Theo and Man Utd Preview…

We enter the game on Saturday following the crazy mid week spectacle at the Madejski; the likes of which I haven’t seen before and from an Arsenal point of view am very unlikely to see again. However enjoyable the drama of Tuesday night, when you step back from it you can’t help but feel that allowing ourselves to get into such a position is a worrying feat from any Arsenal side. Tom Lutz on Football Weekly made an interesting point this week about the reaction of Arsene Wenger, whose celebrations were pretty muted despite the comeback. Perhaps a good indication of what he really thought to our overall performance. Despite this, Wenger’s favorite character reference could not be applied better to a game and there is no doubt that it will bring about some positive momentum around the club.

One encouraging aspect of Tuesday’s game was the three goals for Theo Walcott. Admittedly the Reading defence was sub standard to say the very least, but given the opportunities you couldn’t have asked for much more from him. The first goal in particular, a show of composure that in seasons gone by he most likely would have scuffed at ninety degrees. This is, of course, the age old problem with Walcott, one day he will give you a display of finishing that will bring back memories of Thierry only to go into the next game and produce a level closer to our old friend Franny Jeffers. So does his performance warrant a place in the starting line-up this weekend? It’s tough to call; given his clear lack of loyalty to the club my enthusiasm towards him is lacking, but on pure footballing reasons it might be time to give him a start. Even without the injury to Gervinho I’d say Walcott is now better suited to the central role. You can’t help thinking that his reluctance to sign a new deal has effected his game time this season. It might be quite nice to see a 4-4-2 with Walcott and Giroud working along side but that seems a highly unlikely change to make given the importance of Saturday.

Arsene has come out saying that Theo’s negotiations must be wrapped up by Christmas, no doubt with an eye on the January window. If he doesn’t sign then, for me, he must be sold and must be replaced. An additional striker is needed anyway but to see our squad weakened in January would be madness.

Saturday 12.00 sees us head to Old Trafford, where we have not tasted victory since 2006, when Adebayor grabbed the only goal. So on stats alone the odds are stacked against us. I am, however reasonably optimistic ahead of the game. I feel we have a squad that on paper is well equipped to cope with United all over the pitch. I expect Jack to start and the midfield trio of Carzola, Arteta and Wilshire have the ability to set the tone for the others to follow.

Our potency in attack is an area that is a slight worry, but I continue to be impressed by the impact Giroud has made since breaking his duck. His headed goal against Reading in midweek was top quality and his overall impact very encouraging. Granted Utd are a very different challenge but with good performances around him I remain convinced he can have an effective game.

In previous seasons it has been their wing play that has caused us major problems, it wouldn’t surprise me to see their wingers given the freedom to run, particularly at Santos whose defensive discipline has been put under scrutiny after his last two performances. Podolski will have to be on his toes to keep up the good defensive work he’s provided this season.

Although it pains me to say it the front duo of Rooney and Van Persie is frightening combination and it’s going to take a top defensive performance from Per and Vermaelen to prevent goals. Hopefully our previous experience of Van Persie will help us throughout the game, but it’s still going to be a tough task.

I’m interested to see how he conducts himself on the pitch, he’s always had a fiery side to him and hopefully we can get under his skin and he’ll produce something rash. Wenger has asked fans to show respect towards our old captain, but given the respect shown to us I highly doubt his request to be granted.

It’s a tough one to call but my gut tells me we might just grab it. Both teams to score but a 2-1 win to Arsenal.

Maybe it’s blinded loyalty but who cares, COYG!

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