 12 overall against Wednesday at Hillsborough. But, again, this is all decades ago now.

These clubs have met on five previous occasions in the League Cup and Arsenal have won all five. In January of 1983, the clubs met in the quarterfinals, with Arsenal winning 1-0, only to then lose to Manchester United in the semifinal. The clubs met again the 1988 quarterfinals, with Arsenal again winning 1-0; Arsenal went on to lose that final to Luton Town. That might sound absurd nowadays, but Luton Town finished 9th in the top flight that year.

Arsenal and Wednesday met in the 1993 final, with Arsenal winning 2-1. Arsenal would go on to win both cups that season, both over Sheffield Wednesday. The clubs met again in the 1994/95 fourth round, with Arsenal winning 2-0. One year later, they met in the fourth round again, where Arsenal won 2-1.

The Referee

Graham Scott only gives a 3 out of 10 for the figure skating
performance. Harsh!
The referee is Oxfordshire-based Graham Scott. This will be Scott's first career Arsenal match.

Scott was promoted to the Select Group this past summer, replacing the now-retired Chris Foy. There are only three Select Group officials who are older than Scott (who is 47): Neil Swarbrick, Roger East, and Phil Dowd. However, Scott has not yet worked a top flight fixture this year, as he comes back from a long-term injury; in fact, his only match this season was in the Championship, a 2-0 win for Burnley over Bolton at Turf Moor on October 17.

The Owls saw Scott twice in the Championship last year, splitting those two matches. On January 17, the club lost 2-1 to Bolton; substitute Sam Hutchinson was sent off for picking up two yellow cards in 14 minutes. On March 7, Wednesday defeated Blackpool 1-0 at Bloomfield Road with Scott in the middle. In four matches overall, Wednesday have a record of one win and three losses with Scott as the referee.

Around the Fourth Round
  • Tuesday: Everton v. Norwich City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Tuesday: Hull City v. Leicester City; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Tuesday: Stoke City v. Chelsea; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Wednesday: Liverpool v. Bournemouth; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Crystal Palace; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. Middlesbrough; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Southampton v. Aston Villa; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is a seminal retrofuturist story. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Everton

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, October 24
12:30 p.m. EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Andrew Garratt
    • 4th Official: Anthony Taylor
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 0 Everton
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 100 Arsenal wins, 59 Everton wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-L-W-W-W
  • Everton's League Form: D-W-D-W-D-L
Per Mertesacker celebrates Arsenal's second goal by
eating the third star in Orion's Belt.
Hey! Remember that time Arsenal beat Bayern Munich! That was pretty cool, right?

Since losing to Olympiacos, Arsenal have won three on the bounce, each in a different but still impressive manner. They shellshocked Manchester United out of the gate. They outlasted a hard-working Watford side. They defended well against all of Bayern's possession and punished the German champions on the counter. That's three wins by a combined 8-0 scoreline since that setback against the Greeks.

Of course, none of that really matters if Arsenal starts dropping stupid points domestically. The Gunners welcome a struggling Everton side to the Emirates in tomorrow's evening match; the Toffees are coming off a 3-0 home loss to Manchester United, so, by the transitive property, Arsenal should expect to win 6-0?

Ah, but it's never that simple. Everton are 9th in the league right now and will want to bounce back from their listless showing last week. Facing an in-form Arsenal side is not exactly what the doctor ordered on that front, but it's not like Arsenal are thinking "oh great, Everton!" when examining their opponent.

Arsenal have to keep their great form going, so another home result here is paramount.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ramsey (hamstring,) Ospina (shoulder,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Gabriel (illness)

And he had just remembered how to score, too!
The bad news from Arsenal's win on Tuesday is the injury to Aaron Ramsey, who left with a hamstring injury. That'll leave the Welshman out for at least a month, meaning he will miss the trip to Munich as well as the North London derby. Best case, he'll be available for the match against West Bromwich Albion on November 21. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should take his place in the XI.

Meanwhile, David Ospina is expected to be out until the next international break as well with a shoulder injury he picked up while with Colombia. The average Arsenal fan's opinion of Ospina obviously dropped after he, well, dropped that ball into the net against Olympiacos; however, with Wojciech Szczesny and Emiliano Martinez out on loan, it is 21-year-old Matt Macey who is deputizing on the bench. Macey could start Tuesday in the League Cup against Sheffield Wednesday.

In other news, what is going on with Gabriel? There have been rumors he needed minor surgery for something, which, in Arsenal terms, could mean anything. I'll just leave him in the "doubts" category for now.

Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, and Danny Welbeck all remain strictly in the "like a new signing in the January window" category.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Alexis, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott.

