Arsenal have to get back up on the proverbial horse, after their latest set back in the Premier League, when they play league leaders Manchester United this Sunday afternoon. While there is still a mathematical chance of Arsenal winning the title this season, I don't think there is a single person who actually believes they will do it. Even if Arsenal won all of their remaining four games there is virtually no hope of United losing two of their remaining three games after this one, and Chelsea losing a game as well. In my opinion Arsenal should have won the league from the position they had in late January, but when the going got tough they didn't rise to the occasion.
If Arsenal lose against United it will probably wrap the league title up for them, and it would not be a sight I would like to see happen at The Emirates. Arsenal have gone to Old Trafford and won the league in the past, as they have done at Anfield and White Hart Lane, but it would be a very different feeling if Arsenal were to see another team wrap up a title on their ground. I suppose the title cannot be mathematically won on Sunday, regardless of other results, but it can be effectively won.
All that's left for Arsenal is the hope of finishing second, but that task looks to be beyond them as well, with Chelsea in a much better position to do so. I'm sure Champions League football will be obtained for next season, but if Arsenal were to slip to fourth in the table it would be a disastrous end to the campaign in my opinion. Man City have the chance to inflict that embarrassment on Arsenal if they can keep winning, and Arsenal have to ensure it does not happen.
It won't be easy for the Arsenal players to pick themselves up after last week's defeat to Bolton, and a game against the league leaders is hardly an ideal game to try to do it in. However, Arsenal have a very talented team, and they have to find the will to want to win this game from somewhere. Their mental toughness has been questioned recently, and quite rightly so, but they have the chance to show everybody that they are not as weak as they are perceived.
I honestly don't know how the Arsenal players will react, but if they are not up to scratch it could be a long hard day for all of their loyal fans. United may not have their most talented team at the moment, but they have shown the will to win which has been absent in Arsenal all too often. They are not afraid to get stuck in, and vary their style of play, as long as they can get a result, and Arsenal and Arsene Wenger could learn a lesson from that.
I would be surprised to see too many changes from the team which lost 2-1 to Bolton last week, as it was the strongest team available to Arsenal on the day. The only different player who might make a start is Andrey Arshavin, but I think the boss will stick with the same team. If he were to bring in any of the other subs I think it would weaken the team, and Arsenal need their strongest possible team for such a big game.
It says a lot about the strength of the Arsenal squad that the starting 11 almost picks itself, even with almost every single player available for selection. The boss needs to add a few players this summer, so that he has real selection headaches for next season. For this game though, he needs to pick a team that can genuinely have a chance of winning, and regaining just a little bit of pride for the team and the fans too.
In recent seasons Arsenal have played well against United, but with absolutely no success, as they have been out thought tactically. United are perfectly happy to let Arsenal make all the play, as they sit back and defend in depth, and then they take their chance to pick Arsenal off on the break. It's a sight which Arsenal fans have got all too used to seeing, and it's probably the most likely outcome in this game too.
I had hoped United would have a very tough Champions League semi final last Tuesday night against Schalke 04, but sadly the German team were simply not up to the task of performing at that level. United's 2-0 win away from home has set them up for a probable final with Barcelona, and it's virtually impossible to imagine them letting a two goal lead slip in the home leg on Wednesday night. My hope had been that their players would be suffering from fatigue, and needing to keep something back for a tough second leg, but they should be able to put everything they have into their game against Arsenal now.
The injury news for Arsenal is again very positive with only Abu Diaby, Lukasz Fabianski, and Thomas Vermaelen unavailable from the entire first team squad. Fabianski won't play again until next season because of his shoulder injury, and Diaby has not recovered from his calf injury in time to play. The big news was of course Vermaelen turning out for Arsenal's reserves on Thursday when they drew 0-0 away to the same opponents that Arsenal will face on Sunday. Arsene Wenger said he won't be available for Sunday, but I suspect he will get to play before the season ends. His absence has been sorely felt at the heart of the Arsenal defence since he picked up an injury on international duty early last September.
I am hoping Arsenal can find it within themselves to put in a performance that their fans deserve, and do enough to prolong United's wait to be crowned champions for another week or two at least. I'm predicting a 2-1 win, and I think both Cesc Fabregas, and Robin Van Persie will be the players to score for Arsenal. As long as the players give the game their all I will be happy, but a win would be very sweet at this late stage in the season despite the fact that it's too late to matter.
The club announced the other three participants in this year's Emirates Cup, and to be honest it's not exactly the strongest line up. Arsenal will be joined by New York Red Bulls, Paris Saint-Germain, and Boca Juniors for the tournament, which will be held on Saturday and Sunday July 30th and 31st. The Red Bulls will of course have Arsenal legend Thierry Henry among their ranks, and it will be good to see the great man back at The Emirates, even if he is more than a little past his best.
That's it for today.
Here's the Arsenal goals from their last league victory over United.
See You Tomorrow.