What’s Needed To Beat Man Utd: Prematch & Predicted Line-Up

It’s all down to player availability

Our recent resurgence faces a tough challenge today as we entertain Manchester United, currently sitting second in the Premier League and on a terrific run of results until their slip-up against Sheffield United in midweek.

We can take solace from the fact that prior to the Blades we were the last team to beat them in the league, winning 1-0 at Old Trafford on November 1st.

Unfortunately after that game we went on a terrible run during which we couldn’t buy a sniff of a goal let alone a win, whereas the red Mancs bounced straight back and won 10 of their next 13 (the three they didn’t win were draws against Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester, so that’s not too shabby).

On paper you would have to say they are strong favourites to win today. Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes have 31 goals between them in all competitions; Paul Pogba is in arguably his best form since arriving in Manchester and they have started improving at the back.

A draw would not be a bad result for Arsenal, but I think we have the players to win this one if the breaks go our way.

A lot will depend on which players are available. If we can start with Partey, Tierney, Smith Rowe and Aubameyang – all of whom are currently doubtful – we have the quality to compete with Man Utd all across the park.

At the time of writing (on Friday afternoon) Partey looks likely to be available (he pulled up with cramp towards the end of the Southampton game but otherwise did not seem injured); Aubameyang has been declared unavailable (he is quarantining after flying to Gabon and back to visit his sick mother, apparently); there is no news of Tierney and Smith Rowe. Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari have been back in training but whether they’re available to start is anyone’s guess.

I can’t imagine our new loan singing Martin Odegaard will be involved (Arteta referred to him needing match fitness) but I suppose he could be on the bench.

One area of encouragement for us is in attack. In recent games – when our new first-choice stars have started – we have begun to show glimpses of excellence: beautiful attacking sequences built on speed, one-touch passing, great movement off the ball and complete understanding between the players involved.

Smith Rowe, Saka and Lacazette in particular have been at the heart of these moves. If we can avoid being dominated in midfield and get our front line playing at that level then I fancy us to score a couple. For all their recent improvements, United have still found it difficult to keep clean sheets, conceding two goals to Sheffield United (twice), Leicester, Leeds and Southampton during their winning run.

I am going to stay positive with my predicted line-up and assume that all our ‘doubtfuls’ except Auba will be fit for today. If Tierney is still out then Cedric slots in at left back, where he did an excellent job in midweek. In the absence of Aubameyang we could start Martinelli, but I would not rule out switching Saka to the left and playing Pepe on the right after his decent outing against the Saints.

Smith Rowe is the tricky one. If he’s not available then I fear Mikel Arteta will start Willian, in which case my optimism levels will plummet. I would rather try Ceballos in the Number 10 role if he’s fit enough.

Here’s the likely starting eleven:


Bellerin – Holding – Luiz – Tierney

Xhaka – Partey

Pepe – Smith Rowe – Saka


It’s nice to be looking forward to a big game instead of dreading it. This one will probably come down to fine margins – quality finishing; great goalkeeping; refereeing decisions – but if we come away with all three points our season will start to look very different.

Come on you Gunners.



44 Responses to What’s Needed To Beat Man Utd: Prematch & Predicted Line-Up

  1. LB says:

    If that team is available we can beat united, Saka and Pepe would be on opposite wings.

    However, if Cedric replaced Bellerin, and Martinelli replaced Pepe we could give them a good hiding.

    It’s annoying to think that we have a better team waiting in the wings, pun intended, but only for price tags and politics do we have to suffer lesser players.

    Cedric is better than Bellerin: better defending, better going forward and better crossing. But Bellerin in teachers pet.

    Martinelli, has better control, is faster, has a better eye for goal and I want to scream this bit, makes better decisions as to when to pass and works better with the rest of the team and yet because the club paid over the top for Pepe, the Frenchman will play ahead of a far better player. Very frustrating.

  2. RockyLives says:

    You’re right about Pepe and Saka – I put them on the wrong wings. We should start with Pepe on the left and Saka on the right, as we did against Saints.

    I also agree with your view on Cedric, but I suspect Hector will start because (a) teacher’s pet and (b) Ced is our main back-up for Tierney unless we’re going to dip into the market in the next 36 hours.

  3. RockyLives says:

    Purely on form, Cedric has played himself into the starting eleven… but it doesn’t always seem to go on form.

