Arsenal come to their match with United battered and listing badly
Thomas Vermaelen is a last minute decision, Thierry Henry has a “calf” problem, and Mikel Arteta will definitely sit out the match. A full starting squad is out with injuries, yes, there are eleven out. The most in the Premiership. Utd have their injury concerns too with Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young out apart from the longer absence of Nemanja Vidic.
The intervening months since that Old Trafford Massacre (TM) has seen both clubs struggle with form and injuries. United were bullied by Blackburn and then Newcastle before they righted the ship against Bolton. Despite these losses Utd are still in second and challenging for the title. Arsenal on the other hand surged to fourth in the old year before their self congratulatory shine wore off in losses to Fulham and Swansea. Nothing they have done dispels the trope of Arsenal as a fragile club.
The two results have opened up a slew of questions. Some old, some new. Who will take up the scoring slack if RVP fails to deliver? Will the defense without Vermaelen and the full backs manage to stop Utd? Aaron Ramsey looked jaded and weary without Arteta’s organizational skills at the back. Theo Walcott remains an enigma and Arshavin shows little appetite to assume a central role. In a manner of speaking, Arsenal look the same side before the Old Trafford Massacre (TM) with Wenger throwing in his second side because of injuries and suspensions. This time too, injuries and Gervinho’s absence contribute to a makeshift look.
The only saving grace is that Utd look vulnerable. Bringing back Paul Scholes is a bold move but it means Sir Alex finds his midfield in dire circumstances. Rio Ferdinand has to contend with revolving partners at centre back. The goalkeeper situation is also spotty with starter David De Gea confined to the bench and now apparently needing eye surgery.
There are big questions marks on both sides. But one hopes for Arsenal’s sake they are resolved at least for this match. Maybe they need to regroup and analyze what they did effectively to climb out of the bottom rung. A 1-0 win like last season’s encounter at the Emirates will do very nicely.