Arsenal vs Man United Key Battles

Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United will have slightly less significance given the latter have already wrapped up the title.

"No Wayne, I will not give you a hug!"

By FOX Sports staff

Still, games between the two clubs are rarely devoid of drama and the Gunners will certainly have something to play for given they are still battling for UEFA Champions League qualification.

Although they are currently third on the table, Arsenal have played one game more than London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham. Lose and they could find themselves out of the top four by the time the weekend fixtures are over.

Having wrapped up the title with last Monday's 3-0 win over Aston Villa, it's tempting to think United will take it easy from now till the end of the season but manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already expressed his desire to better Chelsea's record point haul of 95; something his side can achieve if they win all four remaining games.

Thus, with plenty still to play for at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, we bring you four key battles that could decide the tie.

Jack Wilshere vs Michael Carrick

The battle of the playmakers will go a long way in deciding who picks up the three points given both are integral to their respective teams' style of play.

Wilshere, who has only just recovered from injury, has already shown one or two good signs since returning to the team and will want to end the season on a high and build towards next term.

His all-action style of play sees him regularly venture to all areas of the park, but it's just outside the opposition area where he does his best work, and although playmakers don't often meet face to face, he will come up against Carrick given the latter is always deployed in a deep-lying role.

More renowned for initiating moves that lead to goals but also adept at breaking them down, the ex-Tottenham man has been named by Gunners manager Arsene Wenger as his Player of the Year.

"I think Carrick is an under-rated player in England," he said, according to Mirror Football. "Sometimes, not only should the goal-scorer be rewarded but the real players in the heart of the game."

There is a chance the 31-year-old might not play on Sunday as Ferguson revealed he took on Villa carrying an injury, but if he does, he could well be locked in an enthralling duel with his England colleague.

 Theo Walcott vs Nemanja Vidic

A three-match ban to French striker Olivier Giroud will have left Wenger shaking his head after last weekend, but it does provide him the chance to try out either Theo Walcott or Lukas Podolski as the focal point in attack.

The former, in particular, has been crying out to be played as an out-and-out striker but his form has been far from impressive since a blinding spell in mid-season earned him a new contract.

Having played no part in Monday's win over the Villans, United captain Nemanja Vidic could return to the starting XI although it remains to be seen if it would be a wise move if Arsenal do start with Walcott up front.

Vidic's awful run with injuries over the past couple of years have meant that even at the relatively young age of 31, he is fast approaching the end of his career and can longer keep up with the fastest of strikers.

If Walcott is able to capitalise on this and put his Serbian opponent to the sword, something that has not been done often in the past, it could go a long way in earning him a central striker's berth in Wenger's line-up, rather than one on the flanks.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain vs Patrice Evra

Walcott moving into the middle could leave a space for Oxlade-Chamberlain to fill out on the right, and it's an area he's done well regularly in the past.

Blessed with pace, a bag of tricks, and good crossing and shooting technique, the man they call "the Ox" could well go on to become one of the country's best wingers but, like Walcott, he hasn't always produced his best performances in the biggest clashes.

Ferguson has promised to field his strongest XI on Sunday and if that's the case, Oxlade-Chamberlain will find himself up against Patrice Evra, an experienced left-back who has struggled in the past against small, fleet-footed wingers like Walcott and Tottenham's Aaron Lennon.

But even if Evra finds himself under duress against his 19-year-old opponent, he can easily cause problems of his own by bombing forward in attack, and Oxlade-Chamberlain will need to do his fair share of defensive work if Arsenal are not to be caught on down the left flank.

Laurent Koscielny vs Robin van Persie

"I hope we can keep Robin quiet. He is a good player," Koscielny said earlier this week in the build-up to the game.

Although it's been less than a full season since Van Persie defected to Old Trafford, he's already made them pay once by guiding United to a 2-1 victory over his former club last November - scoring a third-minute opener to send them on their way.

In that game, the Dutchman ran Thomas Vermaelen - his successor as Arsenal skipper - ragged, meaning Koscielny is likely to get the nod this time.

With his no-nonsense style of defending, strength in the air and well-timed tackling, the Frenchman has all the necessary attributes to keep his former team-mate quiet.

But as we have found out this season, no one really keeps Van Persie quiet. He scores whenever he wants, however he wants and his goals have fired United to a record 20th league title.

He's ice-cool demeanour also means he is unlikely to be bothered by the hostile reception the Emirates Stadium faithful will give him. Even it does affect, it probably only means he'll take out his frustration on his former team-mates once the opening whistle blows.

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