Date: 28th August 2009 at 5:04pm
Written by:

On Sky

Arsenal travels up north for the first of two big games against Manchester opponents over the next three weeks. Our impressive start to the season will obviously come under it’s toughest examination so far. Many critics have their doubts to whether or not we can continue with the free-flowing attack that we’ve produced over the first four games. Personally, I’d be very pleased with four points from our two trips to Manchester, but I wouldn’t mind just two points either.

Our offence will be severely tested, but I think the biggest test will be how the team responds if we go down a goal for the first time this season. It’s all well and good when you can pile on the goals, but does this team have the character to drag itself back into a match? I believe we do, but we’ll have to see.

Vital Quotes:

Here is what Arsene had to say about his side’s first match against the big four: “We want to show that we can win the big games away from home,” he said. This is a good opportunity to do it. We know we go to Old Trafford with a good belief and that is very important before a big game like that.’

“I don`t speculate on any weakness of Man United – that would be a little bit na├»ve on my part. [I am confident because] first of all the quality and talent of my players. Secondly the attitude, desire and togetherness of the team.”

Manchester United Team News:

United have a couple of injuries to deal with, but nothing too serious. The major absence will Rio Ferdinand, but Van der Sar and Rafeal are also out. Jonny Evans is a doubt with an ankle injury, but he is expected to partner Vidic in the centre of defence.

Who will start in the midfield for the Red Devils is up for grabs. Scholes, Fletcher, Anderson, Carrick, and Giggs will want one of those two places in the centre of the park, with Nani and Valencia on the flanks.

Predicted Starting XI: Foster, O’Shea, Evans, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Carrick, Valencia, Berbatov, Rooney

Player to watch: Darren Fletcher

Fletcher played brilliantly against Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final last season. He completely bossed our midfield until he was wrongly sent off late in the second leg. The reason Arsenal had so much success at Goodison and Parkhead is because our midfield battled and won the right to play our football early on. If we can do that again against Fletcher and Carrick, then I see us getting an away result.

Arsenal Team News:

Two more players have been added to Arsenal’s injury list. Captain, Cesc Fabregas, has failed his fitness test and will only be able to watch from the sidelines. Also, Aaron Ramsey picked up a knock 10 minutes into his appearance against Celtic Wednesday, so he won’t be in the squad either. Wenger hinted that Abou Diaby won’t play Saturday either, because he has already played 2 games this week.

So let me give you our full injury list: Fabianski, Djourou, Walcott, Nasri, Rosicky, Diaby, Vela, Fabregas, and Ramsey.

Exhausting. Though, it is refreshing to know that we do have a very deep squad, contrary to what the media would have you believe.

Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Denilson, Eboue, Arshavin, Eduardo, van Persie

Player to watch: Robin van Persie

Since Robin didn’t play on Wednesday, I’m going to put exactly what I did on that preview because it is still relevant.

van Persie didn’t have a good game in Glasgow. Something was off. He was lacking his usual confidence, and his shots lacked conviction. On Saturday, he played much better but still didn’t manage to bulge the back of the net. He was visibly frustrated throughout the latter portions of the second half, but it was very encouraging to see him trying so hard to get that goal even though we were three goals up. I expect him to grab one today.

Match Prediction

With Fabregas out, I’m not as optimistic as I would have been, but when I look at the predicted United lineup, I’m not scared. Sure they have some great players there, but I think overall we’re better.

That said, I’m still wary of predicting an away win. United know they can’t afford another loss, and they’ll play with that on their shoulder. So I’ll go with a 2-2 draw.

Next Fixtures:

12/9 (Sat) – Man City (a) – Premier League

16/9 (Wed) – Standard Liege (a) – Champions League

19/9 (Sat) – Wigan (h) – Premier League

The match will be shown live on Sky in Britain, and FSC in the States.