Finally the day has arrived. Finally we’ll get to see our beloved Arsenal in action after 4 days of not seeing them. Now that I think about it, that is not too long a wait but it is still a little strange not to see them in action over the weekend. Today’s visit will be at Old Trafford. The very ground where we won the league title in 2002 as well as lost our unbeaten run in 2005.
The last time we beat United away was in the 06/07 season. A late Emmanuel Adebayor winner that highlighted Cesc Fabregas’ vision for a killer pass. Since then we’ve lost 3 league meetings on the trot there. Last season was particularly disappointing given the way we played and the manner in which United got their goals. A soft penalty against Manuel Almunia and the Abou Diaby own goal.
There is some parity to be restored there. We’ve not beaten Alex Ferguson’s team for quite a few years now. Their Champions League semifinal win a couple of years ago still pains me. Not so much the defeat but the way they steam-rolled all over us. The 3-1 home league defeat last season felt pretty much the same way. That no matter what our dominance are over ball possession, we had no chance to win the game and they can score at will.
Will Ferguson be looking to take us on the counter again? Recent viewing of Arsenal would warrant such a tactic. The ball over the top seem to be our Achilles Heel at the moment. There is some hesitancy in our defensive play and the organization will have to be a whole lot better to combat this tactic.
If rumours are to be believed, Lukasz Fabianski will not play tonight as he seemed to have pulled something during the Partizan game. It’s a shame really. Having done so well since coming into the side, you would want him to continue playing rather than having to start all over again with gaps of injuries. This would have been another fixture for him to prove that he is up for the number 1 spot in the team.
As it stands, Wojciech Szczesny looks to be the likely replacement. If that is the case, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out Almunia’s position at the club. This opportunity would be a baptism of fire for the young Pole keeper. Although he has yet to concede any goals in all his appearances for Arsenal this season, United would surely represent a step up in quality compared to what he has played against thus far. The result could be at the very end of each axis. Either he will stop everything that United throw at him or he will commit nervous mistakes.
With so many other inventive players in our side, I do hope Arsene Wenger do not risk playing Fabregas unless he is 100% fit. Samir Nasri, Andrey Arshavin and Robin Van Persie are all capable of playing in that position. They may not be in the same class or mould as our captain but they are not too shabby a replacement to be had. With that in mind, here’s my take on the starting line-up;
I think Wenger will err on the side of caution and play Denilson instead of RvP or even Tomas Rosicky. Given that our opponent is more than dangerous than usual and Alex Song’s penchant to roam forward, it would not be too bad to have someone else sitting in front of the back four all day long. If things do not turn out the way we wanted, there’s plenty of option on the bench to unleash onto the field in the shape of Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Rosicky and RvP.
Big matches can sometimes be affected by refereeing decisions. Howard Webb plays the all important role tonight to make that doesn’t happen. I like to see a flowing game without too much fuss and less free-kicks. However, the referee will have to act if the fouls are persistent or seemed to be focussed on any particular player. The last time we lost any game with Webb in charge was in April 2008. We’ve won 6 out 9 since then.
The excitement is mounting and I can’t wait for the game to start. Let’s end their mini-unbeaten run like how they ended ours. Let’s get our second win in Manchester this season and show everybody that we mean business. Let’s shove some boots up Evra’s arse. Let’s win the bloody game.
Come On You Gunners!!!!