Arsenal v United: Match Preview and PredictionsBy: Taylor Rockwell | January 29th, 2010
Who: Arsenal vs. Manchester United
What: English Premier League â€“ Matchday 24
Where: The Emirates, London, England
When: Sunday, January 31 â€“ 16:00 GMT (11:00 AM EST)
Why: Because the timing is right for United to take the Gunners at home and set up an even more heated title race. The Reds have been playing well as of late, with Wayne Rooney doing his best to push this team to the next level (despite his statements to the contrary).
Recent Results â€“ United (last five matches: 3-1-1 with 12 goals for and 4 against)
Wednesday, January 27 â€“ United 3 â€“ Manchester City 1 @ Old Trafford (EPL)
Saturday, January 23 â€“ United 4 â€“ Hull City 0 @ Old Trafford (EPL)
Tuesday, January 19 â€“ City 2 â€“ Manchester United 1 @ City of Manchester Stadium (Carling Cup)
Saturday, January 16 â€“ Manchester United 3 â€“ 0 Burnley @ Old Trafford (EPL)
Saturday, January 9 â€“ Birmingham 1 â€“ 1 Manchester United @ St. Andrews Stadium
Recent Results â€“ Arsenal (last five matches: 2-2-1 with 9 goals for and 7 against)
Wednesday, January 27 – Aston Villa 0 – 0 Arsenal @ Villa Park (EPL)
Sunday, January 24 – Stoke City 3 – 1 Arsenal @ Brittania Stadium (FA Cup)
Wednesday, January 20 – Arsenal 4 – 2 Bolton Wanderers @ The Emirates
Sunday, January 17 – Bolton Wanderers 0 – 2 Arsenal @ The Reebok
Saturday, January 9 – Arsenal 2 – 2 Everton @ The Emirates
Points to Ponder
1 – Brazilians made headlines this week. First, Robinho does a runner and demands a loan to Santos, which Man Citeh grant (not exactly what they were hoping for when they signed him up for ÂŁ32 million). Then, as Iâ€™m sure you all have no doubt heard, four-time FIFA Womenâ€™s World Player of the Year, Marta, of Brazil, is set to join the Atlanta Beat of the Womenâ€™s Professional Soccer league. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for this blog, Anderson fled chilly Carrington for sunny Rio, where he allegedly met with officials from CR Vasco da Gama and trained with the club. Couple that with reports today that United are interested in loaning him to French club Lyon, and one canâ€™t help but entertain the theory that our seldom goal scoring, oft-dancing central midfielder will probably not be with United much longer. With Fergie seemingly increasingly concerned about playersâ€™ focus ahead of this tie, my guess is that Ando doesnâ€™t feature against the Gooners.
2 – Who starts in the back for United? Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra are the two certainties, but after that itâ€™s a topic for debate. Rio Ferdinand is suspended for the next four games due to a J-Woww-esque slap/punch thrown in the general direction of Craig Faganâ€™s face. How he ever thought it would be a good idea to appeal that, I will never know (take a look at the video below and youâ€™ll see how deliberate the slap/punch was). Nemanja Vidic is expected to figure, but whether or not thatâ€™s a good thing is open for debate. On the one hand, Vidic is a solid defender who brings a level of calm to the United back four. However, as we saw against AC Milan in 2007, he doesnâ€™t do well when rushed back from injury. Vidic needs time to settle and thatâ€™s certainly something Arsenal wonâ€™t allow. Rafael has played well lately, but if you combine 1) his general predilection to go forward with 2) the fact that he will probably be defending some combination of Arshavin/Rosicky/Nasri, one canâ€™t help but get a little nervous. Enter Wes Brown. The occasional redhead entered Wednesdayâ€™s match as a substitute for Rafael, indicating that Fergie may have wanted to get him some match experience heading into this weekend.
3 – Whatâ€™s to be done with the midfield. Letâ€™s examine some â€śfactsâ€ť:
A) Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes both played a full 90+ minutes on Wednesday.
B) Nani played a solid 90 before coming off in favor of Antonio Valencia.
C) Valencia has been rested (I would say deliberately) over the past two matches, making him one of the more likely candidates to start on Sunday.
D) Park was rested on Wednesday as well.
E) Fletcher and Carrick played the full 90+ on Wednesday, and looked a decent combination in the midfield.
F) Fergie tends to play defensive away from Old Trafford. He may have said he wants to be aggressive in this match, but Wednesday proved that a 4-3-3 (really a 4-5-1) can get United some goals. Speaking ofâ€¦
4 – How the Berba has fallen. In the past, Fergie always seemed to favor a 4-4-2 with a Rooney/Berba partnership spearheading the attack. Lately, however, itâ€™s been all Wayne Rooney, with United shifting to a formation that leaves Rooney the primary operator up top and Berba relegated to a spot on the bench. With Vermaelen either out or injured for this one (enter Sol Campbell or Silvestre), Arsenal wonâ€™t exactly be pacey in the back, so speed favors United. Berba has never been accused of being particularly speedy, so United would do well to continue on with the 4-5-1 and utilize their counter attacking speed to exploit the Gooners. So, to answer my question from Point #3, my hope is that we see a midfield of Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Fletcher, and Nani. Scholes may have played a full match on Wednesday, but Ando and Hargo are both probably out, and Gibson is just too inexperienced for this oneâ€¦ so itâ€™s the Ginger Prince for me!
5 – Weâ€™re on our way to Wembley! Not really important for this match, just wanted to say it again. Carlitos may have netted three in two games, but heâ€™s still on the outside looking in. Speaking of Wednesdayâ€™s match, I just wanted to add one quick thing. Early in the second half, some United â€śsupportersâ€ť hurled coins and beer bottles at Citeh striker Craig Bellamy. Bellamy is an unsavory character to say the least, but throwing objects at any player should get the offenders banned for life. Itâ€™s a classless act, and is something not befitting a United supporter. You know who agrees with me? Edwin Van der Sar, who now gets my vote as the classiest player in the Premiership. When Bellamy went down after being struck in the head by the coin, Van der Sar raced over, stood in-between the Welshman and the hostile United crowd, and shot a bit of a death stare their way.
A lot of players would have just stood around and done nothing (IE â€“ when batteries and the like were chucked at Evra during the first leg at Cityâ€™s home ground). But the United keeper proved himself to be an individual with class both on and off the pitch. Cheers Edwin!
Predicted Starting XI: VDS, Brown, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Park, Rooney
Taylorâ€™s Preferred Starting XI: VDS, Rafael, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Nani, Rooney
Further Prognostications: Anything short of a full three points and United are in trouble. Heading into February, can we rally stand to have played one more match than Chelsea and still be four points behind (assuming they defeat Burnley), and still entertain ideas of lifting our fourth straight title? I hate it when people are overly dramatic and write off the season with months and months left to play, but I will say that a loss or draw will SEVERELY hurt our title chances. My guess is that this is going to be a nervy, squeaky-bum game for United fansâ€¦ and that it wonâ€™t be particularly pretty. Obviously, letting them get one early would be terrible, but getting an early lead could be equally detrimental for United. Weâ€™ve seen it happen before: United go up early, immediately shift to a defensive style, allow our opponent one too many chances, the momentum shifts, and suddenly we walk out with dropped points and frustrated supporters. One thing is certain, however, and that is that Rooney will get a goal this weekend. Berba and Owen? Wellâ€¦ thatâ€™s a different storyâ€¦ COME ON UNITED!