Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Sunday April 13 2008
By dinner time today we will know whether Arsenal have anything left to fight for this season, or whether it's time to plan for our assault on the Premiership and Champions League next season.
If Wenger found our Champions League exit on Tuesday hard to swallow, then anything other than three points today will surely see the Frenchman rushed to A&E with the result loged firmly in his throat.
Arsenal's key players all like like they need a rest. All except one - Theo Walcott. The flying forward has really found his feet at Arsenal now. He blew hot and cold for a while, then a dip in form saw him branded a flop. But he's bounced back in spectacular fashion. He scored a brace against Birmingham to rescue a point, and since then he's been made a difference every time he's come on. In contrast, then man keeping him out the team has done nothing but worry me that he's going to get sent off. Eboue was fantastic at right back when he played there in our run to the Champions League final in 2006, but he's been woeful at best since Wenger put him on the right wing.
I think Wenger needs to move Eboue back to his natural posistion for this game, and play our best centre back pairing of Toure and Gallas (I was starting to agree with LD that Senderos and Gallas should be playing, but his shocker agaisnt Liverpool has put me firmly back into the Toure camp).
United will be relishing this game. They have a six point lead over us, they smashed us last time we were there, and they're in the Champions League Semis. Ronaldo and Rooney will be fresh after being rested against Roma in the week. Gary Neville could also return.
Arsenal's best hope is that United under-estimate Arsenal and the Gunners react like a wounded animal and savage United.
Both teams will give it a go, but United can afford to sit back a bit, and catch Arsenal on the counter (as they did for 2 or 3 of their FA Cup goals against us).
If United win today, an
Ol' Purple nose spoke about what it takes for his team to retain the Premiership: 'We have to win our next three games and, if we do, we've won the title.
'We could go to Chelsea and win in there, or we could lose it there if we don't win our next two games.
'We have 77 points and a better goal difference than our rivals, so to win the league we have to win the next three matches. A lot can happen and the title could go to the wire, there's no doubt about that - it's very exciting.
'This is a difficult league to win and if we have to go to Wigan in the last game of the season and need to win to take the title, that's fine.
'If you said that was the case in August you would have taken it.
'I'm delighted with the way the players are performing and the freshness and energy is terrific.'
Arsene Wenger revealed that it's shit or bust on Sunday. I think that's an admission that his team will go there and throw everything (kitchen sink included) at United. Ahead of teh game Wenger said: 'It will be the greatest achievement of my career to win the Premier League now because we are swimming against the stream at the moment.
'For us the game on Sunday is the game of the season. If we do not win this game we have no chance.
'We will fight until the last second of the championship.'
'It depends on what happens on Sunday.
'If we win then we can win the title and that's what is important for us to focus on.'
The Arsenal boss went on to speak about just what is at stake on Sunday: 'What is at stake on Sunday is the work of a whole year. If we go there and don't believe in ourselves then it is over.
'But do you really think that we will go to Manchester United thinking that our season is over? That would be ridiculous.'
'We have worked extremely hard since the first day of the season against all the odds.
'We will fight until the last second of the championship, especially on Sunday. If we win on Sunday then realistically we can win the title.'
United have Gary Neville and Patrice Evra back for their match against Arsenal. Rio Ferdinand will play, despite needing three stitches in his foot after the Boro game.
Rooney and Ronaldo will return to the starting line-up after being on the bench against Roma.
Most people would expect me to choose Ronaldo, but Rooney has been a pain in our ARSEnal since he made his debut for Everton as a kid.
He's not been a Ł30Million player this season, but he has started to find some form in the last few weeks.
Even Fergie admitted that injuries have been Arsenal's downfall this season. He may have been trying to play mind games, but he's right.
And now onto the latest injury news...
Flamini will be out for three weeks with an ankle injury, so he'll miss today's game, meaning Gilberto will almost definitely come in to replace him.
Rosicky is likely to miss this summer's European Championships, so he's out of Arsenal's season.
Sagna still hasn't recovered from his ankle injury, so he'll also miss the game.
Eudardo is making steady progress as he recovers from a broken and diislocated ankle.
As for Denilson, if anyone has any idea what's going on with the youngster, please let me know. It seems like he's been missing for an age, and there's no news on him anywhere on the internet.
Robin Van Persie could start, despite not having recovered from a thigh problem.
Cesc may be in desperate need of a rest, but Arsenal need a performance from him today. His vision, energy, and pure talent was key to Arsenal spending much of the season at the top of the Premiership.
It'll be none other than Coward Webb to oversee this match. The pathetic excuse for a referee has a nasty habit of bottleing key decisions, and clearly lacks balls after he refused to admit he got Adebayor and Eboue mixed up in the Carling Cup final when we played Chelsea.
I'm afraid I'm going for a 3-1 home win. United will be too fresh and ahve too much up front for an Arsenal team low on confidence and energy.
I asked my other half, who is a Manc fan, for her thoughts on the match: "I am going to try and be serious with my thoughts on the up coming clash of the strong and weak of course I have put that in order of home and away team.
"I think this game is going to be a close one, the very opposite to the latest FA Cup game that was played between the two teams. In am not giving a match prediction but I do think whoever wins, it will be by one goal. Eg 2-1, 1-0 or 3-2. The game itself will be action packed and quiet a few yellow cards will most probably be dished out and I am predicting a sending off because this fixture is always a heated one."
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Date:Sunday April 13 2008
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