  4. LB says:

    Who knows, maybe he will surprise us.

  5. LB says:

    But I still think that the team that you suggest above which is the most likely to play can win this game so its not as if we are going into this fearing the worst — which makes a nice change.

  6. RockyLives says:

    Apparently Smith Rowe and Partey are available

  7. LB says:

    Game on………

  8. RC78 says:

    I think this is a game to play:
    – El Neny
    – AMN

    Leno – Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Tierney – Partey, El Neny – Saka, ESR, AMN – Laca

    I think we need El Neny’s activity in midfield and we also need AMN’s ability to cover ground on the wing…

    I think Arteta will play his usual team though and may even start Auba

  9. RC78 says:

    As for Cedric, I am happy for him to take Bellerin’s spot.

    The worry with Utd is:
    – Martial’s pace on the left
    – Fernandes’ overall impact (hence the need to put El Neny on him)
    – Rashford’s talent and pace (hence the need to really cover that wing) coupled with Bissaka’s overall defensive and attacking prowess
    – Pogba’s resurgence
    – Their bench with Cavani or Greenwood there, amongst others.

    Their left back and center backs can be tricked though and I think that if Saka is on good form and if Laca and ESR combine well in the central area, we can actually cause them a lot of trouble. Playing Auba or Martinelli high up the pitch on the left side would also limit Bissaka’s influence on the game…

    Overall, I think it is a game where we will have our chances and we will concede chances too so it is about making sure we don’t give away cheap goals. Let us stay focus and then let s bully their left back and centre-backs.

    If all goes well, we will win 2-1 today. With Saka and ESR scoring for us and Rashford scoring for them.


  10. RockyLives says:

    Hi RC
    Auba is definitely out – quarantining.

    I see your point regarding Elneny. Given that Mo and Partey started when we won at Old Trafford I wouldn’t rule it out today.

  11. Rasp says:

    Thanks for the PM Rocky. What I’ve liked about the good performances recently is the high energy mass pressing to regain the ball in the opposition’s half – straight out of Pep’s coaching manual. We were so good at this in the the last game that Partey got cramp and ESR had to come off for exhaustion. I was also really pleased to see every player sprinting back to defend. We need to deal with manu’s threats from their danger men. I think the game could be won or lost in the midfield, so we need Partey to match/overshadow Pogba. The other factor of course will be which team takes its chances in front of goal. I predict 2:1 to the good guys in a very close game.

  12. Rasp says:

    I wonder if concern over the situation with Aruba’s mother has been the reason for his poor form all along? The obvious assumption is that the illness is covid related so that would suggest not.

  13. RC78 says:

    Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Soares, Partey, Xhaka, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette.

    Saka missing also from the bench…:-(

  14. RC78 says:

    De Gea,
    Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw,
    McTominay, Fred, Pogba,
    Rashford, Cavani.

  15. RC78 says:

    So we are missing our best players today in Tierney and Saka and our captain. That said, I think we can still win this game. Shaw, Maguire and Lindelof have errors and a lack of pace in them. I d put Pepe on the left against Bissaka and Martinelli on the right against Shaw just to throw them off a bit at the beginning of the game

  16. Sue says:

    Saka has a sore hip 😫

  17. LB says:


    My tupence worth is that until ESR started playing the whole team was unbalanced and Auba form was suffering as much as many others.

    I am not the first to say this but ESR links the whole team together and Auba was benefitting from it (before his mother’s illness) in the same way as Lacazette has done so.

  18. RC78 says:

    Thanks for letting us know Sue…it s not great for us to be missing our key forward player

  19. LB says:

    Well that is disappointing.

  20. RC78 says:

    Pepe and Martinelli to be our X-factors, hopefully.

  21. RA says:

    Arsenal Team:

    Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Cedric, Xhaka, Partey, Martinelli, Smith-Rowe, Pepe, Lacazette;

    Subs : Rúnarsson, Gabriel, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Willock, Odegaard, Willian, Nketiah

  22. RA says:

    Ooops — sorry RC, I had not noticed you had the team line up already. 😜

  23. RockyLives says:

    KT and Saka are huge misses, but If Ced can repeat the form he showed against Saints and if Martinelli clicks… you never know.

  24. RA says:

    How weird that the Sky co-commentators are Carragher and the sour face — neither are ex-Arsenal players.

    I find that irritating — neutral assessments? Really.

