The Hard Tackle looks at three crucial players who could impact proceedings when Arsenal host Manchester United on Sunday.

Arsenal fans rejoiced at the sight of referee Rob Jones dishing out that yellow card to Manchester United midfielder Casemiro during the Red Devils’ visit to Crystal Palace. While the Gunners are a confident unit, even Mikel Arteta may have heaved a sigh of relief at the prospect of the Brazilian missing the clash at the Emirates.

Such is the importance of the midfielder in Manchester United’s setup. Similarly, Arsenal lost their only game this season, incidentally to the Red Devils in the reverse fixture and had Thomas Partey missing the clash.

The two midfielders are highly crucial to how their teams play this season. They manage the tempo and bring about terrific control over proceedings. Their style has become essential for tactics-heavy managers like Mikel Arteta and Erik ten Hag. Whether Casemiro’s absence affects Manchester United considerably remains the question. But Partey’s presence will surely benefit Arsenal.

Three pacey counter-attacking goals by Manchester United finished off Arsenal in the reverse fixture. Marcus Rashford will be essential if they are to repeat the trick. In the Gunners’ camp, there are the usual suspects in Oleksandr Zinchenko, Bukayo Saka and Thomas Partey to choose from. On Sunday, Martin Odegaard will have to play a crucial role in helping Arsenal nick the three points.

While there are several choices of key players from both sets of teams, we are at liberty to choose only three that can have a significant impact. Let’s dive into it briefly as Partey, Rashford, and Odegaard are our picks for this crucial encounter in north London.

Thomas Partey

If consistency needed a face this season, look no further than Partey. The Ghanaian international has proven his worth and featured heavily in fan debates to determine the Premier League’s best midfielder. There are the familiar names of Rodri and Casemiro, but Partey truly stands out for his actions.

Mikel Arteta has made hard work count, and the results are showing. One of his major investments as manager was the purchase of Thomas Partey. The midfielder’s first season aside, he has proven to be instrumental in how Arsenal plays as a unit.

He creates the tempo and offers plenty of security to the back four whenever needed. His direct passing and quickness in the middle of the park give the forwards plenty to operate with. Against Manchester United, dominating and winning midfield battles will become crucial. And there is no better player than Partey to do that job with precision.

Marcus Rashford

Manchester United are unpredictable, relentless, and by far the best team in transition. They can define themselves as a pure counter-attacking side, so there’s a prominent place for Rashford. After a slow start to life under Erik ten Hag, the England international has exploded onto the scene.

While Crystal Palace halted his tremendous scoring streak, he remains an active threat for Arsenal. Rashford was instrumental in the victory over the Gunners at Old Trafford, scoring two pacey goals to kill the game off. And it is hardly surprising that his form this season has attracted clubs like Barcelona, PSG, and others.

The Gunners play with a confident high line, and only Manchester United showed how to exploit it. While Arsenal will come into this game knowing this as their weakness, Manchester United could look for a similar route to take advantage. For this, Rashford playing at his best level is vital.

Martin Odegaard

Arsenal fans had directed complaints at Odegaard at the start of the season. The Norwegian playmaker always looked for a teammate even when there were opportunities to take the shot himself. He has undoubtedly rectified the issue and is taking more chances after that.

It has resulted in Odegaard becoming the most in-form player in the division, and he is currently Arsenal’s top scorer. Odegaard’s playing style has improved. And unlike some of his predecessors in the position, he is not a defensive liability. He offers more to balance the team with his role and has become a tremendous team player.

Odegaard will be critical to unlocking the Manchester United defence and allowing his teammates to come into play. If ten Hag’s side can deploy a plan to restrict the Norwegian, they will have a better chance of getting something out of this game. The Arsenal captain can put another star showing at the Emirates and prove his big-game player status once again.

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