Manchester United vs Arsenal: Match Preview
3 min read

Manchester United vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United for a clash of the flawed big name teams.

Arsenal have an interesting midweek match against Manchester United. I almost wrote hard, but Manchester United have not played especially well and if they didn't have the reputation of Manchester United this is a match that would probably be pretty close to a toss up based purely on how the teams look so far this season.

Manchester United Team Radars

In attack Manchester United are pretty good, they rank as the 5th best attack in my rating system. They rank 7th in shots, 6th in shots on target, 5th in non-penalty expected goals (xG), and 8th in xG per shot.

Manchester United Attack

The Manchester United shot map doesn't look too bad from open play and they have some good finishers even if they might be slightly fortunate to have as many goals as they actually do right now.

They create more through the right than the left but it is pretty balanced.

Something that doesn't really fit with the narratives is that based on what I see in my data the players that are most important for progressing the ball appear to be Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba. Sancho looks to be getting back into the team (crazy that he saw less time for Mason Greenwood for me) and that makes me a little nervous.

Manchester United Defense

The big story about Manchester United is their pressing or more accurately their lack of pressing. That is at odds with the new coach that they have brought in and who they say is their top premenant manager choice.

The numbers do suggest that they are a team that doesn't press often or turn that into winning the ball back. They do seem to be in the lower middle for pass completion against, pass effiecency against, and for long passes against. Interestingly they don't look all that different than Arsenal in the passing that they allow and how often they press.

Looking at the defense as a whole, my model has them as the 16th rated defensive team and that's probably a pretty fair rating of them. They allow the 8th most shots, 8th most shots on target, and 6th most npxG.

Players of note

First is Sancho, he had some trouble to start but he's looked better over the last few matches. I hope he gets back to struggling or gets dropped for Mason Greenwood.

Cristiano Ronaldo still gets shots but what he has not been doing lately is much more in terms of helping the attack. I am not sure it really shows up in the stats well but the tradeoff that you have to make as a team to carry him in your team has gotten bigger and bigger.

Match Simulation

The betting odds were closer to 50% in favor of Manchester United but that has come down a bit as the match has gotten closer, as the time of this writing I am seeing 2.09 which implies about 48% for Manchester United.

I am a little more in favor of Arsenal with my model with five thirty eight coming in, in the middle with Manchester United at 45%.

This is a match that Arsenal won last year so there is no chance to pick up points compated to last season but for the top 4 race this is a match where Arsenal are defending just 1.2 points so a draw or even a loss wouldn't be a killer for those chances (besides giving a direct competitor a big swing and a much closer gap).