Arsenal v Man Utd Friday 19:55, BBC One Match Odds: Arsenal2.60, Man Utd 3.00, The Draw 3.70
The Fourth Round of the FA Cup starts with its most mouthwatering tie - Manchester United's visit to Arsenal on Friday night. Considering United's resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, this should be an evenly-contested tie, and an interesting tactical battle.
Diamonds are forever
There's every chance the both sides will use the same system here - a midfield diamond. Arsenal played extremely well in that system against Chelsea last week, running away with the game in the opening 20 minutes. Aaron Ramsey did a fine man-marking job on Jorginho, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette ran the channels well.
United, meanwhile, looked excellent in the first half against Tottenham the previous weekend when matching the diamond shape used by Mauricio Pochettino - with Jesse Lingard in behind Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. If Arsenal continue with their system from last week, and United continue to match a diamond with a diamond, they should line up in the same system.
Arsenal right-back issue
Unai Emery has a couple of selection problems, however. Hector Bellerin is out for the season with a serious knee injury, and Arsenal have two very different potential replacements. Stephan Lichsteiner boasts plenty of experience but very little pace - and Arsenal will need speed here against United's quick attackers. That means Ainsley Maitland-Niles might come into the side. Although not a natural full-back, he's played there well on occasion and might nail down the place for the rest of the campaign with a good performance here.
On the left, Nacho Monreal is back in contention, and if Arsenal continue with a back four, he's a better option than the attack-minded Sead Kolasinac. Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis Papastathopoulos will probably continue in the middle, with Petr Cech likely to return as Arsenal's cup keeper.
The midfield will probably feature Granit Xhaka holding, with Matteo Guendouzi to his left if Emery goes with the diamond. Lucas Torreria will play to the right in that system, or will partner Xhaka if it's the 4-2-3-1.
Ramsey might be leaving Arsenal in the summer, but he remains a very good option and could cause Manchester United problems with his forward running. Mesut Ozil will hope to return, especially as he's well-suited to playing at the top of the diamond, but seems likely to be left on the bench again. Lacazette and Aubameyang have a fine relationship upfront, and this diamond midfield means they can play close together without being disconnected from the rest of the side.
Sanchez to return?
Solskjaer has named a consistent starting XI when taking charge, although there have been suggestions he could deploy Alexis Sanchez here, perhaps hoping that playing against his old club will help the Chilean find some form. It would be a shame for him to displace Martial or Rashford, however, although he could tuck into a deeper position, as a number 10, if Solskjaer is sticking with the diamond. However, Jesse Lingard brings more defensive discipline and more tactical options, so it makes more sense to stick with Rashford, Martial and Lingard. Romelu Lukaku is an alternative.
There should be no question marks in midfield, where Nemanja Matic holds, Ander Herrera gets up and down, and Paul Pogba has license to fly forward into attack. His late goalscoring runs have caused problems in recent weeks, and his passing range remains excellent. His battle with Torreira could be feisty.
Defensively, Luke Shaw should return after illness and Ashley Young should continue on the right. They might have freedom if Arsenal use a narrow diamond system, but must be careful not to open up space in the channels. Eric Bailly or Phil Jones will partner Victor Lindelof, who has looked good in recent weeks.
I think this will be a fast-paced and lively match, with Arsenal looking to press in the early stages and Manchester United playing on the break. I can see this being something of a goalfest, so I'll back over 2.5 goals at1.70.
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made it seven out of seven when his side beat Brighton last week at Old Trafford scoring 19 goals in those games. They take their unbeaten record to the Emirates on Friday night in what is the pick of the FA Cup fourth round games. Arsenal put themselves back on track with a good 2-0 win over Chelsea last week and they are unbeaten at home since losing to City on the opening day of the season.
Both sides have good recent history in the completion, the Gunners have won it in three of the last five seasons and United made the final on the two occasions the Gunners didn’t succeed, winning it in 2016 and losing out in last year’s final to Chelsea.
The Gunners are slight favourites but United won’t fear playing Arsenal, they have only lost five games in just under 11 years against them in all competitions and the away side have won eight Premier League games when visiting Arsenal.
There hasn’t been a 0-0 between these two for almost five years and I don’t expect that to end here. United were lucky to keep their unbeaten run when they played Tottenham recently as only an inspired performance by David De Gea stopped Spurs from scoring at least one.
I think Both teams to Score is a strong possibility but the odds suggest that anyway, trading at around 1.60.
It’s time someone beat United and I think Arsenal would love to be that side, but I am going to hedge my bets a bit by splitting my stake backing Arsenal to win 2-1 in the correct score market at 12.00 with 20% and having the remainder on Over 3.5 Goals at 3.00 (place as a keep bet if not matched before kick off).