A Good Signpost But Not A Title Decider
Carlo Ancelotti may have been singing “I’m a Lumberjack” having created a log-jam at the top of the Premier League but Roman Abramovich joining in with the chorus is merely him sharpening his axe in the background. Chelsea’s failure to win at White Hart Lane has presented an opportunity for Arsenal to take a small step away from the pack. The small matter of having to win at Old Trafford for the first time since September 2006. Tonight’s result may not be important in isolation but over the course of the season, the points contribute to the total.
December 13th was a pivotal date in Wenger’s first double season, the home defeat to Blackburn the last time a loss was suffered in the League until the title had been won. Victory this evening could be a similar spur; it would be a strong signal to those who doubt Arsenal’s ability to stay in the title race. Yet a draw is a good point as well, a step up from last season. With the inconsistency of the top four evident – some might say it is improving standards elsewhere, I believe Chelsea and United are noticeably weaker this season – a strong stride away from the pack for six to eight games might be enough to create an irretrievable gap, especially with Chelsea being played in the spell before the end of January.
That is, however, to get ahead of ourselves.
As ever, United’s home record is formidable, seven wins and a draw out of eight. Arsenal go there though having the joint best record away from home in the Premier League. Both of these are the reasons why the two are vying for top spot; their respective away and home records are not the stuff of champions at present.
It wouldn’t however be Arsenal if there was not some injury rumpus before a big game. Cesc will be left to the last minute before a decision is made over his fitness although in these cases, I always think Arsene’s decision is already made and the starting XI picked. A pity if the Spaniard does not play as it would be a chance to ram the ludicrous comparison recently made between Anderson and Fabregas, the United player is apparently better based on a half-decent season. But what of Cesc since the age of sixteen, you say. Insignificant apparently. That and no domestic honours for Fabregas. Curious to ignore international honours but presumably it did not fit the scope of the argument. Or the fragile conclusion it came to. Still, we will leave it Samir Nasri to show Anderson what an in-form midfielder really is.
The fly in the ointment for Wenger is an apparent leg injury to Lukasz Fabianski which means Szczesny is being lined up for a Premier League start. Could it be that the younger of the two Poles will take this chance and usurp the elder with a sterling performance? Manuel Almunia presumably is nowhere near fitness otherwise he would be surely considered ahead of Szczesny, based on Wenger’s comments that his non-representing agent should be ignored when talking of a January move away from Arsenal.
Crucial to success is for Arsenal not to be inhibited in their play this evening. The victory in 2006 came as a result of a dominating performance, the midfield took control from the kick-off and three thoroughly deserved points were garnered with a late winner. A performance which is similarly assertive is required, much the same as that as produced at Villa Park, albeit with more defensive concern. Wenger has for the first time this season, a full strength forward line to choose from. van Persie looked sharp in his link-up play against Partizan and would be my choice to play in the ‘hole’ in a 4-4-1-1 this evening, with Marouane Chamakh the sole striker.
It would mean no place in the starting line-up for Andrey Arshavin, a state of affairs which would be of no surprise but perhaps unlikely. The quartet in midfield – presuming Cesc is not fit to start – would be Song, Denilson, Nasri and Wilshere in that event. I expect United to drop Rooney deeper tonight in a similar formation to Arsenal, looking to swamp the visitors in possession with runners supporting Berbatov. The Arsenal defence needs be wary of pushing forward too frequently, leaving the central pairing exposed as has happened in the past.
Tonight’s line-up I suspect will be:
Fabianski; Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy; Nasri, Song, Denilson, Wilshere; van Persie; Chamakh
Belief is key to victory this evening. The shackles of playing at The Emirates will not keep the midfield in chains nor will it hold them back as can be the case. United should not be underestimated, Ferguson warned of Arsenal’s maturity and aggression putting them on the verge of being considered in the same breath as their predecessors. A good chance to prove him right presents itself. Believe and it will be taken.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on December 13, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Football, Manchester United, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 449 Comments.