Arsenal: 3 Things to Look Out for Against Manchester United

Arsenal, Shkodran Mustafi (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Shkodran Mustafi (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images) /

Arsenal travel to Manchester United on Sunday in the Premier League.

These are the matches that as fans provide the biggest buzz. It isn’t always a warming, tingling feeling, and in this instance it more closely resembles an actual bee buzzing around your head ready to sting you and leave you in agony for a few hours. With Arsenal we never know what to expect.

Or do we?

We’re 14 years into a run that has boasted a full zero Premier League victories at Old Trafford, with one of the few inevitable aspects of Arsenal being that trips away to the big six tend to fall flat and leave us sulking in our sofas for a week. No doubt it’s the latter buzz we’re feeling this time around.

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Even the most staunch supporter will be fearing the worst on Sunday, as blind optimists begrudgingly morph into all-seeing realists.

Can Arsenal win? Absolutely they can. Plenty of variables need to work in our favour to garner a positive result, but there are a handful as aspects we can expect to see regardless of the outcome.

Thomas Partey Getting Stuck in

Much of the deserved criticism Arsenal have faced in away fixtures such as these are a perceived lack of steel. Weak in challenges, out-muscled on the ball and mentally frail, the battle of the mind in Arsenal vs Manchester United is always the first hurdle to overcome.

The reason why Arsenal have been successful in the past when facing the Red Devils is partially down to that very reason. Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell are just a few of the names who posed obstacles outside of matters actually on the pitch. The old adage of letting the opponent know they’re in a game rings true here.

If you fear the team in the tunnel that’ll transfer onto the pitch.

Many of these United players have played Arsenal sides lacking that presence in midfield. Someone who isn’t going to coast through 90 minutes and shy away from a tackle. Even walking onto the pitch, the United players will be aware of a different challenge facing them. Thomas Partey will offer that, and follow through on the pitch.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Partey test the referee’s early resolve with a hefty challenge, followed by a the ruffling of multiple feathers over the course of the 90. Be physical, press the ball and make the opponent well aware they’ve got a battle on their hands.

Manchester United Winning a Penalty

A case of when, not if.

The formula is quite simple. No need for a plethora of ingredients or an extensive recipe, there are two elements to it: Shkodran Mustafi and Manchester United.

Throw in a dash of carelessness and recklessness to the routine nature of United’s spot-kick awarding and you have match made in hell.

Mustafi could have a blinder on Sunday. Really. He may become a German Goliath and embark on a one-man mission to clear every ball that comes within 20 yards of Bernd Leno, or he could be his usual calamitous self who is an open invitation for any one of Solskjaer’s side to dangle a leg in and around his presence.

Bruno Fernandes penalty after 90 seconds, anyone?

Arsenal, Mikel Arteta
Arsenal, Mikel Arteta (Photo by MICHAEL STEELE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Mikel Arteta Getting a Response From Arsenal

There has to be one. Victory over Dundalk on Thursday doesn’t count: ten different players and far more beatable opposition. Facing United on their own patch at any point is daunting, but given their rich vein of form and Arsenal’s well-publicised attacking complications, the task facing them is fierce.

But that doesn’t warrant defeatism. I can’t see Arsenal winning on Sunday for more than the above reasons, but there will be periods in the game where the visitors enjoy large spells of possession, and what they do in these moments has to be improved from the Leicester defeat. Arteta will not allow another feeble offensive display – even if it may be beyond his control – so drilling those players in their job roles and garnering a positive reaction from them is the least he’ll demand.

Points in the game where the players step up to the plate and take responsibility will be forthcoming. You can lose and game of football but still produce a positive display.

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How long Arsenal can maintain those levels and what advantage they can take from them is another matter. There will be a response, but will it be enough?