This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
A long-term target of Manchester United fans’ ire, Ashley Young has had a rocky relationship with the Old Trafford faithful. The make-shift full-back has struggled in defence and was part of a back line that conceded 54 goals in the Premier League last season.
Young has once again been tasked with filling in at left-back following an injury to Luke Shaw earlier this campaign. The United boss confirmed in his pre-match press conference the England international is a doubt to face rivals Arsenal on Monday night, and so it seems highly likely the Red Devils will have to rely on their veteran defender once again.
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As such, Young will be the man to come up against £72m star Nicolas Pepe. The latter has hardly set the world alight at the Emirates, only breaking his goal-scoring duck with a penalty against Aston Villa last weekend. However, the under-lying stats show he will prove to be a formidable opponent for United’s full-back, and it will be a contest that could well define the outcome of the game.
On the chalkboard
Despite scoring just the one goal for his new club, Pepe has shown he really does like to get amongst the action going forward. The Ivory Coast international averages three shots and 1.8 key passes per game, and it will be up to Young to make sure he doesn’t cut onto his favoured left-foot.
Perhaps the most worrying stat for United is the Arsenal winger’s apparent directness. The 24-year-old is a prolific dribbler, completing 3.7 of them per game, and coupled with Young’s 1.8 fouls per match, it could be a match-up that sways the game in Arsenal’s favour. If Pepe commits the veteran defender into making a clumsy challenge early on and forces him to pick up a booking, the former Lille man will enjoy a field day.
But if the Red Devils man can take the game to the opposition and get Pepe to constantly track back and defend, United may well have a shrewd counter to Arsenal’s plans. More than anything however, it promises to be one of the most defining head to heads of a crucial clash in the race for top four.