Friday, November 02, 2007

Arsenal v United: Where the game will be won and lost...

On the run-up to these big games there's always the usual clap-trap and platitudes emanating from both camps. This morning Edwin Van Der Sar has been talking up the Arsenal saying how impressed he's been with them since Henry was sold. Earlier on in the week, the press were full of stories about Fergie and how much he loves the rivalry with Wenger.

Let the truth be known the United manager cannot stand the Frenchman and I've had that conveyed to me personally from two people who not so long ago were working for the club and were very close to the manager, it isn't exactly news or a surprise is it?

The fact of the matter is that the fans love to hate each other too, because football is the modern day equivalent of tribalism. Admittedly, since the departure of our main tribal warriors, Messrs Keane and Vieira, the red-hot heat of battle on the pitch has been reduced from boiling-point to a gentle simmer. So there will be no repeat of players 'offering each other out' in the tunnel before a ball is kicked as we saw a couple of seasons ago in the same fixture.

When that game kicks-off on Saturday, all of the talking will have stopped, no more ******** about being impressed about each other and all of that. Only then will we see which of these sides, who try to play the game the right way, is likely to emerge as title winners at the end of the season.

The pundits will no doubt be split down the middle on the outcome, but I was surprised to hear Reds fan and Manchester journalist Steve Curry say that he thought Arsenal play the better football of the two sides.

My own view is that there's not a lot between these two sides. There wont be much in it, but it definitely wont be 0-0. For my money United have a better defence, a better forward line, more width and more aggressive midfield players in Hargreaves and Anderson.

Where Arsenal have a slight advantage is in their ability to move the ball quickly through midfield, they move it so quickly that the opposition often has little time to react. Mistakes are made in defence and this is where games are often won and lost, but the battle for control of the game rests in the engine-room and this area will obviously be crucial on Saturday, as it always is. Whoever controls midfield is likely to win the game, it is that simple.

So Fergie will be stressing to the likes of Ronaldo, Nani and Giggs that whoever gets selected must track-back when the Gunners have the ball, failure to do so could prove to be fatal.

I'm expecting that United will really go for Arsenal with a full frontal assault. The United players have had a full week to prepare for this one, they are in fine collective form. My prediction is 3-1 to the mighty Reds.

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