The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Manchester United
Manchester United won in France on Wednesday, while Arsenal lost in France on Thursday. Which side will come out on top here? Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action...
"With Romelu Lukaku scoring doubles in his last three matches, Solskjaer may be reluctant to shift him away from a central role"
Arsenal v Manchester United
Sky Sports Premier League.
Match Odds: Arsenal [2.5], Man Utd [3.2], The Draw [3.6].
Manchester United's extraordinary Champions League victory away in Paris on Wednesday night was all the more remarkable when you consider how many players were out injured, and there's little sign that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be able to welcome back many here.
United still without up to ten players
Latest reports suggest that Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez are all definitely out, while Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial are all considered doubtful. The youthfulness of Manchester United's bench in Paris underlines the extent to which they're down to the bare bones, although Solskjaer has shown great faith in youth and isn't afraid to fast-track them into the first XI.
The positive, however, is that Paul Pogba will be available here having missed the trip to his hometown club through suspension. He'll return in the centre of midfield, although it remains to be seen what system Solskjaer uses. Having previously played a 4-3-3, in midweek he used a 4-4-2 that was exposed down the flanks by PSG's 3-4-3, particularly in the first half.
That problem mainly disappeared when Eric Bailly limped off injured, and Diego Dalot came on to play a more conventional right-back role. There's little chance of Bailly being used at right-back again.
Back to 4-3-3 for Solskjaer?
Solskjaer's first-choice system is a conventional 4-3-3, but in big matches - away at Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham - he's switched a wide player with a forward, essentially playing a false nine with two wide attackers.
In the FA Cup victory at the Emirates, Romelu Lukaku was excellent from a right-sided forward position and may play a similar role here, perhaps with Andres Pereira as the false nine. However, with Lukaku scoring doubles in his last three matches, Solskjaer may be reluctant to shift him away from a central role.
On the left, Marcus Rashford doesn't look 100% fit but still had the composure to smash home the winning penalty in Paris and should start wide-left, with Martial likely to be a substitute if declared fit.
Pogba will probably take his place alongside the rejuvenated Fred and Scott McTominay, who was excellent in Paris. At the back, Ashley Young should return to his right-back slot with Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw also protecting David De Gea, who was sensational in this fixture last season.
Arsenal vulnerable at right-back
Arsenal had a disastrous midweek experience in Rennes, with the side collapsing after Sokratis Papastathopoulos' dismissal. The Greek international should nevertheless start here - he was man-of-the-match against Tottenham last weekend. Shkodran Mustafi (pictured) has been awkwardly used at right-back and may continue here, although Ainsley Maitland-Niles could be a better bet against a speedy United attack. Sead Kolasinac may be fit to return on the left, and is excellent at overlapping, particularly when combining with Alex Iwobi.
Lucas Torreira is suspended so Mateo Guendouzi should return alongside Granit Xhaka in midfield. The 4-2-3-1 used against Spurs last weekend was broadly successful and therefore Aaron Ramsey might continue in his attacking midfield role, with Mesut Ozil dropping out. Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan - surprisingly used at right-back for long periods at Rennes - should play from the flanks.
Upfront, Emery doesn't like playing with two strikers in big games, and therefore it seems like another choice between Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Both missed big chances when rotated against Spurs last weekend, while Lacazette missed the Rennes trip through injury and Aubameyang was replaced early on. With Lacazette again suspended for the return leg, expect him to start here with Aubameyang on the bench.
I fancy Manchester United here - they have a day extra rest, a more cohesive tactical plan and were convincing winners on the break against Arsenal in the FA Cup recently. Expect the away side to play on the break, where they may again exposed Arsenal's lack of speed in defence. I'll back Manchester United at [3.2].
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
Arsenal are going to have to get over their shock midweek defeat in the Europa League quickly as this is a huge game for both teams. United are currently one point ahead of the Gunners in the league, and the incumbent of that very lucrative fourth place.
Only Manchester City have won more home games than Arsenal this season and the Gunners are unbeaten at home in the league since the opening day of the season, when the champions won 2-0. However, United have already had a successful trip to the Emirates this year, sweeping aside the home side in the FA Cup.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United have already won away at Spurs (0-1) in the league and as mentioned above Arsenal (1-3) and Chelsea (0-2) in the FA Cup, while they finished 0-0 against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
United will be keen to keep their Premier League campaign on track by making it an 11th win in 13 games under Solksjaer, and I can't see them losing. I will be backing them on the Asian Handicap, 0 & +0.5 at anything around [1.95]. This means I get full payout if they win, and half if they draw.
Michael: Back Manchester United at [3.2]
Alan: Back Man Utd on the Asian Handicap, 0 & +0.5 at [1.95] or better