Friday, 2 November 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Manchester United Previewed

It's been more than a year since Arsenal suffered the indignity of an 8-2 defeat in this fixture. The mere thought of that game still causes me pain which I wish I could forget and only a victory at United will help to ease that pain. It's not something that happens too often, but hopefully it can do tomorrow.

A second string Arsenal showed an awful lot of bottle to come from 4-0 behind and beat Reading 7-5 in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night. The next night United fielded a similarly strong team and were beaten 5-4 by Chelsea. Those games were great for fans and TV viewers, but hardly ideal preparation for this game.

Arsene Wenger will make wholesale changes to that team and Theo Walcott is the only player who started against Reading who is likely to start against United. He is now Arsenal's top scorer this season and he deserves to play after the performance he put in. This United team will hardly sit back and defend and Walcott is likely to find the room to play in that he loves.

I had hoped to see Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs return from injury, but they won't have recovered in time to play. It means Vito Mannone and Andre Santos will again deputise in goal and at left back respectively. There is a case for Thomas Vermaelen playing at left back, but his inclusion there would surely spell an end to Santos' Arsenal career.

The only other change I can see from the team that beat QPR last Saturday is the inclusion of Walcott at the expense of Aaron Ramsey on the right of the Arsenal attacking trio. It means Jack Wilshere is likely to start although he will do well to last more than an hour. Ramsey will probably be called upon to replace him at that stage in the game.

Arsenal have the best defensive record in the Premier League so far this season with only six goals conceded in nine games. However, United boast the most potent strike force in the league with 24 goals scored in nine games also.

A lot will depend on Arsenal's ability to stop United building up a head of steam and dominating the game in my opinion. United can be unstoppable at home at times and Arsenal need to be able to slow the game down when it suits them. There's no point in trying to match United blow for blow as last season showed what can happen when you do.

I'm a little concerned to more than likely see Santos at left back and I think he will need an awful lot of help from his team mates. Lukas Podolski, Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta need to be prepared to help when United throw both Antonio Valencia and Rafael da Silva forward. Santos's defending can leave a lot to be desired at times and he will need to be at his very best for every single minute.

Arsenal have got the players in midfield to dominate the game and they will try to get Santi Cazorla, Arteta and Wilshere on the ball as much as possible. I'm sure United will try to bypass the centre of the park as they look to utilise their wide players as much as possible. It will be interesting to see if United play with only one striker as they try to match Arsenal in midfield.

Walcott may not have been up against the best defence in the league on Tuesday night, but he showed a lot more to his game than he has done in a while. He used his pace to take defenders on and Reading found it hard to cope with him. He was in the right place at the right time quite often too and he took his hat trick very well.

Olivier Giroud led the line when he came on against Reading and he must surely be chosen as the central striker with Gervinho out for the next few weeks. If Arsenal can deliver good crosses to Giroud he has the aerial ability to cause United some real problems. I have a gut feeling Giroud will get his name on the scoresheet.

Of course the biggest talking point will be the reunion with former Arsenal hero Robin van Persie. This will be the first time Arsenal have played United since their captain deserted them in the summer. The traveling Arsenal fans are sure to have a real go at him.

Traditionally United fans have sung their dispicible song about the Arsenal manager, but the Arsenal fans have an equally contentious one lined up to sing to van Persie. I wonder what the media will make of the song considering the virtual wall of silence to the chants directed at Wenger. The atmosphere in the ground should be absolutely electric and the Arsenal fans will make themselves heard as always.

I think Arsenal have a real chance of getting something out of this game. I haven't been overly impressed with United's defending this season and I think Arsenal will score against them. It's a matter of whether Arsenal can do enough at the other end to keep United's chances to a minimum.

I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal which would put them right there in contention for a top four finish. Ideally Arsenal should be challenging for the title but they need to make up the ground on the leaders first. There would be no better boost for Arsenal than to win away to a United team containing van Persie.

I'm sure it will be a nerve wracking affair and it could be very close in the end. Hopefully United won't be handed the game by refereeing decisions like they were against Chelsea. It's hard enough trying to win at Old Trafford without having to take on 12 men.

It will be obvious from early on whether the referee can be unbiased or not. if all the small decisions start to go in United's favour and Arsenal don't get obvious free kicks they will know how many men they are up against. if this Arsenal team can play at their very best I think they can take all three points no matter how many men they are up against.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment