Hello there! Yes, hello you, now, put that down and concentrate on reading this. Yes, get rid of those other tabs and let yourself hunkered down into your chair. Open that packet of biscuits you know you have secreted in your larder and pour yourself a nice cup of Darjeeling. Are you comfortable now? Good.
I hope this Friday column finds you all well, and that the guilty after-glow and fuzzy warm feeling that Arsenal’s mugging of Borussia Dortmund gave you on Wednesday still hasn’t fully subsided yet. I do like a bit of football revenge and beating Dortmund, led by the recently over-fawning Jurgen Klopp, so soon after their 1-2 win at The Emirates, was delicious.
Revenge is certainly due against Manchester United. I have watched far too many humbling defeats dished out against Arsenal than I can stand. A 6-1 thrashing, an 8-2 mauling and a 4-0 whipping all painfully fresh in the mind, and even the thought of securing the title at Old Trafford in 2002 scarcely conceals the hurt; a mere Elastoplast on a compound fracture. Add into that the fact that Manchester United poached Robin van Persie away from a side that was steadily rebuilding after suffering major player losses and promptly winning the league with him, and the yearning I have for Arsenal to beat Manchester United is increasingly amplified. There certainly have been some tasty clashes between the two sides up there over the years…
I just want to use this column today to lay out how I feel each of the three possible results could mean for this Arsenal team.
An Arsenal loss. The media’s preferred result perhaps? Manchester United have always been the media’s darlings; you only have to sit through a vomit-inducing 90 minutes listening to their biggest cheerleader on ITV1; Clive Tyldesley, to understand the reverence the Red Devils have in the many media formats of the 21st century. Whilst a loss won’t dislodge The Gunners from the top of the table, it would be another nail to hammer into Arsenal to support the media-spun story that Arsenal are merely flat-track bullies this season (although one suspects that the Napoli, Dortmund, Liverpool and Tottenham results are enough to show how blatantly false this theory actually is) and could galvanise this poor, unbalanced David Moyes’ led side into a run of form.
A loss would allow Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool to make up the points that they lost last weekend and could potentially reduce the lead Arsenal currently have in the Premier League down to two points, a lead that can be wiped out if Arsenal suffer more dropped points. I am not sure whether a defeat would crush Arsenal as comprehensively as it would have done in previous seasons; as Arsenal have bounced back with a win after each of their three losses this season. Arsenal are unbeaten so far on the road and demonstrated in Dortmund that they can soak up pressure and punish on the break (a tactic that has unstuck Manchester United at home already this season against West Bromwich Albion and against Southampton when they dropped two points) so a home-win isn’t a forgone conclusion.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are finding form and are combining well and Rooney has an unerring ability to score against Arsenal. Both played less than ninety minutes against Real Sociedad on Tuesday, so will be somewhat fresher than some of their teammates.
A Draw. This would not be a shoddy result. A draw away to Manchester United never will be. Obviously if Arsenal had thrown away a comfortable lead, it would hurt, but a draw would keep the status quo between the two sides in the table and still leave Arsenal with a three point cushion at the top of the league table. Arsenal are certainly capable of travelling to Manchester and coming away unbeaten.
The backline look as comfortable and capable as I’ve seen of an Arsenal defence in the last ten or so seasons and the midfield is arguably the best in Europe right now. Throw in the addition of a returning Theo Walcott to keep the United full-backs occupied, and Arsenal look capable of holding their own up North (where we do what we want). A draw wouldn’t, I believe, affect Arsenal’s current morale or run of form. It would be a result that could be built on.
An Arsenal win. Now this is where it gets interesting. This Arsenal team, travelling to Manchester United and winning, would shake up just how the country and indeed the continent view Arsenal’s trophy-winning-potential. Arsenal have shown in this last year that they can travel to Dortmund, or Munich or Liverpool and return with three points. As stated, the defence looks solid, the midfield can defend and create and the attack looks potent; what isn’t to like?!
Whilst Arsenal’s injuries have denied Gooners the opportunity to see a full-strength side face Moyes’ fragile United side, those that are available are certainly capable of beating a side that have looked lost at times in front of their own fans and who proved themselves incapable of beating Southampton, West Bromwich Albion or Chelsea on their home pitch, as well as making hard work of things against Stoke City; barely deserving a win. Indeed, were it not for a horrendous Ashley Young dive, Crystal Palace may have even gained a point from their visit to Old Trafford. An Arsenal win could catapult this side into a run of form that dwarfs the results we have already seen this year. Will this side break under expectations, or will they harness the momentum and push on into the next transfer window with a vengeance? We shall know by Sunday night.
Win, lose or draw, it promises to be a thrilling game and I for one hope that Wenger can put one over Manchester United’s new manager and further increase his angst. And what do you know, we’ll be wearing yellow…
Up the Arsenal!
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.