Arsenal vs. ManYoo: A Look Ahead

Welcome to March.  That time of the year when we can expect crazy weather here on the East Coast of the United States that varies from snow to torrential rain to sunny and 70 degrees.  What else do we expect from March? Spring Training in baseball.  One amazing college basketball tournament.  Heavy squad rotation and injuries that throw our fantasy EPL line-ups into massive chaos.  And...most importantly for this particular post, March is about the time each year when we learn what combination of injuries, tragic mistakes, and bad luck will take Arsenal from "competing on four fronts" to "long shot for the league and booted out of the other tournaments". 

Is this year going to be any different for Arsenal? Tomorrow will tell.  As far as I see it, the season can go two ways:

Arsenal beat United tomorrow...
This would do a few things all of which would be important for Arsenal.  Here are the ones that come quickly to mind:
  • Provide a nice lift for Arsenal in the wake of the controversial Barca match in midweek.  
  • Keep them alive on multiple fronts which would reduce the pressure on them to win any specific match the league and those high-pressure matches is where they tend to break down the most. 
  • Give them some confidence that they can win an important match against a "big" opponent.
  • Give them some confidence against United specifically going into their head to head match-up late in the season in the league which is likely to be very important to a title bid if Arsenal stay close.
  • Further beat down a United team that is reeling from a rough stretch minus Rio Ferdinand (and now Nani)
  • United's exit from the tournament would leave Man Citeh as the only high quality team left to challenge Arsenal for the FA Cup (granted it only took Birmingham to beat them for the Carling Cup so the lack of "big" opponents left may or may not be seen as an advantage)
If United beat Arsenal tomorrow...
  • You have to think Arsenal's worse insecurities will be re-doubled that they just can't win the big one
  • United would reclaim some lost confidence
  • United would have the clear psychological advantage going into their possibly decisive league match
  • Despite there being no change in the standings, you'd have to heavily discount Arsenal's chances of winning the league in addition to obviously not winning the FA Cup
  • You also have to see a potential long-term consequence of an increased likelihood of Cesc leaving in the summer along with possibly Clichy whose name has come up as a potential want-away.
If they draw...
You can see the advantage whichever way you'd like
  • Arsenal would be likely to have Cesc back for the rematch
  • United would be equally likely to have Rio back for the rematch
  • The rematch would be at the Emirates and United hasn't been good on the road at all this season in either the league or cup competitions
In my mind, this is the time that Arsenal has to come through.  Their confidence is down.  Two trophies are still available. United are beset by injuries to key players in Nani and Rio and still vulnerable all across their midfield.  If Arsenal can't get it done in the FA Cup, I can't say I have much hope for them winning the league.  If they CAN win tomorrow, I would be inclined to move them into "slight favorite" status given an easier schedule and the boost of confidence.

Sadly, my gut tells me that Chicharito is going to make the deciding play in the match with Arsenal falling again to a headed goal.  I hope I'm wrong but if I were forced to make a prediction it would be 2-1 United with an early goal from RvP canceled out by a Rooney in the first 5 minutes of the second half and the winner at about the 85th minute by Chicharito from Giggs on a set piece.  Arsenal will attack furiously for the final 5 minutes plus stoppage time but get nothing for their efforts.  The post-match media themes will be the eternal excellence of Giggs (with accompanying "best of Giggs in the FA Cup" lists and video montages) and the breakout season from Chicharito (he's the most efficient scorer in the league you know). 

Almost like you don't have to watch the match.  That said, I know I'll be there hoping against hope that I have the above entirely wrong.

Enjoy - Neal


  1. As if I watched the game already.
    Your logic is right and it is only normal for United to win it at the death; add to that the "prophet" status you'll acquire should your predictions be right... I'm still going to say it will be an Arsenal win, and I would pray for the first option, not that I'm an Arsenal fan, but I would love to see United lose :)

  2. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Holy over analyzation batman!

    Any real advantages to be had in the title run will be decided by who has to play the fewest games, not who gains some psychological advantage on Saturday.

    If United win on Saturday and progress in the Champions League on Tuesday, that means they have the possibility of adding between 4 to 8 additional matches to their schedule. With them holding more injuries to their first team than any other club, adding 4-8 pivotal matchups could hamper their title ambitions.

    If on the other hand United were knocked out of the FA Cup and the Champions League by Tuesday evening, you could go ahead and give them the title since they could play every league game fully rested, and have time to get back several key players.

    But, as far as mental advantages and the like discussed above, pure rubbish. United are not a group of fragile women. Do you really think a group of players that have won EVERY title of consequence in club football are going to roll over if they get knocked out the FA Cup?

    Arsenal is the only team that is mentally, physically and psychologically weak.

    If you want to psycho analyze Arsenal's mentality fine, but leave United out of it. They are winners, they dont play for moral victories like Arsenal.

  3. Us over analyze?!?! Never! ;-)

  4. Anonymous9:52 AM

    @anon 9:21
    United not mentally weak?! Remeber CL final against Barcelona? Amazing 15 minutes, with couple of chances, than they conceded one, and after that nothing. United was even embaresed when one of the little people, Messi scored header. I am United fan, but I can accept facts. 8 more games is not a problem, they are profesinals and they get ready for that in preseason, but if they lose 3 rival games in 10 days it will be very hard to get back on the feet. But I also expect United win 2-0.

  5. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Yak, yak yak, just love it. Inter to defend their champions league title

  6. never been done in so many years so i predict inter to not defend, it would be nice if the loser of last year wins this year. robben deserves a title.

  7. What prescience! You might not've got the Chicharito part exactly right (although you were not far off), but goodness, you sure nailed the Rooney part! Well done.

  8. without djourou arsenal are going to struggle defensively and if they can not get back to scoring goals at will, arsenal will have a rough time.
    wenger had plenty of time to sign another defender and he didn't. now he is paying the price of the failure. if song is injured, who is cover for squillaci and koscielny?

  9. Another year without a silverware for Arsenal, and still counting... They may not even make the top four this year; not with all these injuries.
    The ONLY way out is for Arsene to hand-over the team management to a more goal-oriented manager; let him concentrate on managing the finances!!!

  10. i think arsenal may have to change its training methods. wenger has fitness coaches in charge of training regimens and his players are never recovering. there are trainers around the world who are saying less is better. the players, once in game shape don't need to train everyday during the season. it is not just wenger who are using fitness coaches, not soccer coaches, to run the training methods. have you noticed how physically fit the players are, but they have no recovery time?

  11. Jeremy and Neal -

    I have included a link to your site on my own blog, but I wanted to ask your permission to include a photo of your header as well. Here is what I have in mind for my External Links and Reviews page:

    I do a quick write-up of what I enjoy about each site. Even though I have the header up already, I put that there last night in anticipation of asking you to look at it and decide whether to allow me to keep it there. Thanks!

  12. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Arsenal are shyte, end of..

  13. Guys,

    Could it be true that it's a double-game week for Chelsea (2 home matches) and Birmingham (2 away matches)????

    In addition to the 10 EPL games for this weekend, I also saw on The Guardian newspaper sports page:

    23 Mar, 19.45 Chelsea v Birmingham City


    If true and confirmed, THAT would change EVERYTHING for the week....

    Regards to all!!!!

  14. The Greek5:09 PM


    Wednesday 20th April 2011
    Barclays Premier League

    Chelsea v Birmingham City 19:45
    Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal 19:45