Casemiro Absence, Odegaard Brilliance: 3 Places Where Arsenal vs Manchester United Will Be Determined

Casemiro Absence, Odegaard Brilliance: 3 Places Where Arsenal vs Manchester United Will Be Determined

Martin Moses
  • Tension and excitement are rising as Arsenal and Manchester United prepare to face off on January 22nd
  • Arsenal will be looking for another statement win while their counterparts will want to beat another top-two side in the space of a week
  • The midfield battle will be one to relish especially with the Red Devils missing Casemiro through suspension

Premier League fixtures don't come any bigger than this. For the first time in over a decade, Arsenal will face Manchester United with the EPL title in their sights. Not a top-four finish or just bragging rights. The grandest prize of them all will be at play.

The Gunners have played some of their best football in recent years under Mikel Arteta. Their lead on top of the table is not by mere luck. It is a result of hard work and trusting the process.

Erik ten Hag, Manchester United, Arsenal, Casemiro, Odegaard
Erik ten Hag and Mikel Arteta look on when Arsenal and Manchester united last met on September 4th, 2022. Photo by Michael Regan.
Source: Getty Images

But against Manchester United, they face a team that has already beaten them this season. A team with a no-nonsense manager who is trying to rebuild the club in the image of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sports Brief takes a look at where this tie will be won and lost.

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1. Casemiro's absence - Midfield battle

Erik ten Hag might be defiant about Casemiro's suspension but he knows how huge of a miss the Brazilian will be. Manchester United have struggled for years without a decent defensive midfielder and Casemiro's arrival this season has turned around the fortunes of the club.

Ten Hag has always preferred to stack the midfield when playing against top-tier teams. Against Manchester City last weekend, he went with a double pivot of Casemiro and Fred. Now with the former Real Madrid man missing out, Scott McTomminay could be in line for a rare start.

A two-man midfield with Cristian Eriksen playing slightly ahead of them will help them combat the energetic duo of Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka.

2. Martin Odegaard's brilliance - The battle of the creatives

Bar Marcus Rashford, the Arsenal captain is the most in-form player in the Premier League. He can score, he can create and he can whip in delicious freekicks. The Norwegian's ingenuity has risen in recent weeks that he has been placed on the same pedestal as Kevin De Bruyne.

On the opposite end will be Bruno Fernandes supplemented by Christian Eriksen. The duo has delivered for ten Hag this season, perhaps not as consistently as required but they have always chipped in with magnificent displays.

3. Arteta vs ten Hag - The tactical battle

Erik ten Hag is the only coach who has beaten Arteta this season. The Dutch coach is upbeat that he can pull off a double.

But to do this, he will have to come up with ways to beat a team that thrives on possession and is patient with their build-up. But with the kind of width and pace that Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli provide on the flanks, the hosts can equally be devastating on the counter.

The counter is Manchester United's stronghold. Anthony Martial might sit out of this game but Rashford will be looking to test his form against Ben White. With Fernandes and Eriksen providing the through balls, Arsenal will have to be alert to prevent potential breakaways.

It would also be interesting to see if Oleksandr Zinchenko will drift into the midfield area or will maintain his position to combat United's right winger, most probably Antony.

Who will be smiling after 90 minutes?