Archive for November 8th, 2008

United Preview: Keeping it positive (well, trying)

1 comment November 8th, 2008

Note: I originally wrote a preview that had both positive and negative elements.  In order to suitably prepare us for today’s occasion, I have deleted the more negative content.  Enjoy.

People talk about games like today’s being make or break.  Sink or swim.  Essentially, it’s just another play on the win/lose dichotomy (though obviously, it might be a draw.  What happens if it’s a draw?  We’ll be neither made nor broken.  What an anti-climax).

I think, realistically, if we harbour any ambitions of a title challenge then we need to avoid defeat today.  If we lose it’ll be our fourth defeat of the season, meaning we’ll have lost one third of our league games.  It doesn’t really bear thinking about.

There are plenty of reasons for concern, principally our injury situation.  With a squad as small as ours, we really need pretty much all of our five doubts to declare themselves fit to stand a chance.  In particular, Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna are two players I wouldn’t like to see us line up without.  Sagna and Clichy will flank two from Gallas, Toure, and Silvestre.  Assuming all three are available, it’ll be interesting to see who Arsene plumps for in such a big game.  I think Walcott and Nasri will be deployed wide of Cesc and Denilson, with Abou Diaby playing just off Nicklas Bendtner.

When you look at it, it’s an incredibly young front six: the average age is just 20.  I said in the week that we look like a Carling Cup side, and with Robin van Persie now suspended, that’s more true than ever.  That said, our Carling Cup side has pulled out some magnificent results in the past, so…

Even so, something in Arsene’s press conference yesterday made me a little angry.  When asked as to why he doesn’t feel the need to recruit more vocal lieutenants, he replied, “I rely on my experience”.  Which is fair enough, yet somehow he expects his players to get by without the same benefit.  Just as Arsene’s years in management have put him in a good position to make the right decisions for the football club, so experience on the pitch gives players the platform to make the right decisions in the heat of the game.

If we lose today, the down-beat mood around the club will threaten to last all the way until January, and possibly beyond.  We’re badly in need of a lift, and with some key players out, there is a chance for someone to become a hero today.  Back in 2006, nobody expected us to beat Manchester United, but back-up striker Emmanuel Adebayor poked home a goal that for two years made him a terrace favourite.  Today, the stage is set for a Bendtner, a perhaps a Diaby, to make a similar impact.

In the immortal words of Kevin Keegan: I would love it, love it if we beat them.  Come on Arsenal!

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