Arsenal’s trip to face Manchester United in the Premier League this weekend should be met with cautious optimism.
As we all know, Old Trafford has been anything but a happy hunting ground for us over the years with our last win in the league coming way back on the 17th of September 2006 thanks to an Emmanuel Adebayor goal as we took all three points in a 1-0 win.
Fast forward to the present day and I am sure I am not alone here when I say this but going to Old Trafford and getting a win has been something of a dream over the last decade. However, with the new version of Arsenal under Mikel Arteta, there is most definitely a sense of belief that we can go to Old Trafford and get a positive result.
Yes, United not being the once-dominant force that they were and us not being the pushovers against the big six anymore does help the overall feeling about getting all three points.
Whether we do it is another thing entirely. Our defensive solidarity has come at the cost of the creative side to our game and honestly, it is refreshing to now see us not get blown away on our travels to the big guns.
While `one could argue that we could have been left for dead by Liverpool, but the fact is we were not and in truth had chances to come away with at least a point and the same can be said for the Manchester City game.
So, what exactly can we expect from the Gunners in this one? To me, it does not have the feeling that there will be a huge amount of goals but there is a case to be made that it will not be a dour 0-0.
Our defence has been reasonably solid throughout the start of our campaign with a few silly moments mixed in that have cost us goals but overall, we are now a team that is hard to break down. However, it is going the other way that is where our real problem lies.
Everyone in the world now knows about our creative problems and we could have perhaps seen a glimpse of how we could potentially rectify it while waiting for the January transfer window and his name is Joe Willock.
Just stay with me here as I am by no means saying he is the long-term solution, but in the short term he could be used as that creative midfielder. Someone who is always on the move, willing to play those through balls and take on defenders if he needs to.
After his exertion midweek, it is highly doubtful that he will be making an appearance against United but he should at least be on the bench, along with Reiss Nelson who was simply outstanding last time out against Dundalk.
That then brings me to the team that we could put out at Old Trafford. Bernd Leno will be in goal, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney will be our fullbacks but in the centre of defence, I would love to see William Saliba and Gabriel partner each other for this one, although it is unlikely.
I am sure I am not alone when I say that we would rather see Saliba in the team than Shkodran Mustafi because I am sure our fan-base can tolerate the odd mistake or two from Saliba but Mustafi would be a big no.
The midfield will most likely be the same three that started the Leicester City game with Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Thomas Partey, although Xhaka did play the 74 minutes midweek so it remains to be seen as to whether he gets the start or not.
In attack, I would love to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang used centrally for this game with Pepe, Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka or even Willian out wide. We looked at our attacking best when Aubameyang was used centrally against Sheffield United with Saka and Willian interchanging in the number ten position and going forward this is where we are going to get the best out of our attacking options.
With whichever way Mikel Arteta decides to go for this one, we can all agree when I say that like the City and Leicester games we can take all three points in this one. We just must be more clinical going forward.
So, this is a huge chance for us to make a statement after the Leicester debacle and go to Old Trafford and put our best foot forward and take the game right to them. It is one of the greatest rivalries even if both sides have underwhelmed over the last couple of years but if we are serious about making it back into the top four then a victory here would be just the tonic needed.
There will be goals in this one, but I have faith that we can get the job done. Man United 1-2 Arsenal.