Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Saturday January 30 2010
After not really getting going midweek against Aston Villa, Arsenal host rivals Manchester United tomorrow in the second of our four season defining matches.
Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Silvestre, Clichy, Denilson, Diaby, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, and Bendtner. That was the team that beat the Champions at the Grove last season. There are a couple of odd similarities between that team and the one that will start tomorrow. For one, an old man will start at centre back, in Campbell. Also, Nicklas Bendtner will once again be asked to lead the line in this mammoth fixture. How these two players handle the situation will go a long way in deciding this match.
While there are some similarities, a lot has changed. I doubt many United supporters will argue that their team has lost some of its quality since then. On the other hand, I believe we`ve massively improved. I realise that anything can happen in 90 minutes, but for once this season, I am truly confident going into a big game. I hope that is not a bad omen.
Wenger is backing his big game Russian to make a difference.
'I am very happy with Arshavin, because in every big game he is influential and creates the chances.' said Wenger.
'When you look at him, he turns up when it is really needed - not at 4-0, but at 0-0. He is always coming up with something special.
He is a player whom you always rely on in a big game like that.'
'Arshavin likes the big stage. He can be quiet for 20 minutes, and then suddenly turn up with something decisive. That is what you want from the big players - the big players make you win the big games.'
Eduardo and Thomas Vermaelen are the latest injury casualties, but at least the big Belgian doesn't have a broken calf bone. Bendtner will return and make his first start in three months, while Sol Campbell will face United as Arsenal player for the first time in four years. Sol will be hoping for a similar defensive score line, as he, Cygan, Toure, and Lauren held United to a goalless draw at Highbury in January of 2006.
Some good news is that 2009 player of the year, Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong, is back in the squad. Diaby, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Djourou, Eduardo, Merida, and van Persie are Arsenal's missing injured players.
Predicted Starting Lineup: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Campbell, Clichy, Song, Denilson, Fabregas, Arshavin, Rosicky, Bendtner
Nik did a fantastic job against Ferdinand and Vidic last season, and some Arsenal fans have suggested that Eduardo's sore hamstring might be a blessing in disguise. No disrespect to the Crozillian, but Bendtner's physical presence could give us something different. Also the Dane knows and is relishing the situation he finds himself in.
After an early season injury crisis, Ferguson has almost a full squad to choose from. Though, Rio Ferdinand will the serve the first game of his four match suspension for a blatant, off-the-ball elbow agaisnt Hull's Chris Fagan. He should be serving the second game of his three match suspension, but an appeal let him play in the midweek Manchester Derby. Hargreaves and O'Shea are United's only other causalities.
Possible Starting XI: Van der Sar, Rafael, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Park, Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney
He's the best striker in the Premier League right now, and he'll be looking forward to the battle with Sol. If we can win this battle, then I am sure we will win the game.
This will be the 42nd time Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have faced each other. Ferguson has won 16 times to Wenger's 14, with 11 draws (two of which were then settled by penalties).
The Gunners are the division's form team, earning 24 points from 10 unbeaten league games since a 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea in November.
Manchester United has not won any of their last six away league matches at Big Four opposition, losing five times.
Chris Foy will be the head official. I've never been a fan.
As I said earlier, I'm confident. I'm going with my gut feeling of 3-1 to the Arsenal.
7/2 (Sun) - Chelsea (a) - Premier League
10/2 (Wed) - Liverpool (h) - Premier League
17/2 (Wed) - FC Porto (a) - Champions League
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Date:Saturday January 30 2010
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