Many now refer to the international break as the ‘interlull’ – wholly down to arseblog – but for me the last week or so has been quite refreshing. Once the hysteria of the loss to Swansea died down then everything just became rather placid and I have a void in my locker, a void that can only be fulfilled by Arsenal and how only they can replicate the frustration levels that we all have to endure.
Speaking of frustrations, Manchester United come to town on Saturday and I’ve seen many comments on how embarrassing it was that we couldn’t even so much as muster a goal against the worst Manchester United side in the history of the Premier League last season. Moyes’ United doesn’t appear to any better or worse than van Gaal’s current side but the one consistent factor is how joyous their inept displays have been. I mean conceding five goals at Leicester is comedy you’d pay good money to see. However, with every passing game Moyes’ reputation seems to improve – particularly given that the Dutchman spent £110m net (and that excludes the loan fee for Falcao).
You see the fact is United are dreadful, it’s so brilliant to see and I enjoy each and every defeat they experience. I love looking at their line-up and seeing how pitiful their defence is – but if they win on Saturday then they’ll leap frog us into 6th place. In all likelihood we should be 8th in the table come kick off on Saturday, as both Newcastle and Stoke should win at home against QPR & Burnley. I could look on the positive side and dream of our return to our beloved 4th place, but there’s a reason behind my lack of confidence and that’s our pitiful performances in the so called ‘big games’.
The game on Saturday is of course a big game but nowhere near the magnitude that it once was. It’s not even a shadow of its former self. The hatred was high, the games were intense and the stakes were always on the line. Now it’s 6th v 7th in the middle of November. The Premier League premiere sporting event has dropped way down the pecking order but on Saturday that battle for 4th place will become a little trickier for one, if not both sides to achieve. A lot of supporters are dismissing Southampton’s ability to stay up at the top end of the table and their lack of experience could play a part at some stage, but the fact is they are currently eight points clear of us with a far superior goal difference, so pretty much a three game advantage. City and Chelsea will definitely finish up there so it could be a possibility that Arsenal, Manchester United and – dare I say – Liverpool will fight for the remaining place?
This is how I currently see the Premier League table:
Liverpool are essentially one game behind us, so this makes Saturday’s United clash crucial in the sense that it would could create some breathing space between us and our competition for that last slot. Ideally it would be great if we could catapult ourselves into 3rd by season’s end, and avoid the torture that is that horrific CL qualifier – but lets learn to walk before we can run.
The question is: can our big game bottlers actually manage to win a big game? Will we fold like a pack of cards in the last 20 minutes for the third game in a row? Our form guide probably says we’ll lose – but then so does United’s – but it would be refreshing if we actually took the game to them and played on each and every weakness they have. If we can get Jack to replicate his international form then there is no way the likes of Fellaini and Blind could cope with his speed of play. There’s no way United could cope with Sanchez and nobody knows United players better than Welbeck, so he should be able to eke out a favourable match up.
It’s just over a year since we lost at Old Trafford and that was after big wins against Liverpool and Dortmund. We were riding the crest of a big game wave before van Persie inevitably scored and we lost 1-0. Since then we haven’t managed one win against Chelsea, City, Liverpool and United in the league, and that’s spread over eight league games… It can be difficult to break bad habits but lets hope we can take all three points, the feeling won’t be the same as it used to be against them – but at least we can start to bury some demons of last year.
One thing is for sure though, if we do win then I won’t be classing it as a big game win. That will be reserved for either Chelsea or City.
They’re the teams to beat.