A home game against Arsenal is always a significant game for Manchester United but the fact that a loss could see us fall 11 points behind them at the top of the Premier League means it is one of the most important clashes against Arsenal for a long time.
As has always been the case with Arsenal, their pass-and-move midfield is what they base their football ethos around and David Moyes faces a real dilemma when it comes to his tactics and team selection in midfield.
For the majority of the season, Moyes has chosen to play two in the middle but up against a mobile and dynamic Arsenal midfield, he may be wiser to play with a three man midfield like he has at points this season because there is a real risk that United would be overrun in a 4-4-2.
Arsenal’s ability to exploit the space between the defence and midfield is a big worry if United play two two in the middle and adopting a 4-3-3 could solve that problem.
Then the dilemma extends to who Moyes plays. It isn’t known whether Michael Carrick or Tom Cleverley will be fit to start while Marouane Fellaini has struggled to find consistent form but there is one player who should definitely be in the midfield against Arsenal – Phil Jones.
Against the likes of Tottenham and Real Madrid last year, Jones was used to mark Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo out of the game, something he did with aplomb. However, against Arsenal Moyes may be wiser to ask him to sit in front of the defence to give our centre backs protection rather than have him man mark someone.
The ideal partnership to play in front of him would be Carrick and Cleverley. Tom thrives in a midfield three when his defensive responsibilities are smaller as it allows him to focus on bringing the ball forward and having Carrick alongside him would give United a real presence in midfield. Moyes may prefer Marouane Fellaini or be forced to play him due to fitness issues.
In Europe, Moyes has shown his tactical nous and versatility on the whole. In the Premier League, there have been some very flat performances but up against an in form and confident Arsenal, United can’t afford to give them the onus to attack us through the middle by playing a two man midfield.