I looked at the date for this fixture in the diary at the beginning of the football year when the dates were released. I looked at our run in, and, convinced we would be in a strong position at this point of the year, saw this home game against United as the platform upon which our players would strike a blow against Manchester’s very best.
Ultimately Arsenal aren’t that close to United and as such have lost the flowing momentum that had building up behind us earlier in the season.
Against Bolton, despite possession; there was not a cruel, cold blooded goal scorer to put away the chances we created. We did not have an Ian Wright or Javier Hernandez to change to the score-line. Once again despite possession, Arsenal were undone by set pieces. A familiar pattern we have faced for some years now. No other side have conceded a higher percentage of their goals, 56%, from set pieces in 2010-11.
Wenger said in his Thursday lunchtime press conference “There is more at stake on Sunday than just the mathematics.” This game, at this stage of the season will set the momentum for United’s final run in. Do well in this game against Arsenal and they could well carry this form through to Wembley and overwhelm Barcelona. Find themselves against an aggressive, competitive team that refuse to lose and put them on the rack – who knows? Arsenal could dent their confidence and undermine their focus.
Furthermore the match, should it be won, can serve as the motivational tool Wenger can use to persuade big players to join and our best players to stay. It would set a great precedent for the next season and give the team (which is unlikely to change greatly, despite paper news) a driving platform to begin the season 2011/2012 from.
Arsene Wenger also said “It is important for us to show some fighting spirit, some fighting attitude and some pride.”
That’s very true, it is vital for the players and their careers too. If Wenger cannot back them to perform on a nice warm day at home when their is no pressure to deliver (comparatively as no title at stake now) then when exactly can these men, who have so much ‘potential’ as we are told, deliver to their supporters?
Johan Djourou has had a great season, and I am loathe to criticise him but if he is the commanding centre back we have been looking for, he did not look it against Bolton. A great game from him in this match could prevent Wenger from signing a Cahill or Hangeland.
United will force the ball out wide by packing bodies down the centre. Balls crossed into the box for Van Persie on his own will be bread and butter for Vidic and Ferdinand, the best centre-back combination of the last 20 years in the Premier League. Van Persie is on an excellent run of scoring goals and has natural link up play, however, despite being good in the air when he makes contact with a cross, he is far from an aerial threat. Van Persie does not even put himself into the right positions to meet the crosses to score from. Still in his heart more Dennis than Thierry, his genetic DNA withdraws him form the attrition zone to the playmaker areas. Note that forced to play the target man in the world cup, with less flexibility, he did not score. At least Hernandez makes the right runs that allow him to compete for such crosses. As it is the little Mexican punches above his weight. Arsenal could play a traditional target man in Chamakh who has been wildly out of form. Against Liverpool, we finished with a cross completion rate of 0%, from 27 attempted crosses.
This is how this match will likely play out; Arsenal have lots of possession, United sit back and use Nani and Rooney to counter. Park and Anderson close our midfield down running likely 400m runners. Vidic might hit the post from a corner. Van Persie or Nasri will get a chance and THIS is where the game is to be won or lost. Against Clichy and two talented (but not dominating defenders), I am sure United will score. We must take our chances to win as at some point Rooney will probably find space on a counter attack to test Szczesny.
Everything is at stake; Individual careers, our sanity and the team’s momentum for next year.
My prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Manchester United
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