Back Arsenal to fire title warning with victory over Manchester United on SundayPublished February 18, 2016
With the end of the football season now in sight, any points won and lost in matches from this stage of the campaign could have a huge significance in the final outcome.
For Manchester United nothing less than a win here will really do in terms of keeping their ever decreasing hopes of a top four finish alive in the Premier League. For the Gunners, victory here would further strengthen their position as current title favourites, yet defeat could potentially see them fall five-points adrift of Leicester City at the top of the table.
It’s certainly not a bad time to be playing Manchester United, with an injury-list of the length that one would more normally associate with the Gunners at this time of year and with Louis Van Gaal seemingly only still in his job as a result of uncertainty among the Old Trafford hierarchy as to who should succeed him.
David De Gea should certainly be available in goal, but it looks touch and go for Phil Jones and Adnan Januzaj. None of the other current injury absentees look to be in the running for the game. As for Arsenal, Gabriel Paulista could be available, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain must be a doubt after going off early in the second-half against Barcelona. With Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky all still sidelined, there would be a slight concern with regards to midfield cover.
Manchester United avoided a potential banana skin in Monday’s 3-0 FA Cup win at Shrewsbury Town, but they struggled to breakdown limited opposition until a slightly fortuitous Chris Smalling strike gave them breathing space. Thursday’s Europa League tie at home to FC Midtjylland will provide a sterner test, although coming through it without any further injuries is almost as important as the result.
Arsenal gave their all in Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League defeat at home to Barcelona, but they should have sufficient time to recuperate from chasing Lionel Messi and co. The reality is that their Champions League ambitions are dead for another year, so they can now concentrate on their domestic goals.
This will be Manchester United’s third game over the course of the last seven days and they will also have had two fewer days rest between their last game and this match than Arsenal. With a squad decimated by injury, growing doubts as to the manager’s future and confidence in the camp low, they really are there for the taking.
Arsenal might still be licking their wounds after Tuesday, but they possess the overall quality not to miss this opportunity.