Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Sunday December 12 2010
This weekend the best four teams in the league play each other, so obviously a lot is on the line for each team. With the honours even at White Hart Lane today, either Arsenal or Manchester United has a great chance to stamp their authority on the league table. A bit of spark has been rejuvenated to this historically illustrious fixture with some prematch trash talk coming from the United camp. While Wenger characteristically played it off nonchalantly, you know the Arsenal players will remember come kickoff. The certain Manchester United player in question has been on the receiving end of three yellow card challenges in recent matches. The bad blood is there for all to see.
Speaking of players not taking the prematch talk lightly, here is Bacary Sagna on the issue:
"I would never allow myself to criticize another team."
"It shows a lack of respect. He loves to wind people up and raise the temperature.
"That is his way of doing things, but it does not affect me in any way."
Man in form, Samir Nasri, believes Arsenal are better on the road this season.
"The difference when we play away is that we defend much better"
"Our discipline and shape is more efficient when we play away and I am quite confident because we can play our game and we know we can score at any moment."
"We have to reproduce the kind of form we show away from home to be more efficient at home as well."
Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes have recovered from ankle injuries to take part in tomorrow's proceedings. Wes Brown and Jonny Evans have recuperated from midweek illnesses. Hargeaves, Owens, and Valencia are out for Sir Alex.
Last season, Fletcher believed that he was unfairly targeted by referees because Arsene said he was a dirty player. The truth is however that Wenger never even mentioned Fletcher's name during the interview in question. Nevertheless, Fletcher has once again been crying to the press about mean, old Arsene Wenger. The Scotsman has been key in stifling Arsenal's creative spark in the past, and he will be looking to get another few kicks in tomorrow evening.
The big news is that our captain Cesc Fabregas will be a game time decision. Wenger will not take another gamble on the Spaniard, so I'd say it's about a 40% chance Cesc will take part in tomorrow night's action. Other than that, Kieran Gibbs now faces another three weeks on the sidelines. Vermaelen and Diaby are still out, while Gael Clichy has a virus but should still play.
I can only hope that Wenger doesn't play the 4-4-2 he experimented with in midweek. Simply put, the formation didn't work at all. Perhaps in the future Robin van Persie and Marouane Chamakh will develop a dangerous partnership, but for now it should be up to Chamakh to lead the line.
Predicted Starting XI: Fabianski, Clichy, Squillaci, Koscielny, Sagna, Song, Wilshere, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri, Chamakh
Who else? Samir Nasri is the in-form man of the Barclay's Premier League. Despite what Sky would like to have you believe, nobody has consistently played better than the former Marseille midfielder. If Fabregas doesn't play, then Arsenal will need Nasri more than ever this season.
Arsenal have picked up 17 points on the road this season, the best away record in the Premier League
Arsenal's record in their last 10 games in all competitions against Man Utd and Chelsea is: P10 W0 D1 L9 F5 A22
Last season at Old Trafford versus Arsenal, Darren Fletcher made twice as many fouls (6) as any other player, but was not one of 9 players booked
Man Utd have not scored the first goal in any of the last four games at Old Trafford against Arsenal. The Gunners have done so three times.
Arsenal have only ever scored eight goals in 18 Premier League games at Old Trafford and no more than one in any single game
Credit to the BBC and Orbinho for provided statistics.
Howard Webb is the head official for this match. The last time Arsenal lost a league match with Webb as the referee was at Old Trafford in April 2008, with Arsenal winning six of nine matches.
I am more nervous for this Arsenal, Manchester United league encounter than I have been for a long time, which says tons about the success of the respective clubs during the past 5 years. A win at Old Trafford could springboard Arsenal onto great things during the busy winter schedule, however a loss could be just as damaging. Overall our midfield and attack are better than theirs, but their defence is better than ours. If Fabregas is fit, I think we'll win 2-1. If not, then another win for Sir Red Nose's troops is most likely on the cards.
18/12 (Sat) - Stoke City (h) - Premier League
27/12 (Mon) - Chelsea (h) - Premier League
29/12 (Wed) - Wigan (a) - Premier League
Date:Sunday December 12 2010
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