Can Walcott & Giroud lift Arsenal to another memorable victory?
It seems like forever ago that Arsenal managed to defeat Manchester United, despite their victory at the Emirates in January of 2011. A second-half goal from Aaron Ramsey gave the Gunners a 1-0 victory along with a clean-sheet, which Arsenal hasn't been able to do against Manchester United in their last two meetings.
A visit to Old Trafford will bring back horrifying memories of an 8-2 disaster last season for the Arsenal players. Arsene Wenger will be hoping for a better outcome this time, but he will also need a better performance from his side than what he has seen in recent weeks.
Losing at Carrow Road to Norwich set the Gunners up for a second defeat against Schalke for the Champions League Group Stage.
Many fans were hoping the team would come out of their funk last weekend against QPR, only to see another lackluster performance from the Gunners. Fortunately Mikel Arteta was able to get on the end of a scrappy play to put Arsenal ahead 1-0 late in the match, but their performance left a lot to be desired.
Midweek, both sides took part in the Capital One Cup, with Arsenal going through after an absolute nerve-wracking match, while Manchester United fell to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in extra time.
Having gone down 4-0 away to Reading and with a squad made up of mostly young players, one could only think that Arsenal was on the verge of a repeat of the Old Trafford result from last season. But, to the surprise of many if not all, Arsene Wenger's side was able to fight back and equalize before extra time, sealing the deal in the final minutes.
Now both teams will enter the match coming off two different results in the cup match, but when it comes to a high-profile match like this, current form isn't always what matters most.
Arsenal currently finds themselves sixth with 15 points in nine matches, while Manchester United is second with 21 points in nine matches. A victory for the Gunners could really put them in a prime position to contend for the title, although its still early, while a defeat could see them fall back nine points.
Who will win the match?
But when you think of Saturday's match, you can't help but think of the whole Robin van Persie situation.
The Dutch striker who moved from the Emirates to Old Trafford in the last transfer window will go head-to-head with his former club and teammates for the first time since his transfer. How will the Arsenal faithful react every time RVP touches the ball?
While RVP will be wanting to show his former club what they lost, new signings Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla will be looking to prove to the United striker that Arsenal's situation is better than he may have thought.
Keeping the Red Devils No. 20 off the score-sheet won't be easy, but if fully focused, Arsenal could have the upper hand when it comes to defensive coverage.
Without Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United's back line is clearly weaker with Johnny Evans and Rio Ferdinand anchoring the back four. With a very quick Theo Walcott full of confidence after a well-earned hat-trick against Reading, Alex Ferguson will be certain to make sure he doesn't have space to run into.
Another key battle for the two sides will be in the midfield, where Arsenal may have better options. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are stronger.
United has for a few seasons now desperately needed a holding midfielder like Paul Scholes, but younger, who can command the team and be that hard-nose player Scholes has always been. Without that player, United's midfield comes across as soft and vulnerable.
Looking now at Arsenal's center midfielders, they have the likes of Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, who may not all start. But, while having Arteta and Wilshere don't offer you strength either, those two are very capable of creating offense from a deep position, as can Anderson, Cleverly and Carrick.
01-22-12 Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United (EPL)
08-28-11 Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (EPL)
05-01-11 Arsenal 1-0 Manchester United (EPL)
03-12-11 Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal (FA Cup)
12-13-10 Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal (EPL)
01-31-10 Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United (EPL)
Manchester United Injuries
Shinji Kagawa - Out
Nemanja Vidic - Out
Phil Jones - Out
Chris Smalling - Doubtful
Tomas Rosicky - Out
Abou Diaby - Out
Lukasz Fabianski - Out
Kieran Gibbs - Out
Gervinho - Out
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Doubtful
Wojciech Szczesny - Doubtful
Obviously, more often than not, it's not easy to go to Old Trafford and get a victory. For Arsenal, they can hopefully take some notes from their rivals Tottenham Hotspur who pulled off a surprising victory at Old Trafford just a few weeks ago.
Keeping Chicharito, Wayne Rooney and even Robin van Persie at bay won't be easy for an Arsenal defense that has some mental lapses at times, despite having the best defensive record in the EPL with only six goals conceded.
If Arsenal is to get anything from this match, they will not only have to be very cautious of Manchester United's offensive threats, but they will also need more movement and creativity than they have had in their last two EPL matches.
This match will be very hard to call, because both teams have their weaknesses, but big matches like this normally bring the best out of everyone.
Is Arsenal's desire to make sure RVP doesn't get the last laugh going to be enough to help them get a positive result at Old Trafford? Or is the Dutch striker going to make it a long afternoon for his former teammates?
My view is that Arsenal got outstanding performances from Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott midweek, which they've needed for quite sometime, regardless if it was against Reading.
With a group of young and in some cases inexperienced players around them, they helped lift Arsenal's side from a serious hole and into the next round.
Taking advantage of a suspect Manchester United central defense will be a priority, and Walcott's pace and Giroud's physicality could really cause problem's for Fergie's men.
Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal