Arsenal Battle Manchester United for Chance to Correct League Table

Darius StoneContributor IJanuary 31, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 27:  Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal is challenged from behind by  Stiliyan Petrov of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on January 27, 2010 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

After the draw at Villa Park last Wednesday, Arsenal jump straight into the second of the ’Awesome Foursome’ matches. I feel that today’s battle and the one next Sunday at Stamford Bridge are the most important matches for the Gunners this season.

A win against either of the title challengers will see Arsenal gain direct advantage over their closest rivals. In the final tally, the points gained or lost during these two encounters might be critical.

I don’t think that not winning the two games outright means that it’s the end of the season.

Winning them simply gives us the initiative and psychological advantage, and there is still much to do before the final whistle in the final game of the season. Only then can we be certain of how the honours will be divvied up.

History will tell you that current form goes right out of the window during this epic fixture. Form doesn’t matter because the teams are playing for pride and bragging rights.

When you get the two best attacking teams in the Premiership, then the chance of having a fantastic game is on the cards. All we can hope for is that there’s drama of the Roy Keen and Patrick Vieira tunnel bust-up variety to add spice to the encounter.

The Gunners will be buoyed by the return of Alex Song, Nicklas Bendtner, Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboue. It will equally be frustrating that we’re missing the Verminator and Abou Diaby through injury.

Darren Fletcher will of course be posted as the Manure guard-dog with specific instructions to be a spoiler. Whether he can do worse than any other guard dog deployed against Arsenal is yet to be seen.

My sense is that Wenger will have a starting line-up of:

Sagna, Gallas, Campbell, Clichy
Song, Nasri, Fabregas
Rosicky, Bendtner, Arshavin

If football were played on paper, then you’d argue that such a team has every chance of winning a game against a Manure team that have a makeshift back four.

However, football matches are played on grass and the least we expect is that Manure will make it a very difficult game for Arsenal.

The reverse fixture left a bitter taste in the mouths of Arsenal players and fans alike. Having dominated the game and played Manure off the park, a kamikaze own goal by Diaby and a dodgy penalty by Shrek (can you believe I heard someone call him the ’White Pele’ ) stole the three points off the Gunners.

There is no reason to believe that three points are beyond the rejuvenated Gunners, but it won’t be a walk in the park.

Bendtner and Nasri looked really sharp when they came on against Villa last Wednesday and they’re both due a good game.

Most importantly, it’s critical that the Gunners gift the Gooner nation the customary bragging rights with a positive home result.

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