Arsenal and Manchester United will clash at the Emirates Stadium in what will undoubtedly be a thrilling affair. As a game with plenty of history behind it, this particular meeting may prove to be an especially important encounter.
A Crucial Match for Both Arsenal and Manchester United
Arsenal Eager to Prove Credentials
Since their Boxing Day win over Chelsea, Arsenal have been on a good run of form in the league. The only criticism that could be made of this improvement, is the level of opposition. Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, and West Bromwich Albion have not been the hardest teams to beat this season. A game against Manchester United may prove to be something of a litmus test.
If Arsenal can beat Manchester United, it may signal that their improvement goes beyond their ability to beat weaker opponents. In all fairness, Arsenal have enjoyed an improvement in underlying numbers since the Chelsea game. Expected goals scored have risen, and expected goals allowed have dropped.
The reason why Manchester United in particular signal a test is their prolific away form. As of right now, United are on a streak of 17 away games without a loss. This is a joint-record for the club, one they will be looking to take outright.
A win for Arsenal may support suggestions of reaching a turning point. It may just provide a springboard for a strong second half of the season.
Manchester United Looking to Bounce Back
In something of a cliché, Manchester United are going into the game looking to rally. An anaemic showing at Old Trafford led to a 2-1 loss to Sheffield United. Having been in a strong run form, it will be interesting to see how Manchester United react.
In recent years, the Emirates has not been the happiest hunting ground for Manchester United in the Premier League. In the 2019/20 season, Mikel Arteta took his first victory as a manager and will be looking to repeat the feat. Barring a 3-1 win in the 2017/18 season, United have lost their away match at Arsenal in every season since 2015/16.
If Manchester United lose to Arsenal, a wobble may quickly turn into a worry. They will certainly be looking to allay these fears.
Arsenal Hoping to Enter Fight for Top Six
At first glance, this may seem strange to suggest given that Arsenal find themselves in ninth place entering the weekend. Upon inspecting the mess that is the Premier League table, this seems less bizarre.
Only ten points stand between ninth-placed Arsenal and second-placed Manchester United. A win for Arsenal sees them take a chunk out of a rival, and cut the deficit to seven. Of course, this means that a loss turns the gap into a somewhat more intimidating thirteen points.
Perhaps a ten-point gap is the perfect knife edge difference. Anything less feels achievable and anything more feels intimidating.
If Arsenal can pull off a win, they are firmly tossing their hat into the ring for the European places.
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