Everton Squad News

Out: Baines (ankle,) Hibbert (knee,) Pienaar (hamstring,) Besic (hamstring)
Doubts: Cleverley (ankle)

England international and lead singer of Leighton and the Lads,
Leighton Baines, is out with an ankle injury.
Everton have struggled all season with injuries to their defense; to that end, Leighton Baines remains out until November with an ankle injury. On the other hand, Seamus Coleman is now back after a month-long layoff, while Phil Jagielka is back from an injury as well.

Tom Cleverley is recovering from ankle surgery and is 50/50 to return. Tony Hibbert, Steven Pienaar, and Muhamed Besic are all out.

Manager Roberto Martinez usually sticks to a 4-2-3-1 formation, but has been known to surprise Arsenal with alterations to that formation; guessing how the Toffees might line-up for tomorrow's match could be simultaneously well-informed and totally wrong. It's the winger positions that leave the most open questions, as Martinez can choose from Aaron Lennon, Gerard Deulofeu, Arouna Kone, and Steven Naismith.

Predicted XI: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway, McCarthy, Barry, Barkley, Naismith, Deulofeu, Lukaku.

Current Form

Petr Cech has a four game winning streak of his own.
Arsenal's roller-coaster keeps on rolling up the track. The Gunners have won three straight across all competitions for the first time this season; it's their longest winning streak since a nine match run last spring (if you want to get really technical, you could say that winning streak was eight, as the final match was the FA Cup Semi-Final against Reading which required extra time.) Arsenal did not win three straight across all competitions last season until November 1, so this year's club have made some progress on that front! Last year, the Gunners only reached four straight wins across all competitions on two occasions; they were shunted at three on the bounce three times.

Everton have had a topsy-turvy season, alternating results all year. They opened the season with a draw, a win, and a loss, then required extra time to defeat Barnsley in the League Cup. After another draw, they won, then drew again, won twice (one of those in the League Cup,) drew their cross-city rival Liverpool, then lost 3-0 to Manchester United last weekend. Everton lost consecutive fixtures in the league three times last year, including a four match losing streak around Christmas.

Match Facts

Olivier Giroud thanks the sun after scoring in this fixture
last year.
Arsenal won this fixture 2-0 last March. Olivier Giroud scored in the 39th minute, while Tomas Rosicky made the points safe in the 89th. The victory was critical, coming just days after Arsenal lost to Monaco in the first leg of their Round of 16 Champions League tie.

That win was Arsenal's 100th all-time against Everton and their 91st over the Toffees in league play, their most against any opponent (second is their 86 league wins over Manchester City.)

Arsenal took four out of six points from Everton last year; in the reverse of this fixture, Arsenal came from behind to draw 2-2 at Goodison Park.

Everton are winless in their last 21 trips to the Emirates/Highbury, dating back to January 20, 1996. Prior to last season's loss, the Toffees had taken draws from the previous two league encounters at the Emirates. They've also drawn four of the last nine league meetings in London.

The Referee

Is this from Reservoir Dogs?
The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason. Arsenal have already seen Mason once this season, for their 2-1 win over Crystal Palace back in August. The Gunners are now unbeaten in their last 14 matches with Mason in the middle, dating back to a 3-2 loss at Wigan in April of 2010 (in which they, and by they I specifically mean Lukasz Fabianski, blew a 2-0 lead.)

This is the first time Mason will work an Everton match this season; last year, Everton saw Mason three times, winning one, losing one, and drawing one. If there were another way for a match to end, maybe they would've found a way to get that, too. They drew Sunderland 1-1 last November, lost 1-0 to Stoke in late December, and beat Southampton 1-0 in April.

Lee Mason worked this fixture during the 2010/11 season and had a bit of a nightmare when he allowed a controversial opening goal for the visiting Toffees; Louis Saha scored from a seemingly offside position, but was deemed to have been played onside because the through ball clipped Laurent Koscielny. Arsenal came back to win the match, 2-1.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Swansea City; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Crystal Palace; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. West Bromwich Albion; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Watford; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Chelsea; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Newcastle United; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday: Bournemouth v. Tottenham Hotspur; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Sunday: Manchester United v. Manchester City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Southampton; Anfield, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and hails from Mintaka, the third star in Orion's Belt. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat if you'd like to learn some Mintakese.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Bayern Munich, Champions League Group Matchday 3

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, October 20
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Turkey
    • Referee: Cuneyt Cakir
    • Assistants: Bahattin Duran and Tarik Ongun
    • 4th Official: Cem Satman
    • Additional Assistants: Huseyin Gocek and Baris Simsek
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 2 Arsenal wins, 4 Bayern wins, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-W-L-W // L-L
  • Bayern Munich's European Form: L-W-L-W // W-W
This roll of the dice predicts a 6-6 draw.
Quick turnaround this week and next as Arsenal play Saturdays and Tuesdays. Fixture congestion means less rested players as well as a less rested preview writer in yours truly!

