Next to the North London Derby, this has always been the match look out for each season. More so since the arrival of Wenger to Arsenal as the Premier League has become some sort of a personal duel between him and Ferguson. However lately, the importance of this matchup has tempered a little due to the fact that it was Chelsea and not Arsenal that was challenging Man United for the league title. That though is not the case this season.
With Chelsea winning their encounter with Burnley yesterday, the table now reflects the actual standings of the these 3 clubs with all having played the same amount of game. Chelsea are 4 points ahead of United with Arsenal another point behind in third. With the chance to deal an direct blow to a fellow challenger, it’s safe to say that a win is vital for both sides tonight. Last season, against all odds we won via a Samir Nasri double. The odds are not quite so against us tonight but there will be some form of revenge of the mind of Arsenal players haven been so ruthlessly disposed of by United in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal last season.
The team news for Arsenal is one that is considerably better than it has been the past few weeks. Alex Song has returned from his sojourn in the ANC and looks set to start this game in the holding role in midfield. His protection in front of the back four is all the more important considering that unless a miracle happen, Campbell will be replacing the ever present Vermaelen in defense. Just as well, there are also other returnees in the form of Nasri and Bendtner. With that in mind, I suspect they will line up this way tonight;
Except for Vermaelen, Diaby and RVP; you could see that the lineup is almost the strongest one available to Wenger. Much will be depended on the captain and star of our side, Cesc Fabregas. Provided he is at his authoritative best, United can be put to the sword. Song and Denilson will have to all the dirty work of containing United, to allow Fabregas a free reign in midfield. Rooney may have won all the plaudits for his goalscoring record this season but the one that really makes United tick is Darren Fletcher. Fletcher will be the one is will be assign to track Fabregas’ movement on the pitch.
If Wenger were to err on the side of caution, Rosicky might take to the pitch ahead of Bendtner with Arshavin returning for a central striking position. But I fear that by doing that, it will only ease the minds of United’s defense that is already shorn of Ferdinand. Bendtner’s presence in needed up front as we need a viable option forward to hold he ball and allow the midfielders and wide players to get in their act.
The expected tussle between Campbell and Rooney might also be crucial to the cause. We all know what happened during the unbeaten season. Rooney’s form this season will no doubt cause some nerviness to even the most positives Gooner. Campbell needs not to stick too close to the England forward or risk being turned easily. Reading of the game is more important. Opposite to what was faced against Stoke and Villa, this time there will be no worries of crosses and high balls into our box, against United, Campbell and Gallas will deal with those all day long.
4 hours to the start of the game. This could turn out to be another beautiful display of attacking football from both sides. After being outclassed by the reigning league champions in the last match-up played at the Grove, Wenger and his players due owe us a massive performance and come out with the win tonight.
Here’s to a good win and with that hopefully a celebratory match report tomorrow. Enjoy the game.