Saturday, 27 April 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Manchester United Previewed

By the time Arsenal play Manchester United tomorrow afternoon they could find themselves out of the top four. Spurs go to struggling Wigan on Saturday afternoon and Chelsea kick off an hour earlier than Arsenal on Sunday at home to Swansea. If they both win their games as expected Arsenal will need at least a point from United to get back into the top four.

Even at that both of those teams will have a game in hand on Arsenal, but that game is against each other at least. It's still not a great scenario for Arsenal and it means they have to take something from the game with United and that won't be easy. A win would surely be enough to push them on to a top four finish, but a defeat could have the opposite effect.

There are so many permutations and combinations at this stage in the season but Arsenal will finish in the top four if they win their last four games. Their fate is in their own hands and this is the toughest of their four remaining games. United come to Arsenal with their 20th league title in their trophy cabinet after Monday's victory over Aston Villa and with four games left to play.

They still have a chance to finish the season with more points than any other team has managed in the age of the Premier League. Four wins in United's final four games would break that record by one point, but hopefully Arsenal can put paid to that record attempt. This United team is not the best team in the history of the Premier League by a long shot and for them to achieve 96 points would be a sad indictment on the league itself.

United have won 12 of their 17 away games and are top scorers away from home as well. Despite their defensive problems earlier in the season United now have the second best defence away from home with only Arsenal conceding less goals on the road. All of this is from a United team with a midfield which has no class and virtually no creativity either.

What United do have though is good strikers and they have no problems scoring goals from anywhere. I have often wondered if Arsenal might have tried to take Javier Hernandez as part of the deal which saw Robin van Persie sign for United last summer. His inclusion in the Arsenal squad might well have helped the team to finish the season with quite a few points more than they are going to do.

There is no doubt that Van Persie's move to United last summer was exactly what United needed to regain the title from City. He's the top scorer in the league yet again and should finish as top scorer too with Luis Suarez suspended for the rest of the season. The Arsenal fans will give their former captain a reception to remember when he takes to the pitch tomorrow.

Players have come and gone from Arsenal in the past but his departure is one which upset an awful lot of Arsenal fans. He had only been captain for one season and was a self proclaimed Arsenal fan. He claimed he left to win trophies and if that was the case he has already picked up one with United in his first season.

It has been eight years since Arsenal won a trophy and his exit last summer more or less guaranteed they would go through this season without a trophy. Whether you believe his reasons or not he has won that trophy at United and Arsenal will be giving the newly crowned champions a guard of honour. That doesn't mean the Arsenal fans have to applaud them though and I would love to hear resounding jeers when they get their guard of honour.

I have no doubt the Arsenal fans will give Van Persie a very hard time every time he gets the ball if he plays. Arsenal stood by one of the most injury prone players they had for years and as soon as he had 18 months injury free he was gone to a club who were able to pay him an awful lot more. Let's see his reaction to those Arsenal fans who adored him now showing that he is their most hated player in the league.

Unfortunately Arsenal's striking options have been limited this season and they are even more so for the next three games. Olivier Giroud's three game ban for his red card against Fulham last week means that he won't be available again until the last day of the season at Newcastle. Arsene Wenger has to decide who will be his central striker tomorrow and none of the three options are too appealing for such a big game.

I have never been convinced by Theo Walcott in that role and I don't think he would get much joy against United. Lukas Podolski has being carrying a knock and the boss hasn't played him there all season long so why would he choose to do so now. The final option is Gervinho and despite playing in that role earlier in the season he is no central striker in my opinion.

I have a feeling Gervinho might just get the nod though and if he does the choice of the two wide players to play with him could be very important. I heard someone suggest (I can't remember who it was) that Arsenal should play a front three of Walcott, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and use their pace to run the United defence ragged. It's a plan that could work, but only if those players can get room to run into.

The Arsenal defence will probably be the same as it was last week against Fulham unless Kieran Gibbs gets the nod ahead of Nacho Monreal at left back. The defence has been a lot stronger since the 2-0 win away to Bayern Munich and they will need to be at their best against United. It won't be an easy task to shackle the league's top scoring side.

In midfield Mikael Arteta will be certain of starting but there are decisions to be made about who plays with him. Aaron Ramsey had been very impressive in recent weeks and deserves his place in the team in my opinion. There are real choices to be made in the attacking role though and that choice could decide Arsenal's fate in this game.

I think Santi Cazorla should play there as he is the most creative player the club have. Of course both Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere have to be considered there too, but I think Cazorla is the man for the job. In recent games he has been pushed to a wide left role and I don't think it's a role that gets the best out of him.

The chances are he will play on the left though and I wouldn't be surprised to see Wilshere play in midfield. I have no doubt that Wilshere is going to be a great player but he hasn't looked sharp since his latest return from injury. Whoever misses out will at least be available to be sprung from a very strong looking Arsenal bench though.

It's a game Arsenal need to get something from and I think they might just be able to do so. There was a stat this week about through balls played from midfield this season and Cazorla led it by a long long way. Maybe Arsenal haven't finished off enough of those chances, but Cazorla has done his part in making them.

They will need to take their chances today and if they do they could give a United team who are on a high a tough time. If United's minds are anywhere else after winning the title then Arsenal have to make them pay. The loss of Giroud may be a blow but he hasn't been lethal in front of goal.

I would love to see the boss take a chance and play Walcott on the left to get in behind Rafael da Silva. He finishes best coming in from the left and maybe Cazorla could pick him out when Rafael has pushed forward. Maybe the boss will be brave and change things around but it's not something he has done too often in the past.

Arsenal haven't really clicked in attacking terms in the last few games and they need to up their performance today. They need to get at United and close them down quickly in possession. When there's an opportunity to break fast it has to be taken and the United defence has to be put under pressure.

There are few better feelings than beating United and Arsenal haven't done it enough in recent seasons. A 100% committed performance from first minute to last has to be the minimum requirement and hopefully it will be enough to get a result. While a draw would be acceptable I really hope the team can do enough to get a win.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I preview that Arsenal will be win for tongiht match...
    they mus fight for Champions League slot...