In any case, Arsenal return to Europe in great domestic form, which is good because their European form has been abysmal. Mathematically, Arsenal can still qualify for the Round of 16 even if they lose both of their matches to Bayern Munich (or so I've read but haven't actually worked out on paper,) but it would not exactly be pleasant to coast into matchday five on zero points.

There's not going to be a better time to get a statement result, so I'd say let's roll the dice and see what happens...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Ospina (shoulder,) Arteta and Flamini (match fitness)

If we could keep the ball like this for 90 minutes,
we could get at least a scoreless draw...
Olivier Giroud is available again after serving a one match ban on matchday two for his red card in Zagreb, however, the Frenchman has seemingly lost his place in the starting XI to Theo Walcott anyway.

Arsenal should have Petr Cech in goal again, especially now that David Ospina is doubtful with a shoulder injury; Ospina was not on the bench at Watford on Saturday. Gabriel is likely to return after missing Saturday through illness, while there are still doubts over Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta, both of whom have not played since the win at Leicester.

It's as you were with the long-term injured, for at least the next two months.

After the match on Saturday, Arsene Wenger suggested that he might rotate one or two guys, including a potential rest for Alexis Sanchez, who is of course nursing an adductor problem, or Mesut Ozil. Yesterday, however, Wenger squashed that notion, because it would be lunacy to drop either of your two most creative attacking midfielders for a game like this.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey, Alexis, Walcott.

Bayern Munich Squad News

Out: Robben (adductor,) Gotze (groin,) Rode (tendon,) Ribery (ankle,) Badstuber (thigh,) Benatia (thigh)
Doubts: Kirchhoff (Achilles)

Holger Badstuber's career has been in what can only be
described as "The Diaby Zone."
Arjen Robben has been out since September 3 with an adductor injury and while he is available again, the Dutchman did not make the trip with the club to London. Meanwhile, World Cup winning goal scorer Mario Gotze has been ruled out 12 weeks after rupturing a tendon in his groin during Germany's Euro qualifier loss to Ireland during the last international break. That sounds horrible.

Franck Ribery (ankle,) Holger Badstuber (thigh,) Mehdi Benatia (thigh,) and Jan Kirchhoff (Achilles) all have yet to feature for Bayern this season, though Kirchhoff was an unused substitute this weekend. Sebastian Rode (tendon injury) has not played in a month.

Predicted XI: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Martinez, Alaba, Alonso, Alcantara, Vidal, Muller, Costa, Lewandowski.

Current Form

Robert Lewandowski was held scoreless for the first time
since 1492 on Saturday, but Thomas Muller's goal gave
Bayern their ninth win in as many league games this season.
It took an hour, but Arsenal finally cracked Watford's defense at the weekend and put three past the Hornets, effectively meaning the club has picked up where they left off before the international break. That's a good sign considering that in addition to playing Bayern Munich twice, Arsenal will have matches against Everton, Swansea, and Spurs in the league, plus a League Cup tie between now and the November break. If there were any time Arsenal might conceivably get a result in a home game against Bayern Munich, it's now.

Of course, Bayern Munich have a 100% record this season themselves (though, they did lose the Super Cup to Wolfsburg on penalties, essentially to Nicklas Bendtner.) They've won their two Champions League matches (against teams that, mind you, have beaten Arsenal) by a combined 8-0 scoreline. They have nine wins from nine in the Bundesliga; they are already seven points clear of second place Borussia Dortmund. And, at the same time as Arsenal were impressively beating Manchester United 3-0 a few weeks back, Bayern were beating their title rivals 5-1. It's conceivable they could have won the league wire-to-wire this season had they not slipped behind Dortmund on goal difference after matchday four.

Bayern's away form in Europe, however, was less than stellar last season. They lost in Manchester on matchday five of last year's group stage and failed to win any of their three road games in the knockout phase; they drew 0-0 in Donetsk, lost 3-1 at Porto, and lost 3-0 at Barcelona.

Match Facts

Arsenal should try to keep 11 players on the pitch.
Arsenal have met Bayern Munich on eight previous occasions, including consecutive meetings in the Round of 16 in 2013 and 2014. On both of those occasions, Bayern won at the Emirates; Arsenal were outscored a combined 5-1 in those two matches. Overall, Bayern have won four of the eight meetings; Arsenal have won twice and drawn twice.

Arsenal's last win over Bayern Munich in London came in the 2005 Round of 16, as Thierry Henry scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory; Munich advanced, however, having won the first leg 3-1 in Munich. In the second group stage in 2000, Arsenal blew a 2-0 lead at home against Munich and had to settle for a 2-2 draw.

Bayern do not have a great record all-time on English soil, however, winning five of their 20 trips. Arsenal, all-time, have 10 wins in 16 home matches against German competition.

The Referee

Hang on. I got this.
The match officials are from Turkey; the referee is Cuneyt Cakir. Astonishingly, even though Cakir has been working Champions League matches for six seasons now, this will be his first Arsenal match. He has previously taken charge of two Bayern Munich matches, both 2-0 wins for the Germans, against Villarreal in the 2011 group stage and against Roma in last year's group stage.

