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Jan 1, 2020 at 8pm UK at Emirates Stadium
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Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews the New Year's Day Premier League showdown between Arsenal and Manchester United, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

The New Year gets underway in style on Thursday as Arsenal and Manchester United renew hostilities with the latest chapter in arguably the most enduring and defining rivalry of the Premier League era.

Far from the peak of the 1990s and early 2000s, though, both sides enter the new decade sitting outside the top four and looking to rediscover their past glories under the leadership of a former player.

Match preview

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta gestures on December 29, 2019© Reuters

There is no getting away from the fact that fixtures between Arsenal and Manchester United are a far cry from their heyday, but in Mikel Arteta and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer there are now two men in charge who know all about this contest.

Solskjaer played when the rivalry was at its fiercest and most ferocious, while Arteta faced United more often than he did any other club during his playing career, not to mention his more recent ties with their local rivals Manchester City.

Arteta is now in the position of having to mastermind victory against the foe he knows so well, and there would be few sweeter opponents for him to get his first win as Arsenal boss against.

The Spaniard has certainly brought about an improvement from the Gunners since his appointment, at least in terms of performances if not results.

Just one point from his opening two games is not the return he would have wanted, but the displays have been encouraging and the players appear to have bought into his demand for a greater work ethic and structure.

It looked for a long time as though he would pick up a maiden victory in his first home game at the helm, with Arsenal the better side for much of Sunday's London derby with Chelsea, only for a howler from Bernd Leno to gift the Blues a route back into the match as they pulled off a dramatic late turnaround to win 2-1.

Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil remonstrates with the referee on December 29, 2019© Reuters

Such costly individual errors are perhaps the priority for Arteta to stamp out if Arsenal are to begin building any sort of consistency, with the Gunners ending 2019 by winning just one of their final 15 games across all competitions and one of their last 12 in the league.

It is an unforgivable run of form for a club of Arsenal's stature, and that is not even the most damning statistic; the North Londoners have now lost four consecutive home games for the first time in 60 years, including three in a row in the league for the first time since 1977, while they have conceded at least twice in each of their last five matches at the Emirates - their worst such run since 1965.

The wait for a victory at the Emirates now stretches back seven games to October - their longest streak since 1995 - and only five teams have picked up fewer points in front of their own fans in the league this season.

Sunday's defeat means that they have now lost as many home league games in their last three outings as they had in their previous 37, and worryingly such stats go on and on.

All of that has contributed to Arsenal beginning 2020 in 12th place and just six points clear of the relegation zone, with 11 points separating them from the final Champions League spot despite those above them also having struggled for consistency this season.

The Gunners were 14 points better off at the same stage of last season, whereas at the start of the last decade they were still challenging for the Premier League title - something they are a whopping 31 points off doing right now.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on December 18, 2019© Reuters

That said, the theme of the mighty falling by no means applies to just Arsenal; this would have been a top-two battle at the beginning of the 2010s, but now you could add Arsenal and United's points together and they would only be level with league leaders Liverpool.

United have at least been better than Arsenal this season, and they ended 2019 in promising fashion with wins over Newcastle United and Burnley helping to make up for their shock defeat at Watford just before Christmas.

Consistency has been a major issue for the Red Devils and they have not won three consecutive league games for almost a year, but they have also only lost one of their last nine matches and have been beaten the same number of times as champions Manchester City this term.

Indeed, only Liverpool picked up more points than United over the last six games of 2019, helping them to close the gap on the Champions League places to four points.

The Red Devils have a difficult start to the New Year with Arsenal, Wolverhampton Wanderers twice, Man City twice, Liverpool and Chelsea to come in their first nine games of 2020, although it is those matches which have showcased the best of Solskjaer's side so far this season.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring their second goal with Jesse Lingard on December 28, 2019© Reuters

United have beaten the likes of Man City, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Leicester City, as well as being the only team to take points off Liverpool, yet they have lost to Crystal Palace, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Bournemouth, Astana and Watford.

It is a damning indictment of Arsenal that many will consider them closer to the second batch of teams rather than the first right now, but the occasion and history of this rivalry could be enough to generate the big game fever which United seem to relish.

Solskjaer's side will certainly need that away from home over the coming months considering that their next five away games see them travel to Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham.

Right now this trip to the Emirates looks like the easiest of the lot, although they will expect Arsenal to be much better than they have been for the most part in front of their own fans this season as Arteta once again goes in search of his first win.

Arsenal Premier League form: LWLDDL
Arsenal form (all competitions): WDLDDL

Man Utd Premier League form: WWDLWW
Man Utd form (all competitions): WDWLWW

Team News

Calum Chambers goes off injured for Arsenal on December 29, 2019© Reuters

Arsenal's injury worries grew when Calum Chambers limped off in the first half against Chelsea, with the defender set for another extended spell on the sidelines with a knee problem.

Speculation is rife that Granit Xhaka could be on his way out of Arsenal during the January transfer window, but the midfielder is expected to be in contention for this one having missed the Chelsea defeat with illness.

The former skipper is one of a number of players who will be assessed ahead of the game, with Dani Ceballos, Gabriel Martinelli, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding all closing in on returns from injury.

Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney are longer-term absentees, though, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos is unlikely to feature having sustained concussion less than a week ago.

United also have a number of players who are in the final stages of recovery, although this match is expected to come too soon for Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Scott McTominay remains sidelined with a knee injury, but Paul Pogba could return to the fold after sitting out of the win over Burnley.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard will also be hopeful of recalls, although Solskjaer is unlikely to break up the in-form attacking duo of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka; Xhaka, Torreira; Nelson, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette

Man Utd possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, Matic; Greenwood, Pogba, Rashford; Martial

Head To Head

Arsenal have won just one of the last six meetings between these two sides, although that was the corresponding fixture last season as Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired them to a 2-0 win.

Indeed, Aubameyang has scored in each of the last three editions of this fixture, including the reverse contest in September when he earned Arsenal a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

United are one short of 100 wins against Arsenal across all competitions, whereas the Gunners have come out on top 83 times and there have been 49 draws in the past 231 meetings.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Arsenal 2-2 Man Utd

These high-profile showdowns can often be difficult to call, and this one especially so with both sides being dogged by inconsistency this season. The form book and league table points to a United win, but Arsenal have not got what they deserved from Arteta's two matches at the helm so far and we are backing them to come away with at least a point from this one.

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Calum Chambers warms up for Arsenal on October 6, 2019
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