Arsenal vs Manchester United
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: February 12, 2014 7:45 PM GMT
Last game-week proved to be a turbulent time for both sides with Manchester United failing to pick up maximum points against bottom placed Fulham and Arsenal producing a torrid first half to eventually go down 5-1 at the final whistle. Post-match both teams predictably came under heavy scrutiny from the media and critics alike and will no doubt be looking to redeem themselves when they face off against each other tomorrow.
Looking at team news, the only change to speak of is the availability of young striker Yaya Sanogo who finally makes his return after a long injury lay-off. The starting line-up looks to be a little harder to pick given the performance last week. German star Mesut Ozil has come under heavy fire after failing to influence the match for Arsenal, while on a couple of occasions he lost possession which lead to Liverpool goals. Despite his dip in form, I have no doubt he will reprise his role in the starting line-up along with Wilshere and Arteta in the middle of the park. There is no better opportunity to turn it around than against Manchester United and there is no doubt he has the quality needed to do that.
Other changes I would like to see is at left-back where Nacho Monreal has failed to deliver in the big games. This means Kieran Gibbs could be given a start, which looks a logical move against a side that is obsessed with crossing the ball from out wide. The other change I would like to see is the inclusion of Tomas Rosicky for the Ox on the right. The Czech’s drive in midfield has been influential when introduced as a substitute and deserves a spot in the starting line-up, despite Chamberlain’s great performance in midfield against Palace.
The other talking point, to me anyway, is our defence. Despite holding a formidable defensive record, conceding six to City and five to Liverpool does raise some questions when our midfield can’t control the middle of the park against top opposition and we have looked especially vulnerable to the counter-attack. As we know Manchester United possess a similarly lethal attack with Rooney, Van Persie and now Juan Mata, and we simply can’t give those opportunities to those kinds of players or it could be curtains yet again. I do expect Arsenal to comprehensively win the midfield battle, but it only takes a sloppy misplaced pass to get a good counter-attack moving as we saw at Anfield.
With United languishing in 7th and Arsenal trying to keep touch at the top it is a big match for both parties. A loss to Arsenal would be devastating for morale, particularly with tough fixtures on the horizon against Liverpool in the FA Cup and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, while a loss for United makes their top four target that much harder to reach. A good point to note though is that Arsenal have responded well after experiencing defeat, unbeaten in 12 after the loss to Villa and unbeaten in 10 after the loss to City. Hopefully they can continue the trend here and respond following the Anfield defeat to put United in there rightful place. COYG!
Arsenal: Walcott (knee), Ramsey (thigh), Vermaelen (knee), Kallstrom (back), Flamini (suspended)
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
Arteta (c) Wilshere
Arsenal 2 Manchester United 1