London’s calling this weekend for Erik ten Hag as his side take on Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. Both of these sides will be hoping to mount a title challenge to Manchester City – at the very least, a top four finish will be demanded from their respective fans.
Whilst this is still a tantalising fixture, it was once the crème de la crème of the Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson going head-to-head with Arsene Wenger guaranteed fireworks, as did the midfield duel between Patrick Viera and Roy Keane.
For the last few seasons, the emergence – and dominance – of Manchester City seemed to work in tandem with the decline of Arsenal and Manchester United.
The blue half of Manchester have enjoyed five titles since the 2017/18 campaign, the other one in 2019/20 was claimed by their main challengers, Liverpool.
Last season, it was Arsenal’s turn to crank up the pressure on Manchester City. For a while, it looked as though the Premier League trophy would be heading to the capital.
It was theirs to lose and lose it they did. A string of draws saw them relinquish their advantage, Pep Guardiola’s side could smell blood and were ruthless.
Despite the disappointing end to the campaign, there were plenty of positives for Arsenal. Exciting football was played, and more importantly, a second-place finish secured a Champions League spot.
It’s evident that Mikel Arteta has the necessary qualities to be a top coach and will no doubt learn from his mistakes.
As well as that, he’ll have identified the weaknesses in his squad and galvanised where appropriate. This transfer window saw the arrival of several key players, most notably Declan Rice who’ll be a force in midfield.
Erik ten Hag has too managed to reshape a side that looked to have lost its way. In his first year at the helm, the Dutchman won the Carabao Cup and ensured Manchester United wouldn’t be playing in the Europa League with a third place finish.
Similarly, he’s been active in the transfer market. An area in which they’ve been lacking is up front. To rectify this, the club have put their faith in young Danish striker, Rasmus Højlund.
They’re also hopeful to get a creative spark from Mason Mount, however a recent injury might see him watching this match from the sidelines.
There was also a big change at the other end of the pitch. David de Gea was allowed to leave as a free agent and was replaced with André Onana.
How’ve They Started?
Arsenal started with a victory over Nottingham Forest and followed it up with a win and a clean sheet against Crystal Palace.
Showing their spirit in their next game, they came from behind after conceding an early goal to make it 2-1. Though Fulham equalised late on through João Palhinha.
In their opening fixture Manchester United hosted Wolves. Having not long replaced Julen Lopetegui with Gary O’Neil, the general consensus was that it’d be a comfortable evening for the Reds.
Raphaël Varane scored the only goal of the game, but his side were lucky not to cave under the applied pressure from the visitors. This fortune extended to a late penalty not being given after Onana clattered into the opposition.
Struggling at the Back
Improvement was needed for their next game, but it didn’t come. Tottenham Hotspur won 2-0 and it was quite a shaky display at the back for United.
If we thought the defensive display was calamitous for that game, the opening five minutes for their following fixture was reminiscent of Sunday league standard.
United were 2-0 down within five minutes – with the first goal coming immediately after their own corner. With help from a red card and a penalty, they were eventual 3-2 winners.
Sitting in fifth, Arsenal have had the better start, they’re currently one point ahead and generally do look the sharper of the two.
The northern side have looked unsteady in defence, with his tactical nous, Arteta will be primed to exploit this.
We are a few seasons away from this fixture returning to its former glory, but there are indications that it’s going in the direction of becoming a classic again.
There will be goals in this game, for both sides, but with the home advantage, we expect Arsenal to finish 2-1 winners. And who knows, we might see glimpses of the drama of old.
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JD Football | November 21, 2023