Who knows what to say about the Gunners? After romping to an excellent victory over in-form Leicester (and beating Spurs in the League Cup) Arsenal contrive to lose against Olympiakos at home. They look fearsome in attack, but can’t defend to save their lives. Manchester United on the other hand are enjoying some great form—beat Wolfsburg midweek—and they’re Premier League leaders following their win over Sunderland. Can Louis Van Gaal keep the red devils rumbling along, or will Wenger’s boys be able to turn their luck around and show everyone what they’re really capable of?
Once again, Smalling makes himself undroppable—he is truly the in-form defender of the season so far. The ex-Fulham man even popped up with a winning goal against Wolfsburg, earning himself MotM and generally looking a million miles away from the struggling figure he cut under David Moyes. Arsenal’s gifted attackers will still be a challenge for Smalling however, the likes of Sanchez, Cazorla and Walcott enough to score goals in almost any game. If United are going to keep a clean sheet here Smalling will need help from all of his defensive colleagues.
Considered a close second for MotM against Wolfsburg, Juan Mata put in a sumptuous display in Europe on Wednesday—scoring one and setting up Smalling for the winner. It hasn’t always been plain sailing for the Spaniard since moving from Chelsea. He has struggled at times to make an impression on the game, played out wide where he simply isn’t as effective. This season he’s started with a bang though, 3 goals and 3 assists in his first 7 league appearances. Long may it continue—Mata is a strong favourite amongst neutrals, and many of them will celebrate should the 27 year old find the net against the Gunners.
One of the easiest picks for your team, Sanchez scored a hat-trick against Leicester in his last league outing. The Foxes had been unbeaten going into the game, making it all the more impressive that the Chilean was able to cast a spell on them. He often looks like one of the best players in the world, but it is baffling that Arsenal should rely on him so heavily when they have such excellent attacking forwards in the team. If United score early they’ll probably try to defend their lead, and that’s when Sanchez will thrive—all he needs is one opening to punish his opponents.
Paulista gets the honourable nod due to being a more complete defender than Mertesacker. It’s true, the Brazilian really shit the bed against Chelsea—despite the obvious provocation. But he should be a match for Rooney in the probable absence of Laurent Koscielny. The United talisman is in rather indifferent form, and Paulista will be looking to make up for lost time.