With the international break behind us, the Premier League resumes this weekend and the marquee match-up of the round is Saturday’s heavyweight clash between Manchester United and Arsenal. If either of the two teams have benefited from the international break, it’s more likely to be United.
Jose Mourinho’s side endured a tumultuous run of form, going the entire month of October without a win in the league. Their last outing, a 3-1 road win against Bob Bradley’s Swansea, helped right the ship somewhat and sent the Red Devils into the break with some confidence restored.
The Swansea win was particularly encouraging because it saw a return to the score sheet for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. After a flying start to life in the Premiership, the Swedish striker had gone off the boil in recent matches. However, he netted twice against Bradley’s team and, having retired from international duty last summer, should be rested and ready to face Arsenal.
Paul Pogba also scored against the Swans and despite continuing criticisms over not yet living up to his record-breaking transfer fee, the French midfielder seems to be gradually re-acclimating to life at United after being sold to Juventus four years ago.
The break would hopefully have provided Mourinho’s team with a chance to regroup and the manager time to sort out some of the deficiencies.
Arsenal, on the other hand were in blistering form leading up to the break and now face the challenge of picking things up where they left off. Although they were held to a draw at home by Tottenham in the November 6 London Derby, the Gunners remain undefeated since their opening day loss to Liverpool.
If Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has concerns ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Old Trafford, they’re likely over injuries – this is Arsenal we’re talking about after all.
Hector Bellerin took a knock in the Derby against Spurs and will be out for four weeks. The in-form right-back will join his Spanish teammate Santi Cazorla on the injury bench for the time being. The good news for the Gunners is that leading scorer Alexis Sanchez came through his World Cup qualifying exploits with Chile unscathed and should be fit to lead the line against United.
Sanchez has begun to find form as a center forward after being re-positioned from his usual spot out on the wing. The Chilean attacker has been at the heart of much of the Gunners’ attacking success this term and could be partnered in the attack with Olivier Giroud who returned from injury to net three goals in two matches just prior to the break.
Saturday’s clash will also be the latest installment in the long-running Mourinho-Wenger rivalry. The two men have an adversarial relationship that dates back more than a decade to Mourinho’s first spell in charge at Chelsea. Apart from a single win in the Community Shield, which many don’t regard as an actual competitive match, Wenger’s Arsenal has never won a match against a team managed by Mourinho.
If there was ever a chance for Wenger to end that unfortunate streak, this is surely it. The Swansea victory aside, there’s a sense that Mourinho’s United is still very much a work in progress. Arsenal on the other hand, count themselves among the handful of teams that look to have a genuine shot at lifting the Premier League title this season – a title that would be the North Londoners’ first in more than a dozen years if they were to succeed.
Whatever happens, there will surely be fireworks on the pitch and on the touchline as Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford this weekend. You can catch the match on Saturday November 19 at 7:30 a.m. EST on NBC Sports Network.