Cakir has refereed some prestigious matches over the course of his career, including the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup Final, which saw Corinthians defeat Chelsea 1-0, the 2014 World Cup semi-final between the Netherlands and Argentina, and last year's Champions League Final, which saw Barcelona defeat Juventus in Berlin.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: BATE Borisov v. Barcelona; Borisov Arena, Barysaw
  • Tuesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. Roma; BayArena, Leverkusen
  • Tuesday: Dinamo Zagreb v. Olympiacos; Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb
  • Tuesday: Porto v. Maccabi Tel Aviv; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Tuesday: Dynamo Kiev v. Chelsea; Olympic Stadium, Kiev
  • Tuesday: Zenit St. Petersburg v. Lyon; Petrovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
  • Tuesday: Valencia v. Gent; Mestalla, Valencia
  • Wednesday: Malmo v. Shakhtar Donetsk; Swedbank Stadion, Malmo
  • Wednesday: Paris St. Germain v. Real Madrid; Parc des Princes, Paris
  • Wednesday: CSKA Moscow v. Manchester United; Arena Khimki, Khimki
  • Wednesday: Wolfsburg v. PSV Eindhoven; Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg
  • Wednesday: Atletico Madrid v. Astana; Vicente Calderon, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Galatasaray v. Benfica; Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul
  • Wednesday: Juventus v. Borussia Monchengladbach; Juventus Stadium, Turin
  • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Sevilla; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and philosopher. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat , but WHY?

Watford 0-3 Arsenal: The Bounces Go Our Way

Photo: Getty Images

It wasn't a vintage Arsenal performance by any stretch of the imagination, but our main offensive cogs did the business when presented with some lucky chances in the Watford penalty area. Let's be honest, though - three points are welcome wherever they appear, however they choose to get there.

The starting XI were "as you were" from recent weeks, with the exception of Per Mertesacker drawing back into central defense in favor of the ailing Gabriel. The consistency didn't immediately help though, as a game Watford squad packed their penalty area and looked to counter with long balls over the top.

The Hornets boasted one of the stronger defenses in the league coming into this one, and they were especially aided and abetted by an atrocious refereeing performance by Mike Jones. Particularly, I would love hear the explanation for how Odion Ighalo got away with what was essentially a clothesline to Laurent Koscielny. It was one of those "accidentally-on-purpose" deals, especially when you note how he looked back to measure him up a second or two beforehand.

That's not to say that the home side were completely out it, though. Troy Deeney stung Petr Cech's palms with a long-range shot, and Igahlo would have been in alone on our keeper had Deeney been able to come up with any kind of proper square-ball.

Our guys carved out a few chances of their own though, the best of the lot probably a volley from Aaron Ramsey off a gorgeous cross from Alexis Sanchez. It wasn't an easy one to convert though, and the Welshman duly hammered it over the bar.

Other than that, their attacks were mostly dealt with by another boss-like performance from Koscielny, as well as some Neuer-esque goalkeeping from Cech.

As the second half wore on, the Gunners changed gears and started to target Watford left back Allan Nyom. Hector Bellerin in particular tormented him throughout the second period, to the extent that they eventually had to sub him off.

The goal was always coming, and it could have happened one of two ways on the play where we got it. Mesut Ozil was hacked down in the area, but before the spot-kick could be called, Alexis was there to lash one off the post and in.

Perhaps Watford's heads dropped there a bit, because the game was done and dusted a few minutes later. As the header indicates, we had some bounces go our way. This time, a shot from Ramsey in the penalty area pinballed out to the right, directly into the path of a wide-open Ozil. A simple cut-back to the substitute Olivier Giroud was imperiously swept in by the Frenchman. Game over.

Still, there was on nice moment to come, as the Welshman went some way towards answering his critics by ending his own scoreless streak. The goal was all Bellerin though, utilizing pace and power to storm down the right and shrug off his marker with arrogant ease. He cut it in to Ramsey, who managed to sneak one past Gomes and in. It wasn't pretty, but hopefully it will help our man's confidence.

If nothing else, we got a decent win against a game opponent, all while not necessarily clicking on all cylinders. We'll learn a lot about this team in midweek though, as the specter of Bayern Munich looms in the distance. I can't say I'm massively confident going in, but at least we're doing so on the back of a win.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Cech 8, Monreal 8, Koscielny 8, Mertesacker 7, Bellerin 9, Cazorla 8, Coquelin 8, Sanchez 9 (Oxlade-Chamberlain N/A), Ozil 8 (Arteta N/A), Ramsey 7, Walcott 7 (Giroud 8)

Man of the Match: You could easily give it to Alexis or Ozil or even Coquelin, but for me Hector Bellerin takes it with a brilliant overall performance.

