Should Arsenal Fear Another 8-2 Scoreline at Old Trafford This Saturday?

Max TowleAnalyst IOctober 29, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28:  The scoreboard shows the final score of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on August 28, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Having been on the receiving end of one of the most horrific assaults in footballing history at Old Trafford a little over a year ago, Arsenal have no option but to return to the scene of the crime this Saturday.

On paper, much has changed in the intervening 14 months, most notably the switching of allegiances to Manchester United red of one Dutch striker whose name was then a mere footnote on the scoresheet.

But in truth, the fortunes of the North London club remain as frustratingly stunted as they did in the autumn months of 2011.

For the third consecutive season, Arsene Wenger's side seems to be one in transition.

Granted, Arsenal's activity in the transfer window didn't feel as rushed, as Wenger reverted to the type of moves that saw the Gunners claim glory in previous title-winning campaigns.

Rather than solely focusing on bring in untested youth, the Frenchman acquired Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, a couple of polished gems—established players whose worth had perhaps been overlooked by the more nouveau riche in European football.

But for Cazorla, the rigours of the fast and furious Premier League have begun to take its toll, as a barnstorming start seems to have quickly slipped into near-anonymous fare for a player who so impressed in August-cum-September.

Podolski too has slipped into inconspicuousness, overshadowed by the burgeoning performances of Aaron Ramsey on the opposite flank.

It is unfortunate, but Wenger's stubborn refusal to play the German in the centre forward role has given the same-old critics that lay in the grass patiently waiting for an opportunity to cry "Wenger Out," more ammunition.

His steadfast faith in the bumbling Gervinho has not been rewarded as he may have liked. But then, could he have honestly expected the Ivorian to contribute 20 goals from any position on the pitch?

The one prevailing positive from the dire performances of late has undoubtedly been the long awaited return of English midfielder Jack Wilshere, who will add an impetus sorely needed in the coming weeks.

Nevertheless, the impending trip to Old Trafford has been scheduled at the worst possible moment in the Gunners' calendar.

Injuries to Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain look like having more of an adverse effect than first expected. Whilst Andre Santos has been a real liability in the place of Kieran Gibbs at full-back.

Arsenal's defence may not be as makeshift as it was last year, but the team's current dearth of creativity in attack is worrying.

No matter how patched up the United back four may be, if Arsenal have struggled to burst Norwich and QPR's net, why should Saturday be any different?

The Red Devils' obvious weakness at present are teams that utilise the flanks effectively, a character trait that Arsenal sides of the recent past have not typically possessed.

With this being the case, a player like Bacary Sagna will be relied upon to attack with menace down the right flank, whilst a nod toward the always-absent Theo Walcott may also be advisable.

Going forward though, United look irrepressible, as the likes of van Persie, Rooney and whoever else Sir Alex Ferguson inserts into his flexible lineup continues to slice through opposition defences.

But the fact remains, this Manchester side has been extremely luck at certain points in key games, as (from a tabloid's perspective at least) they perfect the art of "how to win games and influence referees."

To suggest that this is a team in the peak of its abilities would be more than a tad exaggerated.

Which is possibly why a significant number of Gunners fans are worried heading into Old Trafford—if United are scoring two or three a game playing mixed football—what happens if Arsenal run into the perfect storm this weekend?

The chances of the Red Devils putting eight past Vito Mannone are about as slim as those of Mark Clattenburg being named referee for the clash.

A thrashing, though, with van Persie celebrating in front of the away fans, is a realistic fear for the pessimistic fan in North London.

Old Trafford holds the potential of representing a sort of haunted house movie for Arsenal, with the "Enter at Your Peril" tagline blazed across the poster.

Arsene Wenger knows full well the dangers that lurk within, but may be powerless to prevent them from giving his side a nightmare worthy of Halloween.

But surely no outcome could be worse than the 8-2?


What do you think will happen when Manchester United and Arsenal face off this Saturday? Would it take a fool to bet against an Arsene Wenger side in any situation?

Follow @MaxTowle


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