Daily Archives: January 22, 2012

Arsenal vs. Manchester United Preview: An Epic Rivalry Renewed

There’s a certain football match that brings all of England to a standstill because of the magnitude of the game’s importance. Down the years, this fixture has produced many great encounters and it’s fair to say that the Gunners haven’t had much joy in this specific fixture.

Before Aaron Ramsey’s tame effort that handed the Gunners all three points in May 2011, Manchester United was unbeaten in seven meetings against their illustrious London-based rivals.

Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal for 15 years while Sir Alex Ferguson has spent a quarter century managing Manchester United. Arsenal’s manager has said that he and Sir Fergie will never retire:

“Ferguson will manage until he dies and I think he will be 100. “I only said that because I’m very polite!
“My motivation is to beat him. To last the longest is not a record. Of course I will never beat his record. But to win the game on Sunday is my motivation.
“We have to consider that we are in a job where we need our physical strength and health. That weakens, I’ve heard, the older you get.”

Despite the fact that Arsenal is going through tumultuous times, Arsene Wenger is a manager worth emulating. Sir Alex Ferguson had every right to resign on a high after surpassing Liverpool’s long record but the Scot has remained with the Red Devils as he continues breaking records on the go.

When these teams met in August, Arsenal was in shambles following the loss of two figureheads in midfield, more injury woes and misfiring forwards while Manchester United was in a rich vein of form. Everything Wayne Rooney touched turned to goals and Ashley Young was on fire with his sweet curlers.

Right now, I can’t really say that the table has turned but Manchester United isn’t as scary to face as they used to be. Like Arsenal, they also have injury worries but Sir Fergie has done well to steady the ship.

While Manchester United seems more or less assured of a Champions League place with their position in the league, Arsenal’s Champions League hopes are hanging on the balance. Peter Hill-Wood stated that Europa League football will not be a disaster but Arsene Wenger has contradicted that statement by saying that only Champions League football is good enough:

“For me it would be [a disaster] because I want to play with the best. “We want to be in there, in the top four, and to play in the Champions League. Anything else would not be good enough.”

Arsenal knows that a win against their rivals will bring them closer to the promised land, as other rivals in range have dropped more points. Chelsea couldn’t win Norwich City while Newcastle and Liverpool lost further ground with losses to Fulham and Bolton respectively.

To team news, Wojciech Szczesny will continue in goal. Wenger has lauded the goalie and he said that Szczesny has the aggressive focus needed to be a great goalkeeper.

The defense is still in tatters but there’s some sort of hope for Thomas Vermaelen, who still seems a bit short to play today. Should Vermaelen fail to pass his fitness test, Arsenal will have to make do with Ignasi Miquel on the left. Johan Djourou will continue on the right while the impressive Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will pair up in the middle.

Mikel Arteta is surely going to miss out so his place is up for grabs with Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky in contention for his place. Benayoun wasn’t too impressive against Swansea so the Czech captain is odds on to get the nod. Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song will complete the midfield triumvirate.

Questions will be raised on Wenger’s selection in the forward line because with the exception of Robin van Persie, other forwards are hitting blanks. Thierry Henry will face a late fitness test to start but I feel that Wenger will give Andrey Arshavin another chance.

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the candidates to play on the right wing and many fans are eager to see the Ox play following Walcott’s recent mediocre performances but Wenger says that Walcott is on his way back up.

To be frank, my expectations aren’t too high for this game.

Enjoy it wherever you are.


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