Preview by Numbers: Watford v. Arsenal

Vicarage Road, Watford
Saturday, October 17
12:30 p.m. EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Richard West and Adrian Holmes
    • 4th Official: Kevin Friend
  • This Match, Last Time: Watford 1 - 2 Arsenal (December 26, 2006)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 11 Arsenal wins, 9 Watford wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-W-L-W-W
  • Watford's League Form: D-L-W-W-L-D
Alexis Sanchez has been on fire lately.
He would totally keep playing if he were literally engulfed
in flames. You know he would.
Arsenal could really use a little momentum right now; just look at their upcoming fixture list: Watford away tomorrow, Bayern at the Emirates on Tuesday, Everton at home next weekend, a cup tie at Sheffield Wednesday, the always tricky Swansea away, Bayern away in the reverse fixture, and then Spurs at home. That's two games per week from now until the November international break.

Arsenal had some momentum of course, when they stormed Manchester United out of the gate two weeks ago, leading 3-0 inside of 20 minutes. Then, the international break cooled some of that momentum.

It should be noted, however, that many Arsenal players put in some excellent shifts for their national sides: Alexis Sanchez scored three while hurt, Santi Cazorla had two for Spain, Olivier Giroud had two for France, Joel Campbell tallied, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored in separate England games, Aaron Ramsey scored for Wales, and Mesut Ozil had an assist for Germany.

If anything, it seems like Arsenal might still be firing on all cylinders. They'll need to be, because the next three to four weeks look overwhelming.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Koscielny (hamstring)

Laurent Koscielny faces a fitness test.
So, where were we with injuries before the break? Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, and Tomas Rosicky are out long-term. Laurent Koscielny missed the United game and France duty with a hamstring injury. Alexis picked up an adductor injury against United, then played 100,000 minutes for Chile. Our aging holding midfielders were both out nursing knocks.

So, where are we now? Not very far away from there. Laurent Koscielny faces a fitness test. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are both expected to be available for selection. Alexis Sanchez has been referred to as "OK" by Arsene Wenger, though the source on this is, apparently, a text from Alexis Sanchez. I am willing to believe Alexis would text Wenger he was fine while actively fighting an alligator if it meant he would selected to start a football match.

As for the XI, I expect no changes from the side that picked United apart, unless Koscielny passes fit. Arsenal do, of course, have the little manner of Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey, Alexis, Walcott.

Watford Squad News

Out: Ekstrand (knee)
Doubts: Nyom (knee,) Behrami (calf,) Anya (calf,) Doyley (neck,) Jurado (hamstring)

I've never been fond of Behrami's hair.
Valon Behrami is back from a three-match suspension after a red card against Swansea City, but his availability is in doubt as he's struggled with a calf strain. The Swiss international did not appear for the national side during this recent international break due to the injury.

The Hornets will be without Joel Ekstrand, who is out until at least January with a knee injury. There are Allon Nyom (knee,) Ikechi Anya (calf,) and Jurado (hamstring.) Lloyd Doyley has been out since undergoing neck surgery in May and lacks match fitness.

Tactically, Watford defend with a classic set-up of two banks of four, then either break or the wings or pump long balls to the forwards. Right back Allan Nyom is a 50/50 doubt with a knee injury and could be replaced by Juan Carlos Paredes. He could provide more of an offensive threat, along with his opposite wingback Nathan Ake, on loan from Chelsea.

The Hornets are anchored in midfield by Etienne Capoue, who will start in the middle along with Behrami, if he's fit, or Ben Watson, who deputized during Behrami's suspension.

Predicted XI: Gomes, Nyom, Cathcart, Prodl, Ake, Capoue, Behrami, Anya, Abdi, Deeney, Ighalo.

Current Form

At right is a chart I made of Arsenal's "roller coaster form" this season. It's completely subjective and based on general mood, so let me explain (and feel free to hate it). Also, I plan on talking about the line in the present tense while referring to the matches in the past tense, so English teachers might not want to read this at all:

It starts at the zero line. That line on the Y-axis is what I suppose is an average mood. It shoots up after the Community Shield win filled us all with optimism, then immediately plummets with the loss to West Ham. It rebounds a bit with a four match unbeaten run, and then things get really crazy.

Arsenal then lost to Dinamo Zagreb and Chelsea in absurd fashion, but responded with a North London derby win and a 5-2 thumping of previously unbeaten Leicester, so the line rebounded a little bit. Oh, but then a damaging loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League causes the line to plummet again. Then, a stirring performance against an in-form Manchester United made everyone optimistic again.

It's all bedlam.

Anyway, Watford, they're in 12th. They've strung together some decent results this season, though they did crash out of the League Cup at the first hurdle to Preston North End. Their league losses were to Manchester City and Crystal Palace, which isn't too shabby. They've earned wins against Swansea (decent!) and Newcastle (who hasn't!) and nabbed road draws at Everton (okay!) and Bournemouth (also okay!) They've also had to settle for home draws against West Brom and Southampton, both 0-0 draws played in August.

