EPL Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Manchester United
Arsenal performed gallantly against Udinese in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League qualification playoff to ensure the Gunners' presence will be felt in Europe during 2011-12. However the celebrations are short-lived as Arsene Wenger's men take on rivals and reigning Premier League champions Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The bitter rivals and English giants always produce entertaining, intense and controversial encounters, and that is certain to be the case come Sunday. It has been opposite starts for both sides, as expected Sir Alex Ferguson has managed his side to two wins from two, with convincing victories against West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham.
Arsenal on the other hand have struggled, particularly due to injuries, suspensions and transfers. The North London giants have a mere point from their two encounters with a draw against Newcastle and a recent loss to Liverpool.
However there have been positive signs for the Gunners despite their woes and their performance mid-week showed they are still a force to be wary of even with the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
However Italian giants Udinese are no opponents like Manchester United and it will be a tough task containing the in-form champions. Few are giving Wenger's men any chance of victory due to an array of factors but one thing is for sure, the whole of England and probably world football will be watching these two footballing giants.
BleacherReport predicts the Arsenal starting XI.
Wojciech Szczesny continued his outstanding run of form with a superb performance against Udinese. The young Polish shot-stopper has been in sublime form since the 2011-12 campaign and Wenger is certain to maintain Szczesny's presence.
Countryman Lukasz Fabianski will continue to deputize whilst youngster Vito Mannone continues in the reserves. Veteran Manuel Almunia still possesses an uncertain future but many expect the Spaniard to depart before the summer transfer window closes. Youngster James Shea in on loan at League 2 outfit Dagenham & Redbridge.
England international is still nursing a hamstring injury sustained two weeks ago and will not feature which enables deputy Armand Traore to make his first start at left back for Arsenal in the Premier League since 2009. French defender Laurent Koscielny has returned from a niggling back complaint and is expected to return to the fray.
Koscielny will partner defensive leader and hero Thomas Vermaelen in the centre half with renowned Frenchman Bacary Sagna returning to right back after covering for Gibbs on the left. Teenager Carl Jenkinson will return to the bench whilst Johan Djourou will also endure demotion after Koscielny's return.
Spanish teenager Ignasi Miguel is also set to receive a place on the bench whilst the diminishing Sebastien Squillaci continues to miss out.
Samir Nasri completed his £25 million move to Manchester City ensuring no more lingering rumours for the Gunners. Wenger is faced with a huge dilemma, key defensive midfielder Alexandre Song is suspended after his three-match ban from the opening day of the season whilst deputy Emmanuel Frimpong is also suspended after receiving a red card against Liverpool.
Furthermore PFA Young Player of the Year Jack Wilshere is still enduring an ankle complaint which has restricted him since the start of the season. This ensures highly rated Englishman Henri Lansbury will take on the defensive duties in his first Premier League start for the club, whilst Wales captain Aaron Ramsey will continue in the void left by Cesc Fabregas.
Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky is set to receive the final midfield role whilst Abou Diaby is still injured with an ankle problem.
Captain Robin van Persie will continue to perform as the lone striker but in-form summer signing Gervinho is still enduring suspension from the opening day of the campaign. This ensures English speed machine Theo Walcott will play on the right wing and Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin will be on the left.
Imposing Moroccan Marouane Chamakh will take a role on the bench alongside teenage wing sensations Ryo Miyaichi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are yet to debut for the club since joining in 2011.
Danish sharpshooter Nicklas Bendtner is still searching for a new club and is unlikely to be considered.
With seven places on Wenger's bench, Lukasz Fabianski is the backup keeper with Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miguel the bench defenders and Carl Jenkinson, who has a chance to start with Armand Traore returning to the bench and Sagna shifting to the right.
Marouane Chamakh, Ryo Miyaichi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be the impact attackers.
A weakened Arsenal side due to injuries and suspensions, what will become of them against the ferocious Manchester United?
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