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For us here at Under The Cosh, this is the biggest game of the season. It’s the Red Devils vs. the Gunners and our friendships will be temporarily strained. Last season Arsenal gave Man United a pasting at the Emirate with a 3-0 victory and the Gooner contingent were full of banter. The return fixture saw 18 year old Marcus Rashford score a brace on his Premier League debut to seal a 3-2 victory for United bringing them redemption.
This season’s tussle has a lot on the line as well. Arsenal have failed to beat the Red Devils at Old Trafford for just over 10 years. This time, the fixture gives us the added spice of Jose Mourinho vs Arsene Wenger. Mourinho has never lost to Wenger in the Premier League. The two absolutely detest each other, with Wenger shoving Jose on the touchline a few years ago. It’s an understatement to say that there’s a lot on the line.
We’ve seen quite a few combined XIs in the lead up to this game. Most of them have been a load of rubbish. Instead of doing that, we wanted to take a look at the best players on each team and determine if they are ‘world class’ or not. Bear in mind, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are on different planets so we aren’t comparing any of these players to those guys. Check out the report and let us know your thoughts in the comments or on social media.
David De Gea: World Class
From a United standpoint this one was simple. There are many who view Manuel Neuer as the best goalkeeper in the world but there’s a growing school of thought that in fact De Gea deserves the crown. He’s been voted United’s best player three seasons in a row. Where would they be without him? Maybe struggling to make the Europa League. Season after season he produces saves you just don’t think are possible. He’s already pulled a save of the season contender in denying Coutinho a spectacular strike. If United are to win you can be sure his shot stopping ability will have a lot to do with that.
Peter Cech: No longer world class
A few years ago, Cech was thought of as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Since his demotion at Chelsea following the arrival of Thibaut Courtois, Cech has been good but often not great. Shots from distance have been his undoing during his short Arsenal career. For a keeper of his ability and experience it’s not been good enough. If his shot stopping has let him down a little bit, his organization skills have been outstanding and might be contributing to Arsenal enjoying a more solid back four. He still has time to get back to his best but for now he’s on the outside looking in.
Laurent Koscielny: World Class
Quite simply, the best centre back in the English Premier League. A few things have counted against Koscielny in the past. He joined Arsenal when defenders like Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and John Terry were the gold standard. It has taken him a while but he’s now emulating them as best he can. Currently there are flashier names like Ramos, Silva, Pique, Bonucci and Chiellini. Aside from the Italian duo there isn’t a better defender in world football than the Frenchman. In an era in which the essence of defending has been forgotten, Koscielny is a shining star. His positioning is top class, he hardly goes in for a rash challenge and has a wonderful footballing brain. Koscielny is criminally underrated, which suits Arsenal just fine.
Manchester United defenders: No!
Chris Smalling had a fantastic 18 months under Louis Van Gaal after getting sent off at the Etihad two seasons ago. Many a striker has resided in his pocket during a match but Smalling still lacks a bit of concentration and he doesn’t leave fans 100% convinced. Shaw has been inconsistent due to injury, Antonio Valencia has surprised many but he’s no defender. Blind has also surprised us by performing admirably as a centre back but that’s no formula for being world class. There’s only so much a makeshift defense can do and United have a lot to think about in this regard if they are to progress.
Paul Pogba: World Class
I’m going to stick out my neck here but Paul Pogba is a world class player. Many will ask, why doesn’t he score more goals or why doesn’t have more assists? Firstly, he’s just moved to Man United. Secondly, that’s not really his job in a team. Last season for Juventus, Pogba scored 11 goals and gathered 15 assists playing in Serie A. We all know how constricting that league is. He finished as the best player in the country with the highest assists. However, that’s still not his primary role. The season before he was the driving force in midfield for a Juventus side that made it to the Uefa Champions League final earning himself a spot on the top 10 Uefa player of the year list. The 23 year old was coveted by both Barcelona and Real Madrid before rejoining Man United. With his talent, trophies and showing he can be the best player at a huge club like Juventus for two years, Pogba is world class, but just.
Mesut Ozil: World Class
Wayne Rooney first fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson in 2010 because he didn’t try to sign Ozil. He was a youngster then, and it looks like Rooney had a point. Ozil went on to be an outstanding player for Real Madrid. So much so, that when Gareth Bale was bought and Ozil sold, the fans nearly revolted (although two UCL titles without him may justify that decision). While at Real, he had the best assist tally in Europe for a few years running. After a slow start to life in London, last season saw Ozil cement his world class status. He lead the league in assists with 19 as Arsenal stole second place from Tottenham. Ozil hasn’t reproduced the league form he’s shown in the Champions League just yet (last season he scored 2 goals and had 0 assists in 8 appearances) so there is definitely room for improvement, however he was a key component in the recent German World Cup winning side and that’s no mean feat.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: World Class
The big Swede has had a mixed start to his Premier League career so far. After scoring five in his first five games for United, he went on the longest drought of his career before ending it with a brace at lowly Swansea. However, the stats are still pretty good. 8 goals in 14 games across all competitions is still a very good return even if he’s missed chances Harry Redknapp’s grandmother would have put away. Of course his United career is just beginning so his days at PSG and Milan are not far enough off the radar to warrant them irrelevant. He comes to United from PSG after a wonderful season scoring 50 goals in 53 appearances. Those numbers are staggering no matter where you play. Time will tell if he remains world class at his age but so far Zlatan still fits the bill.
Alexis Sanchez: World Class
He went from Barcelona outcast to Arsenal hero status. His debut season for Arsenal was filled with wonder goal after wonder goal and he hasn’t let up since. Sanchez absolutely ruined Matteo Darmian’s promising United career last season and the Gunners will hope for more of the same. Arsenal’s best player ever -Thierry Henry – had 48 goals in his first 100 Arsenal games. Alexis Sanchez has scored 47 in the same number of games. That’s scary to think about. His relationship with Mesut Ozil has made Arsenal an attacking force. What really makes Sanchez impressive is his never-say -die attitude. He will play through injury for club and country. For Chile, he’s been spectacular as well. Sanchez has carried the country on his back to two consecutive Copa America titles, twice bringing tears to the eyes of Lionel Messi. Anyone who can do that is truly world class.
So there you have it. Two formerly world class teams still have a few world class players kicking about. Let us know your thoughts on the matter!