  25. RC78 says:

    Anyone else having issues with hesgoal today?

  26. Aaron says:

    Seriously, WTF, Soares gets card for 1st foul, and fernandeS goes down the back of Xhaka’s achilles, and nothing….

    Let’s go….

  27. RC78 says:

    Anybody has a link to watch the game?

  28. LB says:

    Pepe’s brother is playing well.

  29. RC78 says:

    Partey needs to step up, Cedric needs to come down.

    Pepe and Martinelli doing their job quite well and ESR effective going forward but need to put more of a defensive shield. Laca need to get more involved. Otherwise, it is ok.

    Not reassuring but not too worrying either. I think it will be a victory by one goal by either side, hopefully us…

  30. Sue says:

    That dirty sod Fernandes, where was the card??!!
    Now don’t we usually come out all guns blazin’ in the 2nd half?! Come on!!!!

  31. RC78 says:

    I d be interested to see Martinelli taking on Shaw for a few minutes…

  32. LB says:

    Now old Xhaka would have reacted to that rake down his achilles but new Xhaka handled it very well.

  33. Rasp says:

    Partey is better this half but he looks like he hasn’t adjusted to the pace of the EPL. He’s half a second slow in his passing and keeps nearly getting caught in possession.

  34. Sue says:

    Argh how close?!!!!

  35. Sue says:

    4 points against the Mancs – happy with that!

  36. RC78 says:

    Leno – 6 – not much to do
    Bellerin – 6.5 – had a couple of good moments.
    Holding – 7 – Marshalling the defense, especially in the air
    Luiz – 7 – Another good outing.
    Cedric – 6 – A decent game but a lot of the chances conceded came from his side.
    Xhaka – 7 – Tidy.
    Partey – 6 – We expect more. Seems to struggle physically a bit.
    Pepe – 7.5 – Created chances, full of running but last touch but not there.
    ESR – 6.5 – Industrious but lacked the spark today
    Martinelli – 6.5 – Looked good when played
    Laca – 7 – A fantastic attitude and unlucky not to score on his freekick

    Willian – a good entrance but still slows the game down.
    Odegaard – not enough time to assess.

    An OK draw.

  37. Gööner In Exile says:

    Well, that was, er interesting, seemed like I was definitely watching a different game to Roy Keane.

    I thought we did an excellent job of stopping United attacks and counters gather any momentum, Partey is a bit part of that, as were the back four and Xhaka, Partey put enough pressure and we did really well recovering and intercepting United passes.

    Pepe probably had one of his better games in an Arsenal shirt, thought Smith Rowe was having a very good game too. Even Willian was competitive and a little more at the races when he came on.

    We just missed that little bit of decisiveness in the final third, and were unlucky on a couple of occasions with passes just out of reach.

    All in all a solid performance, but you could see the tough winter minutes in the legs of Laca, and we missed that confidence of Saka.

    Think if Saka had been in the situation Pepe found himself in twice we would have seen at least one goal, and that’s purely based on confidence, Saka has got himself in the habit of scoring.

    Are we starting to get worried about Martinelli, he is all action and gives his all, but feel that could be hampering his injury comebacks by tweaking something else.

  38. RockyLives says:

    Not at all disappointed with that result and performance.

    We were missing probably our two best players of the season so far in KT and Saka. The equivalent for Utd would have been starting the game without Fernandes and Rashford or Pogba.

    But we more than matched them and were unlucky not to get all three points.

    GiE’s summary is perfect (as so often it is).

  39. Sue says:

    Arsenal have gone six consecutive league games against Manchester United without defeat, equalling their longest run in league history between 1980 and 1983.

  40. Gööner In Exile says:

    Maybe I watched a slightly different Partey to everyone else, thought he had a good game did a good job or pressuring and seemed to recover the ball lots, also thought majority of his forward passing was good and early maybe the only part of his game not firing yet is carrying the ball, but that is hard in the PL with organised midfields and compact defences.

  41. LB says:


    Was there any mention of why Martinelli came off, I never saw the after match analysis.

  42. LB says:

    For me Partey started nothing short of world class but slid as the game went on, too many passes intercepted. Nothing to worry about though, he improves the team by light years.

  43. Gööner In Exile says:

    HI LB, I didn’t watch either, can’t believe it was tactical as he was having a good half defensively helping out Cedric.

  44. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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