Arsenal welcome Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday in what will be the weekend’s biggest Premier League game.
Both clubs have had unconvincing starts to the new season, yet have won two of their opening three games. The Gunners registered back-to-back wins over Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace respectively but were held to a draw 2-2 by 10-man Fulham.
As for the Red Devils, it has been an unsteady start with narrow home wins over Wolves and Nottingham Forest. They were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham in their second game by managed to bounce back by producing an inspired comeback 3-2 victory over Forest at home last weekend.
With a titanic clash between Arsenal and Man United expected at the Emirates Stadium, here are the key battles to watch out for.
#Marcus Rashford vs Ben White
Marcus Rashford was poor while leading Man United’s attack in the opening two games, but he got back to his usual, dangerous self against Forest when deployed on the left flank by Erik ten Hag. The England international played a part in each of United’s three goals, including the penalty which Bruno Fernandes calmly scored to give the hosts the points.
As Ten Hag confirmed summer signing Rasmus Hojlund is fit to start against Arsenal, Rashford could again find himself in his preferred left-wing position. Ben White is expected to face the responsibility of stopping Rashford, with Thomas Partey—who started the opening three games in an unusual right-back spot—reportedly ruled out of the game due to injury.
A reliable defender, White has to be on his toes throughout the game to stop Rashford from drifting centrally and having pops at Aaron Ramsdale’s goal. He will have to be positionally good to contain his English compatriot, and if White manages to do that, United’s chances of getting a positive result at the Emirates Stadium will drop down markedly.
#Martin Odegaard vs Casemiro
Martin Odegaard has started the season well, helping Arsenal win the close contest against Crystal Palace by scoring a pressure spot-kick. The Norwegian is the beating heart of this Gunners’ side, and his vision, creativity and movement will be crucial in breaching the United defence.
A creative midfielder, Odegaard will thrive if he is given an ample amount of time and space on the ball, but that’s only if he is afforded that time and space. United have quality options in midfield, with Ten Hag expected to rely on Casemiro to do a job on Odegaard.
Casemiro has not been at his best but still remains an elite defensive midfielder whose tackling, interceptions and reading of the game will be vital in stopping the Arsenal attacks. The Brazilian will have a task on his hands to nullify Odegaard’s threat by not allowing him to find his teammates in the final third.
#Bukayo Saka vs Diogo Dalot
Bukayo Saka is a guaranteed starter on the right flank for Arsenal and he will be raring to cause all kinds of problems to Man United’s defence. With Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia injured, Diogo Dalot started at left-back against Forest, and even though Manchester United signed Sergio Reguilon on loan from Spurs on the deadline day as cover in that position, Ten Hag is expected to stick with the Portuguese in his side.
Saka is arguably Arsenal’s best player and containing him will be an uphill task. The England international has started the new season very well with two goals in three games, including the equaliser from the spot against Fulham.
So, Dalot has to work very hard and stay defensively vigilant every time Saka gets on the ball. A colossal performance to stop one of the Premier League’s brightest talents will be needed here from the United full-back.
I am Rohan Sengupta from one of the busiest cities in India, Mumbai. A Journalism graduate with a keen interest in sports, football is something I simply cannot live without and writing, discussing and analyzing the game is what I do 24*7.