The Hornets have conceded only seven goals in league play this year, tying them for the best defensive record in the Premier League, with the likes of Arsenal, City, Palace, and Spurs. On the other hand, they've only scored six, tying them for the worst offensive record in the Premier League with West Brom and Newcastle.

Match Facts

Robin van Persie had the winner for Arsenal the last time
this fixture was played. I'm using this as an excuse to talk
about that hilarious own goal he scored this week.
Wasn't that hilarious?
Arsenal have a mixed-to-mediocre record against Watford all-time; in their 16 league encounters, Watford have won eight of them and Arsenal have won seven, with one draw. Of course, those were almost all in the 1980's, leaving them not very relevant to this particular fixture.

The Gunners have won five straight against the Hornets, though they have not met since Boxing Day in 2006, which I suppose also makes that statistic not very relevant to this particular fixture. In that match, a 2-1 Arsenal win, generic English-named forward Tommy Smith equalized for Watford after Gilberto Silva's opening goal; Robin van Persie won it for Arsenal in the 83rd.

From 1982 to 1988, Watford spent six years in the top flight, during which they did the league double over Arsenal three times. The Hornets' last win over Arsenal came on April 15, 1988, 1-0 at Highbury. Watford had earlier won 2-0 at Vicarage Road on what was my first birthday, November 28, 1987. Watford finished 20th that season of 22 teams in the First Division; it is the only time Arsenal have ever lost twice to a side that was eventually relegated.

The Referee

The referee is Chester-based Mike Jones. This will be Jones's first Arsenal match of the season, though he has taken charge of one Watford match this year; that was their season opening 2-2 draw at Goodison Park against Everton.

Last season, Arsenal had a record of three wins in three matches with Jones in charge, winning 3-0 at Aston Villa, 2-1 over Leicester City, and 2-1 at Newcastle United. Arsenal have won four straight with Jones in the middle overall, dating back to a 1-0 loss at Stoke in March of 2014, which the Potters won on a penalty.

Watford are unbeaten in their last four with Jones in the middle, though that spans a very long period of time considering Jones's promotion to the Select Group in 2008. Watford's last loss with Jones in the middle was a 3-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion in a Championship fixture on November 3, 2007.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Liverpool; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Aston Villa; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. West Ham United; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Everton v. Manchester United; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Bournemouth; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Leicester City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Sunderland; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (late): Newcastle United v. Norwich City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Monday (night): Swansea City v. Stoke City; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and consistent fourth place finisher at pub trivia. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to root for him the the pub trivia Champions League qualifier against Trabzonspor.

Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United: Blitzkreig

Manchester United's defense.

Seriously though, the boys sure did give us the best possible tonic after that horror show against Olympiacos, didn't they? This was Arsenal football at its finest - deadly counters performed at lightning speed, solid defending when the situation called for it, and top goalkeeping from Petr Cech. All we can ask for, really.

And, let's be honest - it was nice to stuff these bastards for once.

But, let's be careful not to read too much into this, either. It's funny, people always ask after a result like this: "Why can't we do this every game?".  Well, the short answer is that playing at that level is really bloody hard. When Arsenal eviscerate an opponent like this, take a second to notice in the buildup to each goal or chance just how many precision passes were required. By that, I don't just mean the pass itself - the recipient has to make the correct run, the delivery has to be perfect, then the finish has to be there. I realize that sometimes our guys make it look easy, but it's anything but.

That's the thing. When we're sputtering, the common trope is that we're just sideways-passing while 10 center halves sit in the opposing area. Yeah, sometimes that's true. But, just as often you have those instances where our passes are just that millimeter off, someone is late or forgets to make that one run, the defender sticks a hopeful leg out and manages to deflect the pass. All of a sudden, the precision workings of the machine get gummed up just enough to grind it all to a halt.

When it does work, however, how well the opposition plays is almost irrelevant. I've been reading a ton of analysis about how United's selection was wrong, they're too slow, they gave too much space, whatever. But, the whole point of a through-ball is that it advances you up the field in a manner that bypasses the defender entirely. I don't care if it's Usain Bolt, if you time it right, you've beaten that defensive layer. It's a riskier pass than one to feet, of course, but the benefits are there if you connect.

The point is, our boys produced 20 minutes of damn-near perfect football, and I'm not sure there's a team in the world (yes, including Bayern or Barcelona or Madrid) who would have been able to live with it on the day.

I'm so late with this that there's no point recapping the goals, you've all seen it by now. So, I wanted to briefly mention a few unsung heroes on each one.

