it'd be Groundhog Day
OUT of Barcelona away: Van Persie, Walcott.
DOUBTFUL for Barcelona away: Fabregas, Song.
RVP, Fabregas, and Song were all absent for the Messi Show last season. So were Gallas and Arshavin.
This time, of course, Thomas Vermaelen will not play. And Laurent Koscielny is apparently out of the Sunderland game at the weekend. Suddenly that game looks a lot tougher. Again, expectation is growing, as the title race seems very close. Judging from how Arsenal dealt with expectation last weekend, I wouldn't be too optimistic. Then again, Sunderland are in a rotten run of form, and Arsenal enjoyed the best possible outcome in the replay against Leyton Orient- goals for Chamakh and Bendtner. With Van Persie out, you were starting to wonder where the goals would come from.
Still, if it's a straight shoot out for the title, who would you back:
The goal threat of Berbatov, Nani, Hernandez and a resurgent Rooney, or that of Bendtner, Chamakh, Arshavin and Nasri?
United's defence or Arsenal's?
Ferguson's scrappers or Arsene's bottlers?
Arsenal got a big favour from Chelsea the other night, but they'll need a few more if they're to win the title. Anyone who thinks this Arsenal team will win the rest of their games needs their head examined. They wouldn't even do it at full strength. To expect it of them now, injury-ravaged as they predicatably are, would be ludicrous.
You say pessimism, I say realism.
I think Arsenal will get turned over again in the Nou Camp.
I think the wheels will come off as the title charge enters its home strait.
And I'm afraid I struggle to see Arsenal coming through that FA Cup tie at Old Trafford. Especially because, assuming Arsenal have just exited European competition, Wenger will probably not be able to resist prioritising the Premiership.
It's a pity that the success or otherwise of this season seems to hinge on two games against Manchester United, a team Arsenal haven't beaten in what seems like a long time. Recent skirmishes have suggested that Ferguson found a formula to deflate Arsenal, and Wenger has failed to react in any meaningful way. I don't think the Arsenal players will relish meaningful head-to-head games with United- let's face it, if they weren't strong enough for Birmingham, they will find it difficult against United.
It'll be an Arsenal team that seems scared of winning, against a United team unaccustomed to defeat. You can call Darren Fletcher or John O'Shea or Michael Carrick average players; they'll be busy deciding which of their medals to slap you over the head with.
And much as Arsenal fans can trot out the holier-than-thou lines about thinking football is more than just a fight for trophies, it's getting a bit tired. We did not see Arsenal win a trophy on Sunday, and we nor did we see wonderful football. The game was fascinating and entertaining because of Arsenal's mental fragility. Maybe that's why people find Arsenal so fucking entertaining all the time- because they always give the other team a chance. Great football counts for little if it is only produced on the minor stage, with nothing at stake.
We're entering the stage of the season when true grit is what's called for, and if the Arsenal squad's mental state is anything like its physical state....
yes I am in a bad mood