The Gunners travel to the red side of Manchester on Sunday for their next Premier League outing. Both sides have had an inconsistent start to the season with Manchester United losing 2 games so far and sitting 15th on the Premier League table while Arsenal sit at 11th position despite losing one more than their opponents.
Certain star players have kicked off the season in underwhelming fashion for either side, making it difficult to gauge who’s better than who. During such a conundrum, let’s evaluate who qualifies for a combined XI of the two sides.
[Note: *Selections are based completely on performances so far in the 2020/21 season; across all competitions. **Stats: Squawka]
Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno
It is no secret that David de Gea hasn’t been the same player he was a couple of years ago. The Spaniard severely fell off last season and has shown the same sort of displays this term as well. There is not a single area the Manchester United shot-stopper beats the Arsenal number one when their stats were analysed.
Looking at just the Premier League numbers, the United man conceded more than twice the amount of goals as Bernd Leno per 90 minutes, whilst maintaining a significantly better save percentage despite having faced the same amount of shots so far.
Moreover, the former Bayer Leverkusen man topples the Spanish international when it comes to distribution- beating him comfortably when it comes to passes completed, pass completion rate, and long ball accuracy.
Right-back: Hector Bellerin
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is, undoubtedly, a very capable full-back. However, the youngster is a classic case of what he cannot do rather than what he can do. AWB has always struggled during transitions, often falling short on offensive duties, especially the quality of his crosses and cut-backs.
Moreover, despite being a conservative fullback, the Englishman fails to retain the ball better than Hector Bellerin and is sub-par in the air but is better at aspects such as interceptions, blocks, and discipline. Not to mention, the Arsenal full-back already boasts 3 assists this season while the Manchester United player has registered a single goal.
Centre-backs: Gabriel Magalhaes and Harry Maguire
Since coming into the side, Gabriel Magalhaes has transformed Arsenal’s defence. The Brazilian took Arsenal from the streets and made them the second-best defence in the Premier League so far – conceding just 7, above Aston Villa’s 5. Gabriel’s excellent ball-playing ability makes him dangerous whilst distributing and added to his immense aerial prowess and discipline, he’s proving to be one of the major signings of the season.
Harry Maguire, on the other hand, has had a mixed campaign so far. But on his day, Maguire is certainly a capable defender who dominates with his physicality. The Tottenham Hotspur game truly brought down his value in the eye of the supporters, but apart from that, the Englishman has not exactly been bad. Although, if David Luiz was not injured, a case could’ve been made for him.
Left-back: Kieran Tierney
This category should be the one that needs to be the least explained. Luke Shaw has consistently been inconsistent whilst new arrival Alex Telles is yet to make a league appearance for the Red Devils. Left-back is not an area where Old Trafford has many facilities. Meanwhile, Kieran Tierney has been drawing comparisons to the likes of Andrew Robertson.
Midfield: Thomas Partey, Bruno Fernandes and Granit Xhaka
Despite having played fewer minutes at his new club than the rest, Thomas Partey is already proving to be an amazing signing. Paul Pogba is undergoing a very bad term and has barely produced any performances as good as the Ghanaian this season (including his time at Atletico Madrid before making the switch to England).
The choice between Nemanja Matic and Granit Xhaka was very close. Matic has been better defensively, offering the cover for his backline as the rest of the midfield pushed ahead. But, despite being behind the Serbian defensively, Xhaka is equally better when it comes to going forward, creating chances, and dictating tempo. The Swiss keeps his side’s midfield cohesive and ticking.
Bruno Fernandes should be an obvious choice. Bruno is a distinguished attacking midfielder who is formidable from the spot and great at creating chances. With 8 goal contributions in all competitions this season, it’d be criminal to leave him out.
Left-wing: Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford has been under fire recently. However, the forward has kept his head down and done his own thing on and off the pitch. With 7 goals and 2 assists in 9 appearances this season, Rashford easily makes the team.
Right-wing: Bukayo Saka
Anthony Martial was a serious contender for this spot and would’ve easily made the XI if not for the fact that he has only had one good performance all season, despite having registered 4 goal contributions, much like Alexandre Lacazette.
We have a winner????
— Ash (@Pewiwannadiepie) October 30, 2020
On the other hand, despite having only 1 goal to his name, Bukayo Saka is yet to have a bad game for Arsenal this season. Moreover, the Arsenal youngster demolishes the Manchester United forward in every advanced metric possible – making it clear who has had a better time this term.
Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The Gabon international is having a quiet season so far. However, Aubameyang has still had better displays than Martial, Edinson Cavani, and Lacazette. It’s not a competition between these players – as a striker very few are better than the Arsenal skipper and it’s thus a straightforward choice. With 3 goals including one against Liverpool and an assist so far, the Gabon striker leads the attack.