  • The first goal doesn't happen without Francis Coquelin. The first foray down the right by Mesut Ozil and Hector Bellerin was repelled well by the United defense, but Le Coq was the one who won the ball back from the clearance. He then fed it out to Ozil, and you know the rest. Speaking of, David De Gea got caught cheating pretty bad there - he must not have seen Alexis Sanchez's run inside.
  •  Similarly to the first, the second goal's genesis was from a defensive win. This time, it was Laurent Koscielny who headed out a long ball forward from United, and it went far enough out to reach Santi Cazorla in midfield.
  • Aaron Ramsey was the guy who got the play going for the third, this time winning it along the sideline.

Actually, despite his glaring miss that should have made it 4-0, Ramsey had an OK game. His finishing has been letting him down lately, but on the day his movement and defensive work were on point. Along the same lines, this may have been the most complete performance that Theo Walcott has ever given us. The old trope about defense beginning with the forwards is a true one, and he was brilliant in that regard.

This performance aside, it'll be interesting to see how the Interlull affects the team's performance. The vague threat of an injury to Alexis looms, and maybe there might be a loss of momentum gained from thrashing a title rival. On the other hand, our form is generally a randomizer anyway, so your guess is as good as mine.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Cech 8, Monreal 8, Gabriel 8, Koscielny 8, Bellerin 8, Cazorla 8, Coquelin 8, Alexis 9 (Gibbs N/A), Ozil 9 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7), Ramsey 7, Walcott 8 (Giroud 7)

Man of the Match: Plenty of people to choose from this time, but despite the two goals from Alexis, I think I have to give it to the overall wizardry of Mesut Ozil. Sticking it to the haters, one performance like this at a time.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Manchester United

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, October 4
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Anthony Taylor
    • Assistants: John Brooks and Lee Betts
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 2 Manchester United
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 80 Arsenal wins, 93 United wins, 49 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-W-L-W
  • Manchester United's League Form: W-D-L-W-W-W
Contrary to popular belief, the Europa League has no teams
from the Jovian moon of Europa.
Ever since Tuesday night's debacle (which I missed due to work), I've been debating how the hell I should handle this opening section. Should I try to talk the masses off the ledge? Should I join the masses on the ledge? Should I try to rationalize Arsene Wenger's rotation?

Since my regular readers likely continue to read this piece largely thanks to my sense of humor, I have decided to scare you all with the following Europa League geography lesson. Here are the teams who are currently leading their Europa League groups:

A. Molde, from Norway, and not a type of fungus.
B. Sion, from Switzerland, not to be confused with Siam, which has been called Thailand since 1949.
C. Borussia Dortmund, who we are guaranteed to have to play at some point. That's just how Europe works.
D. Napoli, who we'll probably also have to play at some point. God, remember that Champions League group with us, them, and Dortmund? That was awful. They're actually tied at the top of Group D with Danish side Midtjylland, a club with far too many letters.
E. Rapid Wien, the fastest Wien in all of Vienna, which is called Wien in Austrian, which is not really a language (it's a variety of German.)
F. Braga. Remember that time we lost to Braga in their stadium that's half inside of a quarry?
G. Lazio, who are tied with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, which also has too many letters and why does it repeat Dnipro so many times? Are all of their players also named Dnipro?
H. Lokotomiv Moscow. Do they all ride trains everywhere? Okay, that one wasn't funny.
I. Basel, not basil.
J. Tottenham Hotspur. God, some of these team names don't even sound real.
K. SERIOUSLY, IT GOES UP TO K? Leading group K is Schalke. We've lost at home to them before.
L. Partizan Belgrade. They've been in our European group before, too. Not to be confused with Marzipan Belgrade, which is delicious.

So, who's ready for league leading Manchester United at the Emirates on Sunday?


Arsenal Squad News

Out: Koscielny (hamstring,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Arteta (thigh,) Flamini (hamstring)

Laurent Koscielny gets the hell out of there during Tuesday's
To add insult to injury... wait a minute, no, let me start that again...

To add injury to insult, Laurent Koscielny left Tuesday's loss with a hamstring problem that has ruled him out for this match. Thankfully there's an international break around the corner, since hamstring problems usually take at least two weeks for recovery. In addition, since Gabriel's ban was altered from three matches to zero matches to one match (served last Saturday at Leicester,) the Brazilian will be available start alongside Per Mertesacker.

Elsewhere, there are still doubts over the injured back-up holding midfielders, while the long-term injured remain long-term injured.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Walcott.

Manchester United Squad News

Out: Rojo (hamstring,) Shaw (leg)
Doubts: Herrera (knock,) Carrick (knock)

Listen, if Martial were that good, he would've scored at
the Emirates for Monaco. Everyone else did.
The Red Devils are obviously without Luke Shaw after his devastating double leg break suffered against PSV. They will also be without Marcos Rojo, who has a hamstring injury. Michael Carrick missed the midweek match against Wolfsburg, but he has returned to training. Ander Herrera is also a doubt with a knock of his own.

