Date: 7th November 2008 at 4:40am
Written by:

On Sky

Arsenal play their first big four derby match of this young season mid-day Saturday. Confidence couldn’t be any more polar between the respective camps, and hopefully the effect of the derby will help balance out the morale. Pundits all around the country are writing off Arsenal and predicting a humiliating loss come Saturday, and for once it’s hard not to buy into the doom and gloom being written by the Journos. There is no doubt that there is still immense quality in the Arsenal camp, but if they don’t believe in themselves then it could get ugly.

Vital Quotes:

Arsene blamed fatigue and lack of concentration for the bore of a game midweek. “You can see from all of the results of the English teams that none of them had lost before tonight in the Champions League, and this week none of them have won,” he said.

“That is maybe explainable because last week everybody gave so much in the Premier League and had a little bit less resources to play in the Champions League this week.”

“I feel we have played three different games,” continued Wenger.

“We had a big disappointment last week. We played an outstanding game last Wednesday but we still dropped points and then we had a little hangover against Stoke when we lost the game.

“It looks as though, because the Premier League is very demanding, if you have a Champions League week afterwards it is difficult physically.’

Arsenal’s longest serving first team member, Kolo Toure, spoke about the importance of a win. “A win would be really fantastic for us to show that we are there for the title,” said the Ivorian after Wednesdays draw with Fenerbahce. “We know that the Premier League is really long – we are not in the second half yet. We just need to take it as a really important game and to show Manchester United and those big clubs that we are there to fight for the title.

I have played against them already and I know what I have to expect [from Man United]. I think it`s going to be a good game and we will show them we are still in the race for the title. We are still in there. We are fourth at the moment. We are six points behind but the season is really long. We just need to play game by game.

We concentrate on each game and as a team we just rely on our solidarity. There are some games we are going to lose and there are some games we have to win.”

I couldn’t find any quotes from the FA bad boy, Sir Alex, so pre-match comments from Ronaldo will have to do. ‘We want to win the title so we have to get three points there,’ said Ronaldo.

‘I don’t know if it is tough for them at the moment but they will still have 11 players, the same as us, and I know it will be difficult because it always is.

‘But we have a great spirit and we are a great team, so our aim is to pick up three points.’

Arsenal Team News:

Oh lord, where to start? If one of the groundskeepers found Silvestre’s nose on the Emirates pitch after the game, will you return it to him so he has a chance to play against his former team, please? Actually on second thought hold onto it for the weekend because I would like to see Djourou partner Alex Song in the centre of the defense. There’s not any experience in that pairing but I feel the youthful exuberance they would exhibit might be exactly what we need.

After a recurrence of Robin van Persie’s infamous anger issues last weekend, he is suspended for this game as well as the Wigan and Villa matches later in the month. Robin’s strike partner Emmanuel Adebayor has also been ruled out and will be missing from action for the next three weeks thanks to an unnecessary challenge off the pitch at the Britannia.

Gallas and Theo have a ’50:50′ shot to be fit, while Sagna ‘should be OK’. Captain Eboue is definitely out.

Player to watch: Cesc Fabregas

As Cesc Fabregas goes, Arsenal go too. Unfortunately Arsenal’s piss poor form of late can be directly related to the young Spaniards form. Now understand this, in no way, shape, or form am I blaming all of this on Cesc, but in my opinion if his game is sputtering then Arsenal fail to impress. Plus the only other impact player for Arsenal that can create chances for himself, van Persie, voluntary ruled himself out of this match.

The departure of his best mates, Hleb and Flamini, has had an obvious effect on him. If he can’t step up to the pressure on Saturday then I forecast a dark afternoon for all Gunners.

Manchester United Team News:

Manchester started off the season again in a slow pattern and now they are getting close to their best. A draw was always going to be the result in Glasgow midweek when Fergie rested all of his main weapons. Too much quality in the United bench to get beat by the Scots. That means that Berbatov and Rooney will be ready and raring to go. Arsenal’s shaky defense will have to produce the best preformance of the season to bring the United attack to a standstill.

Player to watch: Dimitar Berbatov

The former Tottenham man will have most certainly have a point to prove against Arsenal. Berba was a class above Spurs and was always going to make a big money move elsewhere, and unfortunately it was also always going to be to Man U. The Bulgarian scored last year at the Emirates and his silky moves will pose a problem.

Match Facts & Stats

Last season’s fixture: Arsenal 2-2 United: Gallas(og45), Fabregas(48), Ronaldo(82), Gallas(90)

Home and away

League (inc PL): Arsenal 65 wins, Man United 72, Draws 41

Prem: Arsenal 9 wins, Man United 13, Draws 10

at Arsenal only

League (inc PL): Arsenal 50 wins, Man United 22, Draws 17

Prem: Arsenal 6 wins, Man United 4, Draws 6

Ref Watch:

Howard Webb will be the match official for this gigantic clash. Lets just say he is not a fan favourite in Gooner hearts. Apparently he isn’t intelligent enough to see the difference between a massive 6’4 African in Adebayor versus a miniature 5’10 African in Eboue. He’s made a mess in every international tournament he has ever been involved in and this summer’s Euros were no exception.

He has officiated 9 Premier League matches this season, while handing out 2 reds and 29 yellows, a 3.44 card per game average.

Match Prediction:

In my eyes this game can only go two possible directions. Arsenal have the ability to stay in the game and fight till the end to produce a unlikely three points, but I could also see us getting blown right out of the Grove. The latter is probably the most likely result.

I’ve been predicting a drubbing all week now, but I will stay positive for some unknown reason and predict a 2-1 win for Arsenal!

Next Fixtures:

1/11 (Tue)- Wigan (H)- Carling Cup

5/11 (Sat)- Aston Villa (H)- Premier League

10/11 (Wed)- FC Porto (A)- Champions League