How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Manchester United

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIFebruary 12, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United competes with Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 10, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

After Chelsea dropped points against West Brom, Arsenal have the opportunity to quickly erase all memory of their 5-1 demolition at the feet of Liverpool last weekend.

That chance will come against Manchester United, a side that could hardly be struggling for form more than they currently are. During a season when Arsene Wenger has been exalted for leading Arsenal back to title contention, David Moyes has become a laughing stock for paving the Gunners' way.

Still, Manchester United have not had a difficult time beating Arsenal in recent seasons. Even as Moyes' collapse was commencing in November, United found a way to knock off a dominant Arsenal side at Old Trafford.

Now both sides are mentally damaged.

One would think United have sustained more trauma recently than Arsenal, despite the latter's horror show at the weekend. Their draw at home to last-placed Fulham on Sunday was perhaps more heartbreaking than their previous result: a 2-1 loss to Stoke.

Their Champions League chase appears to be done, but Arsenal smell opportunity after the team they had handed the top spot to promptly allowed them a way back in.

Beating Manchester United would vault the Gunners to 58 points; one above Chelsea, who drew 1-1 with West Brom yesterday. It would also signify that Arsenal are capable of performing against elite opposition and would signal a true rekindling of this great rivalry.

Here's how Arsene Wenger might send his team out to accomplish this end. A few interesting notes follow.


One will notice that this is the exact same starting XI that was put to the sword against Liverpool, with a solitary exception: Kieran Gibbs replaces Nacho Monreal at left-back.

Monreal was but a part of the disaster last weekend, but he has been defensively shaky in recent matches and it is time to give Gibbs, who has been stellar for much of this season, a deserved chance.

The Spaniard was only brought into the starting XI as a replacement for the slightly injured Gibbs and allowed to keep his place as long as he maintained his form and Gibbs was not 100 percent fit.

Well there is little doubt that he's fit now, and Monreal has not remained convincing.

Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker start in the center of defense, as always. They will surely have thoroughly studied Manchester United's intricately complex attacking strategy.


At the back of midfield, Mikel Arteta will almost certainly continue in place of Mathieu Flamini, who stupidly got himself suspended against Southampton. This will be the final game of his suspension.

It's a good thing for Arsenal that the Frenchman is on his way back. Arteta has looked slow and off the pace for much of this season, unable to be defensively tenacious enough to screen the back four while distributing the ball.

He'll need to be excellent to stymie Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie.

Then there's Mesut Ozil.

The German has been the subject of considerable debate since his lackadaisical disaster of a performance against Liverpool, in which he was directly responsible for the concession of two goals, awakened many to his awful form.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18:  Mesut Ozil of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Fulham at Emirates Stadium on January 18, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Suggestions that Ozil should be dropped are not entirely off the mark, at least on merit. But as long as he is healthy, his quality is such that he must play against just the sort of opponent he was brought in to unlock.

Arsene Wenger almost always plays his best players against teams as good as Manchester United, regardless of their form. While Tomas Rosicky's boundless energy would be very helpful, a motivated Ozil is probably the best weapon Arsenal have.

He and the rest of the team must completely reverse the shockingly poor attitude that handed last weekend's match to Liverpool.

If they do, we might be in for an electric night at the Emirates and a new Premier League leader.


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