Nervy times ahead, nervy times indeed. The Gunners take on their old arch rivals Manchester United tonight at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter finals and Arsenal fans can be forgiven for not feeling overly optimistic. On paper the Gunners have every chance of getting something from the game despite the facts showing the last meaningful victory at Old Trafford was quite some time away. The current Manchester United team with all due respect is one of the worst in recent times, not that I am saying the team is awful but in comparison to some of the teams we have become accustomed to experiencing during Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure this current crop fall way short of those standards.
My argument falls flat when I highlight the failings of Manchester United yet they are well in the mix for a top four finish and have walked away from Emirates with three points under their belt this season. The tie is evenly balanced however the home advantage pushes the odds in favor of the Red Devils. The victory that Arsenal pulled off at the Etihad earlier in the season exhibited that there is a big away performance in them against the bigger clubs.
The psychological hold that Manchester United has over Arsenal cannot be ignored. When it really matters the Gunners haven’t risen to the occasion and more often than not and have let United walk away victorious. For Arsenal to come away from Old Trafford with a victory (Or a draw) it really depends on what team turns up tonight. At times when Arsenal have had their backs to the wall after a bad performance when fans, pundits et al have written them off they have responded with the types of performances that leave you scratching your head wondering why those performances are not more consistently churned out.
I believe one of Arsenal’s biggest Achilles heels is complacency, being able to motivate their selves to pull off a high intensive level of performance when things are going well. The fight is replaced with a swagger and cockiness which they struggle to switch off when things don’t go their way, the swagger soon turns to panic and loss of composure and before you know it there’s too much mess to be undone within the 90 minutes. The Monaco game is a good example of such self-implosion.
Playing against Manchester United shouldn’t require much motivation for the players, it’s a massive game but it is hoped the Arsenal come out with all guns blazing. This is the type of game where the energy of Alexis Sanchez and Tomas Rosicky needs to be matched by their team mates. When the Arsenal are firing on all cylinders there aren’t many teams that can stand toe to toe, they just need to believe in their abilities, understand what is at stake and take the game to United.
The pantomime distraction of Robin Van Persie will not play a factor due to his current injury which is a massive boost. That’s not to say there aren’t equal threats from the United side, Rooney always has the knack of scoring in this fixture and even Falcao found the net during pre-season against the Gunners however Van Persie is the one you would expect to be the greater threat given his ties to the club.
Goal threats aside composure in front of goal is vital, Olivier Giroud is in a rich vein of form and will need to maintain that to beat United’s biggest match winner David De Gea. This season the Spaniard has saved United’s bacon in so many games this season that no chances can afford to be wasted when they arise. Danny Welbeck is due a goal and if he starts i hope he can get one over his former teammate, that really would be the icing on the cake.
There is a lot at stake tonight, the FA Cup is a realistic possibility for the winners of this tie. I may have slight nerves for the game but i do have a lot of belief in the capabilities of the Arsenal to pull off a big win. Come on you Gunners!!