Arsenal host Manchester United tonight in a game which will be at the very least, intriguing. It’s a game that both Arsenal fans and Manchester fans will watch with a hint of trepidation after the weekend – Arsenal reeling from a 5-1 drubbing from Liverpool and Manchester United disillusioned after Darren Bent’s last minute equaliser at Old Trafford.
The position in the league, the bookmakers odds and the experts opinion will all favour an Arsenal win. The problem is that we know that on any given night, anything can happen.
We were top of the league when we played Manchester United at Old Trafford and a sucker punch goal from *ahem* Robin van Persie gave them all three points. And in the defeats against Manchester City and Liverpool, we started the matches slow and heavily paid the price.
So it is extremely important we have a right go at Manchester United from the first whistle and after the disaster at Anfield, Arsene Wenger and the players will know that better than anyone.
Perversely as things stand, Arsenal are only two points behind Chelsea after their surprising draw at West Brom. With all of the drama on Saturday and the world collapsing around us, we can still end the week top of the Premier League.
That’s how crazy football is.
And that’s why Arsenal have absolutely no excuse tonight. They should be still licking their wounds from the massive embarrassment at the weekend and now, will have the added motivation of being able to take the Premier League title challenge by the horns and regain top spot.
Arsene’s team selection will be decisive factor in how Arsenal perform tonight. Nacho Monreal has proven he isn’t on the same level as the rest of the back four. He started the Liverpool and Manchester City games, the two games we conceded an embarrassing amount of goals. Whether Gibbs was rested or injured at the weekend, we have to pray that he is available tonight.
Tomas Rosicky was also another player who should have started against Liverpool. In the big games, like tonight, he is the man who sets the tempo for the whole team. He is full of energy and his desire and determination rubs off on the other players.
Another question Arsene has to ask is should Lukas Podolski start? He’s been mainly on the bench this season and surely with our limited options up front, he has to be considered? Manchester United’s back line isn’t the most mobile and his pace could hurt them. Olivier Giroud however, would be the player Manchester United would like to defend against because of his lack of movement and pace.
All eyes will also be Arsenal’s superstar signing Mesut Özil.
After a great start to his Arsenal career, he has gone off the boil in spectacular fashion. When we’ve needed him to perform and show that he is a world class player, he’s disappeared. Against Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool, all big games, he’s been invisible. Tonight is a game where he needs to get his act together and show us how talented he actually is.
There’s no doubt he’s a top, top player but there is a danger he could turn into an Andrei Arshavin. Except that Arshavin was brilliant for us for about 18 months before strolling around. Things like having Per Mertesacker bollock you on the pitch after the City game because he wouldn’t acknowledge the travelling Arsenal supporters isn’t positive and seems like the actions of a diva.
In his defence, at Real Madrid he was playing alongside world class forwards like Ronaldo, Higuain and Benzema, players who would bury chances to score. At Arsenal, he has to feed…. Olivier Giroud. Another problem Özil has is that he’s had to get used to a new league, a new country and a new climate.
Özil has a lot of credit with Arsenal fans because of his reputation and start to Arsenal career, but it won’t be long before fans get tired of his listless, pedestrian performances.
If there’s one player who needs to step up tonight, it’s Mesut Özil.