Manchester United will be without five senior players for the visit of Arsenal.
It’s not a competition, but Arsenal have nearly that many just at centre-back, let alone the rest of the squad. Yet when you travel to a stadium devoid of top-flight titillation for 14 years, you’ll take anything you can get.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are on cloud nine, it seems. Having been embroiled in a cataclysmic ‘crisis’ what felt like yesterday, all now appears rosy again.
It’s almost as if it wasn’t actually that catastrophic, and instead just an spoiled overreaction to not being able close the deal on a £108m forward who’ll they’ll just sign next summer anyway. Moving on.
Recently they’ve wiped the floor with RB Leipzig, gone to Paris and put the Champions League finalists to the sword, put out a weakened side at Newcastle and still won, and hosted Chelsea in a pragmatic, yet measured, borefest that secured them a point. A (very) solid run of results.
So with five injuries to contend with, Arsenal might be in luck.
Well, not entirely. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are two of them and wouldn’t play anyway, while Jesse Lingard is the other – there are meerkats closer to the United starting lineup than him. At least we’ll be spared him coming on in the 95th, scoring and doing something desperately irritating.
What is in Arsenal’s favour is the other two absences. Anthony Martial is serving the final game of his three-match ban for caressing Erik Lamela’s face, meaning we could see one of either Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford or Edinson Cavani lead the line. All three will likely play in some capacity.
Summer signing Alex Telles is the final absentee, as he has contracted COVID-19 and can play no part, meaning it’ll be Luke Shaw for one of Willian or Nicolas Pepe to run at. Shaw’s defensive capabilities are debatable but he had his best game of the season in the victory over Die Roten Bullen, perfectly timed form for Arsenal’s trip north. As ever.
However, it’s not so much the opposition that Arsenal should be concerned with. Ensuring Shkodran Mustafi doesn’t humiliate himself and making the right movements in attack for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to feed off is where Mikel Arteta must shift his focus. It’s going to be a tough game. Make no bones about it.