Manchester United Preview: It Could Go Either Way

Well this is the biggest game of the entire Premiership season so far.

It’s between the top two teams in the league, and on the evidence of the current campaign both teams play beautiful, attacking and quite frankly ruthless football.

They play the best football, and we know United won’t be as negative as Liverpool were last week.

So everyone is expecting fireworks.

If Arsenal win they will be top. If Arsenal draw they will be top. And if Arsenal lose they could still be top providing they will their game in hand.

So in a strange situation for most of the current team Arsenal are above Manchester United in the league before they even play them. Last season when Arsenal beat United twice no-one gave us a chance and that worked in our favour. In fact when Arsenal visited Old Trafford last season they had the longest odds to win a football match in a long time.

With both teams in great form, the smart money would be on a score draw.

But it could easily go either way.

Arsenal showed terrific character to come back against Liverpool at Anfield, and if it wasn’t for the post and Jamie Carragher’s amazing ability not to concede penalties then they could have taken all three points and no-one would have argued the result.

The confidence in the Arsenal team is sky-high at the moment and it should be – they’re top of the league, unbeaten so far this season and have this new-found determination and togetherness.

So below are the areas where tomorrow’s game could be won or lost:

Possible Problems

With Robin Van Persie out, the form of Adebayor is worrying. Eduardo is still adjusting to life in England and Bendtner and Walcott are inexperienced so the head of our attacking force is solely down to the African striker. Unfortunately, recent performances have been below par – and is coming from a self-confessed Ade-fan.

His performance against Liverpool was quite dire, and he had several opportunities to play his teammates through on goal with a simple pass (none more so than Kolo in the 1st half) but failed miserably. You could argue that Liverpool played deep and didn’t give him much time on the ball but Arsenal’s passing and movement meant that Ade had much more of the ball than he should have but didn’t do much with it. Passes were going astray and nothing he tried came off.

You would assume that United will play a more open game, so there is no doubt that Adebayor will see the ball throughout this game. But whether he contributes to the team in a positive manner is another question.

The only other real problem that faces Arsenal is the treat from set-pieces.

We know Arsene isn’t a fan of defending and the wall at Anfield was pretty useless. I do worry when opposing teams have corners and freekicks – and we know what Ronaldo can do from a set-piece. They also have a strong aerial presence with Ferdinand and Vidic on corners so Gallas and Toure will have to be at their best.

Our Strengths

The form of Cesc Fabregas has been sensational.

Unfortunately everyone knows this and it wouldn’t surprise me if United tried to stifle the little Spaniard. Ferguson has a few options between Ronaldo, Nani, Tevez, Rooney, Giggs and I’d expect 5 in midfield with Tevez playing deeper to crowd in Fabregas.

On the plus side, not even the trio of Gerrard, Alonso and Mascherano couldn’t stop him for the whole game and he popped up with the equaliser on 80 minutes and almost scored the winner soon after.

I know I’ve touched on set-pieces above but I think the defence of Gallas, Toure, Clichy and Sagna on the whole has been very solid. Sagna has been fantastic this season and settled in almost immediately. The weakness of Eboue was his positioning and would struggle in the air but Sagna is excellent on both of those counts. We all know about Clichy who is one of our most consistent performers and Kolo and Willie are warriors at the back, and have superb pace.

And of course, the main asset Arsenal have is the togetherness, fight and attitude on the pitch which has been exceptional this season.

Overall

Apart from a terrible day in the office against West Ham United last season Arsenal are currently unbeaten at the Emirates (as far as I am aware) and I expect that to still be the case once the weekend is over. But it will be very tough though.

Like in most football matches the key is the first goal.

If Arsenal scored first at Anfield last week I’m pretty sure Arsenal would have won by a couple of goals (like the FA Cup game last season) as Liverpool would have had to come out. If United score first tomorrow then obviously they will sit on the lead and catch Arsenal on the break because they are excellent at it – especially with the pace of Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney, Giggs and Nani!

Both teams play attacking football and some would expect a goalfest but that’s rarely the case between these two teams (albeit a couple of disasters from Arsenal in recent years) and I think the final score will be 2-1.

Is that for Arsenal? I hope so!

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