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The preview is back – and I’ve certainly picked a good game for it. Arsenal versus United.

And with the arrival of Manchester United to the Emirates, so to there is the slightly less heralded return of myself to the exalted company of the Untold bloggers. Fortunately Tony hadn’t put me on probation for crimes against sportswriting, in actual fact I had to put my blogging commitments on pause with university workload increasing drastically around the exam period. I had actually hoped to be back in place for the Swansea game as my exams were over in the days before that – had I been, I can’t imagine I would have anticipated that result correctly – but I got a call from a prospective employer and exam preparation which had just begun to tail off was replaced with interview preparation, and so I could only return this weekend, for the United game. Off to Scotland I trekked again, and as for the first interview, some of the very pleasant people who interviewed me were quite keen for a chat about football, which was nice. You can’t go wrong  when the first question is your opinion on Thierry Henry’s return to the Arsenal! We did even get around to talking about some serious stuff too, so not all was lost.

Anyway, the small matter of the United game. Both sides are pretty hard hit by injuries for this game, we ourselves have the well-documented defensive injuries. Arteta was a big loss against Swansea, we certainly suffered a loss in the fluency of our passing and our recycling of the ball compared to when he was present for previous games. Both Henry and Vermaelen may be available, though neither are necessarily expected to be fully fit in time for Sunday. Those closer to returns, such as Gibbs and Coquelin, will find Sunday is coming just too soon for their involvement.  United are similarly limited, with quite a few of their own absentees. Whilst information Ferguson gives out in press conferences is notoriously unreliable, key men Vidic and Fletcher are out for the long term, while various offensive players are laid up.

Taking all that into account, I’m expecting something along the lines of:

Szcznesy

Djourou Koscielny Mertesacker Miquel

Song Ramsey

Rosicky

Walcott Van Persie Arshavin

Such a line up isn’t perfect, but an injury-stricken squad is always going to be a matter of patching up and getting eleven men out. Vermaelen is a big, big miss: he’s defensively solid and great going forward, even from left back. Miquel didn’t have the best of games versus Swansea but being pragmatic, he’s a twenty year old centreback playing out of position, and overall I don’t think he’s a bad player, his inexperience –especially in an unfamiliar position – ultimately shone through in his positioning and cost us once or twice. Cutting and running however is not the Arsenal way, and I expect we’ll stick with him in this game.

The centrebacks will be the available senior pair of Koscielny and Mertesacker. The Frenchman was the subject of significant five pint lauding in the pub on Friday night from me, chatting to my Sunday league goalkeeper. He’s turning into an absolutely cracking player, despite arriving as an unheralded textbook Wenger signing, and has gone the way of Vermaelen, whereby he’s quietly gone about his business and slowly the pundits have taken notice.

Further forward, the midfield isn’t the best balanced I’ve ever seen: against Swansea we struggled without someone truly comfortable in that “Wilshere” (recently, Arteta) role of keeping the midfield ticking over. When Wenger had more options in midfield, he preferred to play Ramsey as the most advanced midfielder, giving the Welshman the responsibility for getting forward. Ramsey works hard too, so he’s OK defensively, but his game isn’t as suited to a more passive role, “keeping the game ticking over” style, reliant more on anticipating the danger. However needs must, and the Welshman is the best option for that position. No doubt he’ll have learned from his mistakes in the Swansea game and his performance in an unfamiliar role will be improved.

The other change I would make is to bring Tomas Rosicky into the advanced midfield role, in place of Benayoun who played there during the Swansea game.  Rosicky has looked good when he has played this season, so in general I have no problem with giving him the responsibility to be the team’s creative fulcrum in a game of this magnitude.

Out wide there won’t be any real surprises. Gervinho’s absence means Arshavin comes in – what a chance to resurrect his Arsenal career over the next couple of weeks the Russian has – while on the other flank Theo Walcott will take up position. Wayne Rooney said recently that this game “wasn’t  matter of Rooney versus Van Persie” which of course is true. It’s a shame it isn’t though, as Rooney versus Van Persie is only going to end in our favour! The Dutchman will be key if we are going to get a good result out of this game, given an injury-hit defence.

This is a tough game to call, and as with many games this season, I’m going out on a limb making predictions without our trusty RefWatch, but I’d love a tidy 2-1 to the Arsenal. Whether a weakened defence and a slightly unbalanced midfield can grab such a great result remains to be seen, but fortune favours the brave, so let’s hope! Enjoy the game Gunners!

 

 

 

7 comments to The preview is back – and I’ve certainly picked a good game for it. Arsenal versus United.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    It is one of those strange days when praying for a Spurs win may just be advantageous for a Man Utd loss.

    Arsenal overcame their Chelsea bogey last season and this.

    They need to overcome their Utd bogey now…..

  • Brickfields Gunners

    2-2 for me -not ideal but it won’t be painful either if hopefully the Spuds lose .

  • dan

    I cant believe how rubbish we have been, we cant cover the cracks and this well below par. Walcott/Arshavin are not good enough and we suffer watching them two week in and out, too much dead wood. 0 points this yr speaks for it self. This season has been hard and the way its going it will be getting worse.

  • Phil

    “what a chance to resurrect his Arsenal career over the next couple of weeks the Russian has” – Now if ever a phrase was made to jinx a player that was it! One of the man differences between the teams is that every Man Utd player is desperate to play for Man U, whereas a few of ours, and I believe the Russian is the best example, don’t seem to be even vaguely interested. That shows up at its worst in the big games, against the big teams.

  • Stroller

    With the current sorry state of our squad and the inclusion of Djourou in the side I feared the worst, and that’s what I got. I hate to say it but we appear to have massive problems. The injury cycle seems to have been going on for years. When did we last not have half a team or more out? How come players like Cesc and Nasri become injury-free when they leave us having previously been regulars on our treatment table? Even our returning hero has managed to end up injured after a couple of 15 minute cameos. I know all clubs suffer at various times, but none as consistently as us. It can’t only be down to bad luck can it?

  • Doublegooner

    PICKFORDS for Wenger.

  • goonergerry

    Who really thought we would beat United? I thought we did as well as our playing resources allowed- possibly better. We failed as expected as a result of poor defending.
    The alternative to not buying or loaning anyone when you have no fullbacks is not buying every one you can for twice their value as per Manchester City and Chelsea.. No the alternative is making sure you have 2 fullbacks when you play Manchester United . It is also not buying or loaning no-one- that is as much a recipe for failure as over-spending.