There’s only one place to begin with a preview of the game against Man Utd. This game is the first time RVP faces Arsenal since his highly controversial move to Manchester in the summer. The manager has openly declared that respect should be shown to Van Persie. He also says that every time we face Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor, and will no doubt say the same about Walcott when he leaves in the new year (a dead cert for me I’m afraid). I understand he has to say this – he can’t say to our fans that they should go out and abuse the player. However, if he thinks anything BUT vile abuse will be hurled at the dutchman then he is very naive indeed.
I believe that the manager has less reason, on this occasion, to suggest we should respect Van Persie. This is because of the statement he submitted on his personal website, doubting the manager and his ambitions for the club. This is a player who spent 8 seasons at Arsenal, returning perhaps a season and a half of consistent and injury-free brilliance. But what about the other 6 and a half seasons? Those were largely spent in the treatment room, picking up a nice paycheck no doubt. 3 seasons ago who would have bought him? A player with class and loads of potential, but would many clubs have been willing to spend money on a player and pay huge wages only for him to lay on the physio table most of the time? Last season, he was deservedly awarded player of the year. But he owed it to Arsenal and moreover Arsene Wenger to repay the loyalty shown to him for all the seasons beforehand where he had played a bit-part role at best. What hurt about the transfer were two things. The open criticism of the club; completely unnecessary and done to force a transfer against the wishes of the club that he owed so much to. But the salt in the wound was that the transfer was to Man Utd.
I believe that Arsenal fans, if being honest with themselves, accepted that RVP was a player who deserved to win titles that perhaps he may not have succeeded in doing so at Arsenal, given his age. We would have reluctantly accepted a transfer to Italy or Spain where he could be a domestic and european champion with one of the big clubs on the continent. But to publicly question Arsenal in order to agitate a transfer to Man Utd was possibly the most disrespectful act by any player to have played for this club. More so than Adebayor’s celebration at the Etihad a few years ago. Arsenal fans have every right to let him know what they think of him, and I’m sure the travelling contingent on Saturday will duly oblige.
On to the game itself, this is without doubt our biggest test of the season so far. As glorious as the result against Reading was, that first half was unquestionably our worst performance of the season. Yes we showed spirit and determination to come back and win the game, but there is no way Utd will afford us the same luxury should we get off to a similar start. At the start of the season our defence was one of the best in the league. People were talking about ‘the Steve Bould effect’ helping us to keep consecutive clean sheets. To have a chance of getting anything from the game on Saturday we have got to find some of that steel again. Even then, it may not be enough.
It seems as though the players who played on Tuesday will be rested, with a big game away to Schalke coming up next week. So, my predicted line up is:
Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen Santos
Ramsey Cazorla Wilshere Arteta Podolski
I have been enjoying the buzz off the back of the Reading game for as long as possible, but unfortunately there comes a time when you have to come back down to earth and look ahead. Comparing our recent form against theirs, it is hard to see where a positive result could come from. Our defence has been leaking sloppy goals for quite a few games now and last season’s fixture showed us how ruthless Utd can be when faced with vulnerable opponents. Off the back of a great result against Chelsea, they are going to come flying out of the blocks. As I said earlier, our best chance of a result is to find the defensive discipline we had earlier in the season, and we must take any/every goalscoring opportunity we get.
The game is live on Sky Sports and kicks off at 12:45pm. Debs will be providing us with a review of the game and I hope she has some good stuff to talk about! Come on you Gunners, let’s punish the traitor.