If you remember the corresponding match last season, you will remember the anger and vitriol directed from the home crowd towards Arsene Wenger. I’m going to put my hand up and admit that I was strongly questioning his decision to take off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain too. It was a decision which I still believe, contributed to us getting beat that night.
There will be a lot of anger in today’s match as well. However, unlike last season, the anger will be directed towards the visiting side. Or more specifically, on the returning Robin van Prick. We all know what happened with this one. There’s plenty of stories in and around the internet from July last year until today, so we won’t revisit any of that here.
Wenger calls for the home fans to show him a modicum of respect. That won’t be what we hear over the television or if we were present in the stadium itself. A situation made more difficult because the manner of his return. Coming back as the Premier League champions will hurt and that is also one of the reasons why the boos will be louder than ever.
It is also because Manchester United will be visiting as the newly crowned champions of the Premier League, we have to give them a guard of honour as they trudge onto the pitch. It is a bit hard to take to see our players clapping them on in our home turf. However, we can take comfort in the fact that they did not win the title at the Grove and we are still the only one able to sing that song.
It is up to the club to choose whether to give the GoH or not but we would look like a petty small club if we don’t. That is because we were afforded the same treatment by the very same opponent when we won the title in 1991. We’ve seen teams done it before and it’s no big deal. The whole thing will be done and over in just minutes.
What the GoH does for our team though, could have an impact in the short and longer term. In the short term, it hopefully will raise the spirit of the players. It’s no mystery that footballers are proud creatures and it would hurt them as well, to be doing the GoH for another team. They must be wondering what the champions are thinking as they pass our team by, I’m thinking it’s nothing short of “look at these losers clapping for us“. From then onwards, it would not be out of the ordinary to expect that our team will put in a real shift to ensure that they wipe the smugness off United faces.
In the longer team, for sure it will be to inspire this current side of ours. That they will want to emulate these players that they are clapping for. For them to understand that when a team put in consistent performances, this is what awaits them at the end of the tunnel. The admiration from opposing players and the respect (begrudging or otherwise) from fellow professionals.
That said, the match cannot be settle before the kick-off whistle has been blown. There will be plenty of battles still to come on the pitch. I for one, am glad to hear rumours that Michael Carrick might be rested. I find it incredible that he has maintained his level of performance and fitness, despite playing in almost every match in this season for United. Again, consistency.
Ferguson might still be aiming to achieve the records points haul and as such, could still put out a very strong team. On one hand, had he put out a reserve side, it would be good for us in our top 4 chase. On other hand, it will be much more of a spectacle if Ferguson selects his best 11. I think we are capable of winning, regardless of which side that he puts out. For that, we will have to produce our 100%.
Our pressing game will have to be done diligently and consistently. We can’t allow United, the time and space to pick and choose their passes. We will also have to be wary of the runs that RvPrick makes off the ball. If he drops deep, we can back off but if he runs behind our defence line, then I hope our defenders don’t fall asleep. All hell could break loose if he scores later, unless if it’s against David De Gea.
Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott have been poor in recent matches. Some due to exhaustion while the others due to continuous injury recovery. Whatever the reason, it will be good to see them come back into form today. We need our big players to exert their control on the match and it will not come beyond these 3. The first duo to provide the guile and craft while the latter to ensure that United keeps a deep defence line.
Szczesny — Sagna — Mertesacker — Koscielny — Gibbs — Ramsey — Arteta — Wilshere — Walcott — Podolski — Cazorla
It will be noisy and it will be rapturous atmosphere today. We can all only hope that at the end of it, it will be because of the excitement caused by us winning at home. Up The Arsenal! Let’s show him what direction we’re going.