Arsenal travel to Old Trafford on Sunday to take on Premier League rivals Manchester United in undoubtedly the most intriguing encounter of the weekend.
While the importance of the game isn’t as big as previously anticipated, direct Champions League qualification is still undecided therefore both teams will want a result in order to avoid a playoff tie.
The Gunners won 2-1 in an FA Cup clash on their last visit to Old Trafford, but United have improved since and victories over Manchester City and Liverpool in the past six weeks will have boosted their confidence.
However, the absence of Michael Carrick is certainly a big blow and Daley Blind moving back into midfield will see him up against arguably the Premier League’s best defensive midfielder since the New Year.
|Tackles per Game||Interceptions per Game||Defensive Duels Won per Game||Ball Recoveries per Game||Aerials Won per Game||Accurate Passes per Game||Key Passes per Game||Appearances|
As per the table provided by Opta Stats, Francis Coquelin has been an utter revelation for the North Londoners this season and he outclasses Blind in as many as five key categories.
The former Charlton Athletic man averages more tackles, interceptions, defensive duel winners, aerial winners and ball recoveries per Premier League encounter than his upcoming rival.
His inclusion in Arsene Wenger’s first-team XI has coincided with his side’s wonderful 2015 form and his ability to mix it with the very best Premier League midfielders is unquestionable.
However, United’s Dutch midfielder is arguably the better player with the ball at his feet – producing far more accurate passes per encounter and proving to have a creative edge.
The game at Old Trafford may well be decided by the ability to control the middle of the pitch, and for perhaps the first time in many years the Gunners can confidently expect their midfield to come out on top.