Date: 1st May 2011 at 2:28am
Written by:

Arsene Wenger

Will Arsene be fuming this afternoon?

We’re nearing the wire now, and United’s trip to the Emirates on Sunday could prove to be the biggest league game of the season for the reds.

With Chelsea beating Tottenham on Saturday, the gap of three points all of a sudden doesn’t look so comfortable, especially with us facing the reigning champions next week at Old Trafford.

The sense of injustice surrounding Chelsea’s win yesterday may just be enough to spur United on- if you’ll pardon the pun.

We may sing “we’re Man United we do what we want” but if the past two seasons are anything to go by, that chant would be more suited to the West Londoners.

So, a win against Arsenal is crucial, otherwise – in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson – it becomes one of those good old squeaky bum times.

But – back to business, and we all know we’ve not been as successful as we’d have liked to have been on our travels this year.  A frustrating goalless draw at St James’ Park in our last outing was another one that left reds shaking their heads in disbelief at what is turning out to be a crazy season.

United v Arse – Head to head:

The two longest serving Premiership managers go head to head for the 45th time in this one.

Sir Alex has won 19 times to Wenger’s 14 and there’s been 11 draws. Two of those draws were settled on penalties, with United winning the Community Shield in 2003, and Arsenal bagging the FA Cup in 2005.

That was the last time Arsenal won a trophy, and despite Wenger’s men still being in with a slim chance of landing the title, it looks like it’ll be 6 season’s without any silverware for the Frenchman.

Team news:

For United, striker Dimitar Berbatov has recovered from a groin problem.  Chicharito and Wayne Rooney are forming a formidable partnership upfront though, and he may be forced to, once again, be on the bench.

Paul Scholes will be missing as he completes a three-game ban, and Darren Fletcher – who played in the reserves against Arsenal on Thursday will probably miss out again too.  Injury to Owen Hargreaves makes him the only other casualty in an otherwise strong United side.

Abou Diaby will probably miss out for Arsenal’s with a calf injury, but Tomas Rosicky could make a comeback after a bout of illness.  Thomas Vermaelen, may be in contention for a place on the bench after he came through the same reserve match as Darren Fletcher did on Thursday, but it might be a bit too soon for him after being out with a long-term Achilles injury.

How will we play this one?

Regardless of form, league position, and recent trophy count, Arsenal are a tough nut to crack.  It’s one of the old ‘form goes out of the window’ kind of games, as they like to believe they are our biggest rivals so put the foot on the gas.  They come at us, play good football, and if they get the first goal they could easily cruise to victory.

However, with a very young and often dodgy goalkeeper in Wojciech Szczesny, communication with the less than impressive back four makes them weak.  A reason to play 4-4-2 with the terrier like workmanship of Chicharito making life hard for the centre back pairing of Djourou and Koscielny.

Gael Clichy struggles to contain Nani, so he could make a start on the right, giving Valencia a rest with Wednesday’s game against Schalke in mind.

I feel Park, Carrick and Anderson will make up the rest of the midfield – Park starting out on the left, but drifting inside to hassle the Arsenal midfield who ‘don’t like it up ‘em’.

Arsenal’s danger men are Van Persie, Nasri and Wilshire.  If Anderson doesn’t play then include Fabregas on that list too, but we all know the words to the song.

Did you know:

  • John O’Shea will turn 30 the day before the game.  If he starts it’ll be his 300th start for United.
  • Arsenal have won only one of their last seven league games, and have conceded seven goals in their last four matches.
  • In 2011, Robin Van Persie has scored 19 goals in 18 games.
  • In the last seven meetings between the two sides, United have won six of them and drawn one.

In our favour?

Arsenal have slipped in recent weeks, and in the press and on the touchline Wenger seems like a man who’s given up this season.  He’s frustrated, angry and looks like he’s gone as far as he can for 2010/2011.

This must surely rub off on the players who, by Wenger’s admission have lost confidence and are a bit nervous.

Fergie on the other hand has gone back in time to use the old siege mentality tricks from the 90s to hoist United towards that 19th league title.  There’s a slight spring in our step again which has been somewhat missing this season, and United will definitely go in to this game in a better state than the Gunners.

There’s barely been any mind games between the managers leading up to this game.  Maybe Ferguson feels that he doesn’t need to concentrate on Arsenal as they are more than capable of losing their own minds.

The finishing line is in sight, and we’re leading the pack.  Favourites to take the title, unless we trip or fall at one of the final hurdles.  That’s something we can’t afford to do, and I think we’ve got every chance of clearing this hurdle cleanly and putting us a few steps closer to number 19.

Wherever you’re watching the game, enjoy it – believe – and here’s to three points.

Follow me on Twitter: @stevecrab

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