November is never a good month for Arsenal. Injuries and poor results collude to frustrate supporters on an annual basis. This weekend, Arsenal face a resurgent Manchester United (one win in a row), a fixture that, when played at Old Trafford, fills Arsenal fans with trepidation. Not since 2006, when the erstwhile Emmanuel Adebayor scored the winner, have the Gunners come away with three points.

In the intervening years, we’ve seen Arsenal lose ten times, including that humiliating 8-2 reverse, a 4-0 in the FA Cup, losses to David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, and a Robin van Persie-inspired United victory. Only two draws have been registered, and a solitary FA Cup victory in 2015, a rare moment of glory in an otherwise dismal ten years.

We have suffered drubbings at the hands of world-class players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and a previous incarnation of Wayne Rooney. But we’ve also come a cropper against weak opposition: in the 8-2 loss, United’s back four featured the young, inexperienced trio of Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, with Anderson, Nani, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young in midfield. Last season, our superior side, higher in the league and better on paper, crumbled against a second-string United side struggling under van Gaal’s tempestuous reign.

In short, we don’t like playing at Old Trafford, and the added intrigue of Jose Mourinho this season, whom Arsene Wenger has never beaten in League play, adds another level of anxiety.

The November curse may have returned, with the international break robbing us of one of our most important players. Hector Bellerin, who has evolved into one of the best full backs in the world, injured his ankle in training for the Spanish under 21s, and faces a month out of action. In truth, Bellerin has been overworked. With no meaningful competition, he has featured heavily for two years now, making 36 appearances in the Premier League last season, and playing in all but one this campaign. For a player of his nature, this was bound to cause some sort of injury. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

His replacement on Saturday, likely to be either Carl Jenkinson or a reshuffled Shkodran Mustafi, will certainly face a tough test against either Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial. The thought of Mustafi, an excellent defender but not one blessed with pace, facing one of United’s lighting-quick wingers is somewhat worrying; Jenkinson’s inexperience and lack of game time does not placate my nerves.

One positive is that Alexis Sanchez has returned from Chile, as far as we know, without his thigh problem intensifying. Nevertheless, he played 84 minutes for Chile on Tuesday night scoring twice, with a heavily-bandaged leg. It was certainly a risk, and as I wrote earlier in the week, one worth taking for the Chilean national side. Struggling to qualify for the World Cup, and with no international fixture until March, there was no reason for Alexis to sit out.

It leaves Arsene Wenger, on the other hand, with a bit of a headache. Alexis will face a fifteen-hour flight back to London, a day at most of light training, and a trip to Manchester on Saturday morning, all with a thigh teetering on the brink of injury. He will want to play, and if recent history is anything to go by, probably will. He hates sitting out, and Wenger would obviously prefer him in the starting lineup. Last November, a remarkably similar series of events led to Alexis missing several weeks through injury. With PSG visiting the Emirates on Wednesday, a fixture that will decide the group winner, Wenger faces a tough decision on whether to keep the Chilean or go with Olivier Giroud.

Let’s hope injuries and fatigue don’t ruin our chances of overcoming two significant hoodoos, beating United and Jose Mourinho.

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