When I started following the English Premier League in 1998 Arsenal and Manchester United were the top dogs in England and their contests were more fierce and competitive than any other in the country. The emergence of Chelsea as a real power has dulled the importance of these clashes to a certain extent, but they still mean more to me than any other.
Not being from London or even the UK it’s hard for me to comprehend the venom that surrounds an Arsenal-Spurs derby game and for me Arsenal-United always evokes the most emotion. They are the old enemy, the aggressive black to our princely white, the dark side to our light. Losing or beating them means more than losing or beating any other side.
The memories from Arsenal-United games will never be forgotten. Dennis Bergkamp’s penalty miss and Ryan Giggs’ solo goal in the FA Cup semi-final of United’s treble season. Thierry Henry’s spectacular flick and volley in the 1-0 win at Highbury in 2000. Fabian Barthez’s howlers in the 3-1 win in the wet at Highbury in 2001. Sylvain Wiltord’s strike to win the title at Old Trafford in 2002.
Then there’s Ruud van Nistlerooij’s penalty miss in Arsenal’s unbeaten season. The one he scored to end that unbeaten run in 2004. Patrick Vieira’s penalty that won the 2005 FA Cup. Emmanuel Adebayor’s late winner at Old Trafford in 2006 or Henry’s late header at the Emirates in 2007. William Gallas’ late equaliser in the 2-2 draw last season. The list goes on and on and on.
Regardless of form and injuries I expect Arsenal to give absolutely everything they have tomorrow. This is a big chance for our boys to put a backs-to-the-wall performance together and show everyonewe’re still in this title race. It’s a game where players like Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby can show they are as good as their manager thinks they are.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post the team I think Wenger is going to play. I stick by that with the exception of Gallas who seems likely to miss out. Theo Walcott, like Gallas, is only rated as 50:50 by the manager but I just have a feeling he’ll start tomorrow and we’ll need his pace. That would mean the team will be Manuel Almunia in goals behind a back four of Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Mikael Silvestre and Gael Clichy; a five-man midfield consisting of Denilson and Cesc Fabregas in the middle, Walcott and Samir Nasri out wide and Diaby behind lone-striker Bendtner.
I think it’s a team good enough to beat United. People will certainly be viewing Bendtner as the week link in the side but I always get the feeling that his confidence/arrogance means he’s more likely to score against bigger opponents than smaller ones. It doesn’t get much bigger than Manchester United.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow and I’m nervous and excited in equal measure about what the result might turn out to be. So nervous and excited that I’m going to watch the game at home alone, away from my United friends. A win and we’ll be right back in the title race, a draw means we’ll be hanging in there and a loss… well, let’s not talk about that right now. Positive thinking and all.
So come on boys! Get in there and do us proud! Up the Arsenal!
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