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Dublin: 5°C Monday 18 January 2021

5 talking points ahead of Arsenal against Man United this evening

We look ahead to Saturday’s evening kick-off as both sides attempt to kick-start their season.

Wayne Rooney was in fantastic form for England recently.
Wayne Rooney was in fantastic form for England recently.
Image: Nick Potts

1. Can Arsenal maintain unbeaten home record?

ARSENAL MAY HAVE had an underwheming start to the season by their standards, however they have still managed to keep their unbeaten home record intact.

Since the start of the season, Arsene Wenger’s side have won twice and drawn three times at the Emirates, compared with two wins, two draws and two losses away.

Moreover, all of Arsenal’s wins have come against teams in the bottom seven, so they won’t exactly be firm favourites to topple United on Saturday evening.

In addition, the Gunners have a poor record against the Red Devils, losing just one of their last 14 encounters with them.

2. How makeshift will the Man United team be?

Man United could be without as many as 13 first-team players for Saturday’s match, with an abundance of their players picking up knocks while on international duty.

In attack, Angel Di Maria is a concern, while their problematic defence is also set to be put under further pressure, with Rafael, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones doubts for the game.

Full-back Luke Shaw, however, has urged the side’s second-string players to thrive in the absence of their higher-profile counterparts, saying:

“I think it’s time for people to step up… The players who are not getting game time, who are frustrated on the bench, can come in for a massive game like Arsenal that everyone will want to play in.”

3. Can Danny Welbeck come back to haunt his old club?

Belgium Soccer Champions League Source: Yves Logghe

(Danny Welbeck has scored two league goals since joining Arsenal)

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As impressive as Danny Welbeck has been in the Champions League and at international level of late, the striker will feel he can play better in domestic games.

Since moving to the Gunners, the 23-year-old has scored just two Premier League goals.

Against United — the club that let him go just prior to the transfer window’s closure — Welbeck will be especially desperate to add to his tally.

And perhaps he needs to come good more so for his own sake than to get revenge on his former employers, as fellow striker Olivier Giroud has returned to fitness ahead of schedule, and so will likely be competing with Welbeck for a place in the side sooner rather than later.

4. Who will replace Daley Blind?

United suffered a big blow recently with news that influential midfielder Daley Blind was likely to be out for a considerable period.

However, unlike their inexperienced defence, midfield is at least one area where they are hardly short of options.

Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini (among others) could all easily slot into the central midfield positions in the Dutchman’s absence.

Nevertheless, whether any of these players can be as proficient as Blind remains to be seen — the Dutch international’s tackling and masterful reading of the play has quickly endeared him to the Old Trafford faithful, with the 24-year-old taking little time to adapt to English football, playing every minute of every league game since joining the club, and score the all-important equaliser in their 2-2 draw with West Brom.

5. Will Arsenal cope without Laurent Koscielny?

The huge importance of Laurent Koscielny to the Arsenal team is obvious.

At one point, the Gunners went two years without losing a game that both himself and Per Mertesacker played a full 90 minutes in.

This season, Koscielny has featured in just six of their 11 matches, and only one of those was a loss — the 2-0 defeat by Chelsea, with the French international not having played since then.

In Koscielny’s absence, Arsenal have drawn 2-2 with Hull and lost 2-1 against Swansea among other disappointing results, and against United, his absence may well be a pivotal factor once again.

Van Gaal says Blind ‘not out for six months’ but length of lay-off still unclear>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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