Manchester United vs Arsenal: Gunners Face Season-Defining Match at Old Trafford

Nicholas GossCorrespondent INovember 2, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal battles with Michael Carrick of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Arsenal and Manchester United will renew their historic rivalry at Old Trafford on Saturday in a match that will tell us a lot about the Gunners' chances of being a top-four club this season.

Last season, Arsenal were humiliated at Old Trafford in an 8-2 defeat that plummeted the optimism surrounding the club to a new low. Remarkably, the club recovered from that awful loss and finished third in the Premier League.

One year later, the Gunners return to Manchester with many of the same players who experienced that tough defeat, but they will be without star striker Robin van Persie, who left the club to sign with United during the summer transfer window.

Arsenal has done well without the Dutch forward, but they have yet to beat any elite clubs this season in any competition.

However, if they can defeat United at Old Trafford, Arsenal will have proven to themselves, and their fans, that the club is capable of being a legitimate Premier League title contender this season.

This is the kind of match that builds confidence in players. For summer signing Olivier Giroud, this is the stage where he must show why he's capable of leading the club's attack this season.

The French striker was impressive in the Gunners' amazing comeback versus Reading in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday. He should play a key role in the United match as part of the starting XI or a substitute.

For Giroud and the rest of the Arsenal squad, a positive result against United at Old Trafford would be a major boost to morale. It would also give the team a major confidence boost moving forward.

Arsenal cannot try to avenge their 8-2 loss from last season because if that's on the players' minds Saturday afternoon, there's no chance that the Gunners will win.

The Premier League is stronger this season than it was last year, and there are more quality teams that will be fighting for the top six or seven spots in the table. The Gunners cannot afford to lose games against the elite clubs and still contend for a top-four finish.

To earn Champions League qualification for next season and challenge for the league title, Arsenal must prove that it can put distractions to the side and defeat England's best clubs away from home.

The next chapter of this historic rivalry should provide football fans with a thrilling match. Furthermore, its outcome will tell us a lot about Arsenal's chances of having another successful season.