A true test of Arsenal’s mettle commences on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford, as an improving Manchester United side welcome the Gunners to the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League.
Erik ten Hag’s side ran out narrow 1-0 winners over Leicester City on Thursday evening, while the Gunners continued their winning streak with a 2-1 success over Aston Villa.
Manchester United’s Jadon Sancho celebrates scoring their first goal with Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes on September 1, 2022
While the rest of the footballing landscape continued to be gripped by the twists and turns of transfer deadline day, Manchester United and Leicester City took centre stage on the King Power field, and the Red Devils’ recent resurgence would deservedly continue.
Jadon Sancho’s finish on the 23-minute mark secured a third Premier League win on the bounce for Man United, who are seeking to consign their torrid start to the season to history, and the defensive nous that Ten Hag’s side demonstrated on Thursday was a sight for sore eyes for the home fans.
Three consecutive wins over Liverpool, Southampton and now Leicester have lifted Man United up to fifth in the table with nine points gleaned from the opening 15 on offer, but a mere five goals is the lowest tally out of any team in the top half.
Ten Hag may have spent all of Thursday preparing his players for battle in Leicester, but the Red Devils hierarchy continued to work behind the scenes until the 11pm transfer deadline and officially welcomed Antony and Martin Dubravka to Old Trafford ahead of the visit of Arsenal.
Seeking to find the back of the net in a Premier League home fixture for the eighth game in a row, Man United ought to pay no attention to the fact that they have suffered three consecutive top-flight defeats in games played on a Sunday, even if Arsenal have been a different beast so far.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on August 27, 2022
It was very nearly a whirlwind 24 hours for Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, who scored direct from a corner against Arsenal before being involved in a deadline-day transfer saga, but the Gunners’ attempts to prise him away from the West Midlands did not bear fruit.
Nevertheless, Mikel Arteta’s summer business has already paid dividends to the maximum in the Premier League, and while Luiz managed to cancel out Gabriel Jesus’s opener on Wednesday night, Gabriel Martinelli was on hand to tuck home the winner 151 seconds later.
The Gunners should have arguably been four or five goals to the good in the first half alone, but by continuing their theme of responding quickly after conceding, Arteta’s side remain the only team in the Premier League with a 100% record still intact.
As a result, Arsenal are sitting pretty at the top of the pile – two points clear of reigning champions Manchester City – but the Gunners’ return to European football is imminent as they travel to Zurich for their maiden Europa League tie next week.
Not since the 1947-48 campaign have Arsenal opened a top-flight season with six successive wins, and they went all the way to title glory that year, but Old Trafford is not a happy hunting ground for the North London club, who have won just one of their last 15 Premier League outings away to Man United.
Manchester United Premier League form:
Arsenal Premier League form:
Ajax attacker Antony pictured in February 2022
Following confirmation of his £85.4m move from Ajax, Antony could be at Ten Hag’s disposal for the weekend, while Dubravka ought to take his place on the bench as he prepares to provide backup and competition to David de Gea.
Antony will surely only be considered for minutes as a substitute as well, and his namesake Anthony Martial represents one of a number of injury woes for the hosts, who also have Facundo Pellistri and Brandon Williams out of contention.
Full-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw were also absent from the win over Leicester due to minor complaints and will need assessing in the coming hours, but Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia should be in no danger of losing their places.
Being able to bring Casemiro and Cristiano Ronaldo off the bench is a luxury for any manager, but Ten Hag should certainly consider fielding the two ex-Real Madrid men from the off, especially with the latter scoring both home and away against the Gunners last term.
Meanwhile, Arsenal midfield duo Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are facing a good chunk of time out with thigh injuries, which triggered Arsenal’s unsuccessful pursuit of a new engine room enforcer on deadline day.
Youthful attacker Reiss Nelson is sidelined for the long term, and Arteta will also need to assess Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard, both of whom sustained knocks in the midweek success over Aston Villa.
Ramsdale managed to complete the full 90 and will hope to be fine to take his place in goal, but Emile Smith Rowe is on standby should Odegaard’s ankle problem force his withdrawal from the starting lineup.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is yet to return to team training following a knee injury and is set to miss out again, while Albert Sambi Lokonga should hold his place in the middle after a solid midweek showing.