Tactically, this will be a match of two possession-based sides. Manchester United have the second-highest possession share in the league; only Arsenal has the ball more.

David de Gea has returned to the starting XI after his prolonged transfer saga ended with him signing a long-term contract extension. The backline could be a little shakier for Louis van Gaal's side, with Shaw and Rojo both injured. Antonio Valencia started there in midweek but was removed at halftime. This likely means Daley Blind will slide out to left back with Phil Jones returning to partner Chris Smalling in the center of defense.

Carrick's knock means United will likely start both Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the holding roles. Juan Mata will start on the right with Memphis Depay on the left; both like to drift into the middle with possession, which Swansea exploited in their 2-1 win over United in August. Up top, Wayne Rooney will sit deep behind Anthony Martial, who is the new Super Pele, or something.

Predicted XI: De Gea, Blind, Jones, Smalling, Darmian, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Depay, Mata, Rooney, Martial.

Current Form

This team was unstoppable.
I mentioned in my last preview that it took Arsenal until the end of October of last season to finally reach three straight victories across all competitions and... well... it looks like it'll be the same this time around! At best!

Avid readers of the blog will remember that last week, I tried to come up with a term to describe how topsy-turvy Arsenal's season has been. As you'll recall, I didn't come up with one. Then, this week, everything got even more topsy-turvy.

Big win on Saturday, embarrassing loss on Tuesday. MAKE UP YOUR MIND!

As for Manchester United, well, they are now the greatest team since sliced bread again. Man, remember that season, when Sliced Bread F.C. were almost unbeatable and won the league in, like, March? ... What's that? ... ... oh, I'm being told I'm thinking of Bayern Munich...

Anyway, United have won four straight across all competitions since their Champions League matchday one loss to PSV Eindhoven. In Premier League play, they have won three straight since losing to Swansea; in the process, they've climbed to the top of the table, one point clear of their cross-city rival.

Match Facts

Theo Walcott celebrates the 82nd minute equalizer at Old
Trafford last May that he did not get credit for scoring.
It was a Tyler Blackett own goal.
Arsenal won a big match against Manchester United in the FA Cup last year, but have not beaten the Red Devils in the league since May of 2011. Arsenal took one of a possible six league points from United last year, drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford in May after losing this corresponding fixture 2-1 in November.

In that November match, Arsenal had over 61% of the possession and generated nine shots on target, but a Kieran Gibbs own goal in a massively unlucky sequence gave the visitors the lead against the run of play. Wojciech Szczesny was injured in that sequence, forcing Emiliano Martinez into his first Premier League appearance; United made it 2-0 from a counterattack in the 85th before Olivier Giroud, himself returning from injury, pulled one back in added time to make the scoreline more respectable. David de Gea, playing with a dislocated finger, made eight saves.

Prior to that loss, Arsenal and Manchester United had played out two straight draws in their fixture at the Emirates: 1-1 in April of 2013 and 0-0 in February of 2014, the former of which came after United had already won the league and the latter coming just days after Arsenal's lopsided defeat at Anfield.

In 2006/07, Arsenal won both league meetings between the sides. Since that year, across all competitions, United have met Arsenal 21 times. Arsenal have won three of those matches, drawn five, and lost 13.

The Referee

Arsenal have had some very bad results with Anthony
Taylor in the past, though it's almost been a year since
their last loss with him in charge.
The referee is Cheshire-based Anthony Taylor. In 2015 (the calendar year), Arsenal are unbeaten with Taylor as the referee, winning three and drawing one. That includes a 5-0 win over Aston Villa, a 4-1 win over Liverpool, and the Community Shield win over Chelsea back in August. He also took charge of the 0-0 draw with Sunderland at the end of last season, but it's not exactly his fault Arsenal forgot how to score at home.

Of course, everyone's memories of Taylor are clouded by the Arsenal matches he worked before that: the season opening debacle against Aston Villa in 2013 and the 3-2 loss at Stoke last year. Then again, the last time I tried to convince you Arsenal no longer had a bad record with a specific referee, it was Mike Dean, and we all know how that game went; that wound is still pretty fresh.

As for Manchester United, they won twice and lost once with Taylor last season, beating Hull City and Newcastle while losing to West Bromwich Albion in May.

This appointment is not without controversy. While he's currently based in Cheshire, Anthony Taylor was born in Wythenshawe, in Greater Manchester, and this is the first time in his career he'll be working a Manchester United match involving another title contender.

So, you know, I guess you should get your conspiracy theory tin foil hats ready.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Crystal Palace v. West Bromwich Albion; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Stoke City; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Watford; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Newcastle United; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Leicester City; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. West Ham United; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Southampton; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (early): Everton v. Liverpool; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Swansea City v. Tottenham Hotspur; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and was eliminated from the Europa League in the first qualifying round. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to commiserate.