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Saturday, 21 January 2012

Manchester United (h) preview

TV5 - looking like he will play

There was a time, not that long ago, when the matches between Arsenal and Man Utd were THE fixtures in the Premier League season. Sadly, thanks to our decline since 2005, that is no longer the case. The humiliation of what happened in August could not have underlined the gap between us any more than it did. Of course that was a seriously weakened Arsenal team, but the Man Utd side was younger even than our embarrassing eleven on that day. That Arsenal improved dramatically after the signings were made a couple of days later will count for nothing tomorrow, such is the latest injury crisis to beset us - especially at the back. The 8-2 defeat, and the complete and utter humiliation it caused, should be all the motivation needed tomorrow, however, regardless of injuries. If the players don't put it in tomorrow then they really have become a dead loss once again.
It seems, from various things doing the rounds tonight, that Thomas Vermaelen is likely to play. Is he properly fit? I sincerely doubt it. Can he get through this game, at least? We can only hope so. I remember Patrick Vieira being gambled with in 2003 against United, and it didn't pay off. However, with the way we are right now, Thomas Vermaelen is certainly a risk worth taking. Even playing out of position at left-back I think it is difficult to quantify just how much Vermaelen's presence improves our defence. I wouldn't be averse to seeing Koscielny switching to left-back with TV5 alongside Mertesacker. Koscielny has more pace than Vermaelen to go up against Nani, while Vermaelen has the physical attributes to combat Wayne Rooney.
In midfield most people seem to be tipping Tomas Rosicky to come in for Benayoun, as Mikel Arteta is still out injured. I know Benayoun was fairly anonymous at Swansea last week, but he is surely worth another dig ahead of Rosicky. If I had my way then the Israeli would certainly be getting the nod, but I fear Little Mozart will be there from the start tomorrow - this week marked the two year anniversary of his last Premier League goal. For an attacking midfield player, albeit one who doesn't play every week, that is a scandalously poor return.
Thierry Henry is apparently to undergo a late fitness test on his calf. It's strange how, when one player gets a certain type of injury at Arsenal, we see three or four dropping like flies straight after. I can only put it down to something being done differently in the training regime. Make no mistake we need Henry tomorrow. I'm sure a fit Thierry would have got a start ahead of Arshavin down the left. In his absence I would have no qualms at all about putting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in. The lad is champing at the bit to get his chance, and there is no bigger stage in the Premier League than against Manchester United. I also fancy his chances against United's choices at right-back.
The results today have certainly gone Arsenal's way. Whether we can take advantage of that remains to be seen. On the evidence of the past few weeks I would have to think it unlikely. I hope that the motivation I wrote about earlier in this piece is prevalent. If we can get at United, which will mean a lot of hard work, then we can damage their defence. The important thing is to take the chances we create for a change. There must be more shots at goal - I read a stat the other dy that less than 10% of our goals come from shots outside the area, while more than 20% of those conceded come from there. If that's not telling us something then I don't know what will. We have the ability to create, even in the 8-2 we missed a number of chances. If we can score our goals, and defend even reasonably properly, then Arsenal have a chance tomorrow. It is a must win game again. Let's hope Arsenal can produce and put us in the right mood again.

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