Arsenal host Manchester United on Saturday evening in a match that will have serious implications for the club’s Premier League aspirations. With Manchester City eight points clear of their neighbours and twelve ahead of the fourth-placed Gunners, defeat for either club at the Emirates could be a fatal blow if City maintain their unbeaten start to the season with victory at home to West Ham on Sunday.
Arsenal and United scored nine goals between them this week, the Gunners romping to a 5-0 win against Huddersfield and Jose Mourinho’s side seeing off Watford 4-2. Four points and two places separate the fierce rivals but, despite their lowlier league position, Arsenal are favourites given their home advantage and the fact they haven’t lost to United during Mourinho’s reign. In fact, should the north London club triumph it would be the first time in Premier League history that they have won three consecutive home matches against United.
Last May Arsenal won 2-0 against an admittedly under-strength United side as Mourinho kept some of his squad fresh for the business end of their Europa League campaign. There will be no such excuse on Saturday but some suspect the United boss will come to the Emirates determined to dig in for a draw.
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Asked if he was expecting Mourinho to “park the bus” at the Emirates, Wenger replied: “No, I don’t expect anything special. I just expect us to be ready to recover now. Man Utd is a strong team and I expect us just to cope with the problems they will give us. They will attack as well. They will not only defend… I just want to focus and to prepare well my team, and give my team a good chance to win the game.”
The bad blood runs deep between Mourinho and Wenger, with the latter yet to forgive the Portuguese for labelling him a “specialist in failure” in 2014 when he coached Chelsea.
Then again, Mourinho has earned the right to lord it over his French rival with only two defeats in 17 matches against Wenger.
Victory over Arsenal – unbeaten at home in the Premier League since losing to Watford in January – would not only be another humiliation for Wenger but for Mourinho it would be United’s first away win in eight attempts against top-six opposition. Since taking over at Old Trafford in the summer of last year, he has seen his side draw three and lose four of their matches on the road against the Premier League’s big boys. Most alarmingly, in those seven matches United have managed just one goal.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail provides more impressive statistics, claiming that Saturday’s match will be the Premier League’s first “billion-pound game”. Taking its cue from the financial analysts Vysyble, the Mail explains that the report is based on the combined turnover of the two rivals, with Arsenal achieving a revenue of £424m in the 2016-17 season while in the same period United posted a record £581m, taking the clubs’ total to £1.05bn. The Mail helpfully puts some perspective on those figures, saying “it is enough cash to run the National Health Service for three days or pay for 22 new secondary schools”.
Tomorrow’s Premier League fixtures (3pm unless stated)
Chelsea vs. Newcastle United (12.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Liverpool
Everton vs. Huddersfield Town
Leicester City vs. Burnley
Stoke City vs. Swansea City
Watford vs. Tottenham Hotspur
West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace
Arsenal vs. Manchester United (5.30pm, live on BT Sport)
Sunday’s Premier League fixtures
AFC Bournemouth vs. Southampton (1.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
Manchester City vs. West Ham United (4pm, live on Sky Sports)
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