Arsenal host Manchester United at the Emirates in a game both sides will be desperate to win after disappointing results at the weekend acted as huge setbacks in their respective league campaigns.
United conceded late on as Fulham snatched a point at Old Trafford on Sunday but that doesn’t exactly tell the full story of a match in which no players in a Red shirt stepped up.
David Moyes has come under more pressure since for the tactics used on the day, least not for Fulham defender Dan Burn’s admitting he had never dealt with so many headers since his playing days in the Conference.
Sunday’s disappointing draw was the latest in a string of poor results and United have been in dire form since the turn of the year, having won just twice in their last nine games – hardly a record of a team who should be scrapping tooth and nail to squeeze into the final Champions League place after a dismal campaign, let alone one who went into the season as the defending champions.
United are 21 points and 19 goals worse off than at this stage last season and are likely to be without Jonny Evans and Phil Jones, as well as long-term injury victims Maroaune Fellaini and Nani. Tom Cleverley, who claimed he had been the ‘scapegoat’ for United’s poor form, could come back into the side for Darren Fletcher.
Arsenal barely got out of the blocks at the weekend against Liverpool and found themselves four goals down inside 20 minutes. The attitude of some players has been called into question, particularly that of record signing Mesut Ozil, who has struggled for form of late and Arsenal will be determined to bounce back after surrendering the lead at the summit of the Premier League at the weekend.
The Gunners have won four games in their last six and have kept a quite incredible ten clean sheets in their last eleven home games at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger’s side are just a point behind leaders Chelsea and a win could put them back on top if results go their way.
Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen remain sidelined for the hosts and Mathieu Flamini serves the final game of a three game suspension. Kieran Gibbs should come into the side after beginning the 5-1 defeat at Liverpool on the bench while veteran midfielder Tomas Rosicky may push for a starting berth after coming on as a sub at Anfield.
United beat Arsenal at home 2-1 last season and drew 1-1 at the Emirates, where Theo Walcott’s quick-fire opener cancelled out by a Robin van Persie penalty. Van Persie was again the difference maker against his former club earlier this season, with his powerful first half header and subsequent explosion of passion one of the highlights of a dreadful season for United fans.
The 31-year-old Dutchman, who has scored three goals in his last three games since returning from injury has scored in the last five meetings between the two sides, twice as an Arsenal player and three times for United. He could cause plenty of problems for former teammates Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny if afforded adequate service by his teammates.
Arsenal last beat United in May 2011 but few expect anything but a victory for the title-chasing Gunners on Wednesday night. Moyes has not won a single game away from home against the traditional top four and his away day hoodoo looks set to continue with his side not looking anywhere near good enough to beat Wenger’s in-form men.
The Frenchman will be looking for a reaction from his players in front of their home crowd and it would take something of a minor miracle for United to get a victory from the game.
A draw may be attainable if United can absorb pressure for large periods of the game but even that could mean losing even more ground on Everton, Spurs and Liverpool above us.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United