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It may not be the title tussle it so often was at the turn of the century but Arsenal against Manchester United is rarely anything less than an absorbing contest in whatever circumstances both sides meet.

Though 10 points separate the two sides both are in a rich vein of form even if United's was checked somewhat with a shock midweek defeat to Sheffield United. The previous day Arsenal had looked in impressive form indeed on the south coast, overcoming an early deficit to win 3-1 at Southampton, a result that has moved them up to ninth in the table.

So far Mikel Arteta has got the better over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in both their meetings with the United boss holding a 1-1-3 record against Arsenal, his sole win coming in his first meeting with the Gunners. Adding a second would offer an almighty boost to his title tilt while equally, if the Gunners extend their strong record against their rivals hopes of a top four finish would swell in north London. Here are three bold predictions for Saturday's game.

Partey joins the Premier League midfield elite

Thomas Partey made only his third Arsenal start in their last meeting with Manchester United, a 1-0 win against Manchester United where his barnstorming brilliance alongside Mohamed Elneny carried the Gunners to an impressive victory. Since then a troublesome hip has limited him to just six appearances and he is yet to complete 90 minutes in any of those fixtures.

Already, however, he looks like a player capable of imposing his will on any opposing midfielder and whoever Solskjaer should deploy you suspect they will struggle to match the dynamism that the Ghanaian brings to central areas. While he played as something more akin to a destroyer at Atletico Madrid, part of Partey's motivation to move to England was to show that he had greater range. Anyone watching his performance in the 3-1 win over Southampton would not dispute that he was right.

Only Nicolas Pepe dribbled past more opponents and according to fbref he made four progressive carries and three progressive passes, the best a brilliant first-time pass in behind to Alexandre Lacazette. Should he shake off the slight discomfort that forced him to exit Tuesday's game early (and his presence in training on Friday suggests he will be ok) expect this to be the first high-profile game since the last game against United that he dominates, one where he shows he deserves a place in the conversation for the best midfielders in the division. 

Rashford and Shaw roast Arsenal's weak point

There are few more devastating attacking propositions in England right now than Manchester United's left flank when Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw patrol it. The pair have pace to burn and an almost telepathic understanding that was on full display as they rifled past Trent Alexander-Arnold in Sunday's FA Cup win over Liverpool.


It is there that United look to focus their attacks and Arsenal's cause for concern is that it can be on that flank where they are most vulnerable. Hector Bellerin has been better than his critics might give him credit for this season but he is a more effective fullback on the front foot than the back and will undoubtedly struggle if he does not get sufficient protection from those ahead of him.

Should Bukayo Saka keep his place on the right flank then that may ease the burden somewhat as he's a willing presser and knows what it takes to defend his wing after a stint at left-back last season, but even he and Bellerin alone may not be able to stop Rashford and Shaw if they click again.

A red card or a penalty... or both

These games have historically seen both sides hackles raised and it would be no surprise to see referee Michael Oliver at the heart of proceedings at the Emirates Stadium. After all, the Premier League's most ill-disciplined side are taking on one who have received an historic number of penalties in recent years.

Since Arteta's appointment in late December 2019, Arsenal have received six red cards in 40 games, the most recent coming from temperamental acts of aggression by Nicolas Pepe and Granit Xhaka. In the same period no other Premier League team has been given more than three red cards.

United do not force a disproportionate number of red card fouls from their opponents, only one of the 34 red cards handed out since Arteta joined the rank of Premier League coaches has been given when United were the other team. However they are masters at drawing spot kicks from the opposition, doing so at a simply remarkable rate with Solskjaer as their manager.

Since his appointment in December 2018 United have won 27 penalties in the Premier League alone at a rate of more than one every three games. No other team has more than 20, Arsenal have had nearly a third fewer with 10. In part those extra penalties are the natural result of fast forwards such as Rashford and Anthony Martial driving at defenders who feel compelled to do something. Certainly it would be intriguing to see how David Luiz copes with the Red Devils' aggressive attack if he plays.