Friday, 29 April 2011
Man Utd (h) preview
This has been a most special day for the people of Great Britain. The second in line to our Throne has been married in a mass of pomp and ceremony in London, and Britain has a new Princess to adore and to inspire the Country. As you may have guessed I am a massive Royalist and I have been celebrating with family all day. The weather has been wonderfully kind to us.
In Britain we are often denigrated if we show any kind of national pride. We are often accused of xenophobia, or even racism, if we choose to flaunt our British flag. The multi-cultural celebration today (more than one million have thronged in to London) has shown what utter rot that is. We have a right to celebrate our Nation, and there is no better time to do it than on a Royal occasion. The Union Flag has flown proudly at my house today and Great Britain has proved that nobody can deliver a pageant in the way that we can. To put an Arsenal slant on it I would say that it's all about tradition and class - very Arsenal, very British.
On Sunday the boys take on the Champions-elect, Manchester United. Whatever you think of Man Utd you have to respect their achievements. In my opinion this is probably the worst Man Utd team in the past twenty years, but they have found a way to get the results required. Their ability to get over the line in matches has been in direct contrast to our failure of recent weeks. The most galling aspect of the season is that the Title was ours to win, but we have ultimately been found wanting when it matters.
Arsene Wenger has been really quite candid about the side with his comments about the Carling Cup Final and what it did to the players. It has been clear that our season has taken a turn for the worse from the moment that Koscielny and Szczesny tripped over one another at Wembley. I said before the Final, and I still believe it now, that a win there would have seen us go on to take at least one other trophy this season. However, the catastrophic effect it seems to have had shows a serious mental weakness in this squad of players. It certainly gives a lie to any protestations from the Manager of the famed mental-strength. Perhaps his quotes of the past couple of days are an admission that his players are actually lacking in some important areas.
In the team news Thomas Vermaelen returned to the Reserves at Old Trafford last night, as reported yesterday, but he is not ready to play on Sunday (perhaps it's no coincidence that there was a clean-sheet kept last night by an Arsenal team). Abou Diaby is still out, but Tomas Rosicky could be in line to return to the squad following "illness" - I can't for the life of me work out who Rosicky would replace, to be honest. In fact I don't really see any changes to the starting line-up on Sunday, but we might get one or two differences on the bench.
Manchester United might well have a stronger line-up than we might have expected in between the two legs of the European Cup semi-final. Having taken a 2-0 lead from the away leg Ferguson could want to put the Premier League to bed once and for all by beating Arsenal on Sunday. I would expect most of the usual suspects to play, with the possible exception of Ryan Giggs (age and a recent aversion to London may stop him from playing what could be three games in eight days). Whatever the team United put out you can be sure Ferguson will have devised a tactical plan to stop Arsenal from playing through them - he has done the same thing in every game against Arsenal for the past few years, yet Wenger has seemed to not realise he must find a way to surprise the Mancs.
We will find out on Sunday if Arsenal can salvage some pride by beating Manchester United, or if the season is simply going to drift away over the last few games.
I will not be at the game on Sunday as I am off to Madrid in the early hours of tomorrow morning for a stag weekend, arranged long before the fixtures were advertised at the start of the season. This was the only time I have ever hoped we would be switched to the Monday night for Sky, but the European Cup semi-finals meant that was never going to be an option. I will be in some bar or other for the game and hoping the boys can turn it on at least one more time before the end of the season.