Two traditional powerhouses of English football, though far from their former glory right now, come face-to-face on Thursday in a New Year Premier League fixture. Arsenal are set to host Manchester United at the Emirates stadium in what is set to be a vital encounter for both sides.
Arsenal, with just 24 points from 20 matches, are going through their worst start to a season in around 40 years. The Gunners are still looking for their first win under new manager Mikel Arteta who has overseen a draw and a loss so far. Manchester United, seven points ahead of their opponents, are still searching for consistency under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Red Devils have been a mixed bag under the Norwegian manager, defeating the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City but falling to teams like Watford. However, their record against big teams under Solskjaer has been nothing short of exemplary and they wil look to continue that against Arsenal.
Arsenal are coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to Chelsea on Sunday and Arteta will want his team to bounce back with a fitting win against United. Against Chelsea, Arsenal carried out their game plan brilliantly at the start, surging into the lead before defending stoutly until the very end when an error from Bernd Leno helped Jorginho equalise. Tammy Abraham would go on to score a winner, capitalising on a panicked Arsenal defence.
Arteta will want his defence to get their act together and see out games, especially against a pacy front-three of Manchester United which has been in-form of late. There is an injury worry for Arteta after Callum Chambers was taken off against Chelsea. Shkodran Mustafi should partner David Luiz in central defence and will have a huge role to play.
In attack, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be expected to deliver yet again. The Gabonese striker has been a beacon of consistency in an otherwise average season and he has also found the net against Man United in the last two meetings between the sides. However, the key player should be Mesut Ozil. The German attacking midfielder has suddenly become a key figure under Arteta, starting both games under him. He has unsurprisingly created more chances than any other Arsenal player since Arteta took charge.
United need to ensure Ozil does not find space to operate in midfield. However, the absence of Scott McTominay who is injured will likely affect the team's balance. Nemanja Matic could get a look in and Paul Pogba is expected to feature as well. While United's defence has a settled feel about them, they are prone to conceding silly goals with David De Gea in shaky form between the sticks.
However, the key men should be Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford for Manchester United. They have pace to burn, the ability to beat defenders and have been among the goals lately. Rashford, in particular, will be looking to score given that he has gone eight games without scoring against the Gunners.
The Gunners have a terrible record at home this season and are in danger of losing five consecutive games at home in all competitions for the first time in their history. They will hope their exemplary record during New Year's fixtures traditionally will help them avoid such an embarrassment - when playing their first league game of a calendar year at home, Arsenal haven’t lost since 1985.
Arsenal are also unbeaten in their last three Premier League meetings against Man Utd but the Red Devils will be keen to change that.