Arsenal visit Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon with the task of halting Manchester United's faultless start to the season. Throw in the desire of Arsène Wenger's men to record their first Premiership win this term and the recipe suggests a typically intense and passionate battle between the two.
Midfielder Alexander Hleb looks to have settled straight into
the new season and will be looking to continue his impressive form
against Sir Alex Ferguson's men. That could involve outshining
Darren Fletcher, the young Scot who has emerged as a real
contender for a regular place in United's
Both sets of strikers will require first-class service from these two if they are to fire their respective teams to glory. But who is more likely to provide the goods according to the stats?
Well, neither. Both players have yet to provide a Premiership assist for their team this season, although Hleb will be boosted by his involvement in all three goals in the away match against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League last month.
Strong performances in that competition have led to the Belarus international being an ever-present in Arsenal's three Premiership clashes this season, with Fletcher missing only United's opening-day demolition of Fulham.
The lack of assists may be a result of both players' reluctance to cross the ball. They have attempted only two crosses each so far but while Fletcher has misplaced both, Hleb has at least found his range once.
The Arsenal man certainly seems to be more comfortable when the ball is on the ground. He has attempted 22 passes of which 13 have been accurate. Fletcher has shared similar success with 16 of his 28 passes reaching their intended target but Hleb has also developed a habit of making useful runs with the ball. Of the four dribbles he's attempted, three have produced an end product. In comparison, Fletcher has lost possession on all five occasions he has forayed forward.
History tells us meetings between the two clubs demand players with a combative nature, and it appears Hleb is better prepared for the challenge. His record of four tackles won from five attempts is impressive and slightly outweighs the two attempts by his United counterpart. In fairness though, he has come out on top both times.
Finally, if the front men are failing to convert their service into goals these two may go it alone. Hleb hasn't been prolific so far for the Gunners and will be looking to open his account for the season. Fletcher on the other hand will be hoping to double his tally after opening the scoring in United's 3-0 victory over Charlton at The Valley. Both players will have to up their attempts to get on the scoresheet though having managed just one shot on target each to date.
View Alex Hleb's player profile
Head to Head Statistics Alexander Hleb Darren Fletcher Premiership Appearances 3 3 Minutes on pitch 256 191 Attacking Goals 0 1 Shots on target 1 1 Shots off target 1 2 Shots blocked 0 0 Offside 0 0 Supporting Assists 0 0 Passes made 22 28 Passes complete 13 16 Passes incomplete 9 12 Crosses successful 1 0 Crosses unsuccessful 1 2 Total dribbles 4 5 Dribbles successful 3 0 Dribbles unsuccessful 1 5 Defending Tackles made 5 2 Tackles won 4 2 Tackles lost 1 0 Interceptions 1 0 Blocked Shots 0 0 Clearances 0 2 Penalties Conceded 0 0 Own Goals 0 0 Discipline Fouls 1 4 Yellow Cards 0 0
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