Arsenal will be aiming for a third Premier League win in succession to boost their title hopes as they head to Manchester United, who need to find a run of form quickly if they are to bridge the widening gap to the top four.
There was an air of resignation around manager Louis van Gaal after his United side lost at Sunderland a fortnight ago in a game where they were quite simply outfought by a team that seemed to just want the points more. It left the Dutchman to admit that qualifying for the Champions League is now a very uphill task, and he knows that failure to deal so will certainly seal his fate, although it appears highly unlikely that he will be at Old Trafford next season regardless.
In the intervening period since that last league outing the Red Devils avoided the ignominy of a Europa League exit at the hands of battling Danish club FC Midtjylland after a dismal first leg defeat, while they also swept aside the feeble challenge of League One strugglers Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup. This one represents a step-up in class and their injury-hit squad must prepare for a severe examination from Arsenal, who will be difficult to stop if they hit full flow.
In fairness, the Gunners have not done that for some time and will come into this one with a large degree of frustration after their defeat at home to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash, where a positive performance turned sour when they were caught out by a swift breakaway. The current fixture pile-up they having to endure is also far from ideal, and it was only made worse by their FA Cup tie with Hull City going to a replay.
The last round of Premier League games saw Danny Welbeck make the perfect impact on his long-awaited return from injury, scoring right at the death to consign Leicester City to defeat and give his side a massive boost in the race to lift the trophy in May. Here he will play some part against his former club and will hope to serve another reminder of what they let go, while fellow striker Olivier Giroud will be determined to end a seven-match goal drought.
Numerous players are out for Man Utd, who will assess Anthony Martial and monitor the fitness of goalkeeper David De Gea and defender Chris Smalling.
The visitors are waiting on the fitness of defender Gabriel Paulista as he recovers from a hamstring problem, but they are without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for a few weeks after he was injured against Barcelona.
Last Meeting: Arsenal got they wanted when they visited in May 2015 by avoiding defeat and staying ahead of United in the race for third place. A low-key first half saw Ander Herrera convert Ashley Young’s cross to give the home side the lead, but an own goal from Tyler Blackett ensured that the points were shared; the young defender inadvertently turning Theo Walcott’s cross beyond Victor Valdes.
Played for both – Robin van Persie: The talented Dutch striker made his mark in the 2004-05 season, where he helped Arsenal win the FA Cup, but despite his best efforts and numerous stunning goals he did not win any more silverware in North London. In order to do so, he joined Man Utd in 2012 and had a starring role in their title win, but the following two seasons were less successful and he left in 2015.