Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Arsenal Will Lose This Weekend

1. Fabregas is Out
Arsenal's captain is back on the treatment table, having been rushed back to play his old side on Tuesday night. Arsenal in general don't beat good teams, but without Fabregas, they can struggle against even mediocre ones, as proven by recent problems against Birmingham and Sunderland.

2. Manchester United have Character
(and Arsenal don't). I don't remember many times that Alex Ferguson's Man Utd have lost three consecutive games. Three consecutive games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal? I'd eat my hat. United tend to be galvanised by setbacks, and their players will be fired up after a week of nonstop hairdryer, following a terribly flaccid performance at Anfield. Arsenal? Their previous slumps this season have been mercifully short, but they are no strangers to imploding for a month on end at a very important time. The players are in a painfully familiar situation and I'm afraid they will expect to lose on Saturday. United have the winning mentality. If you compare the teams in terms of raw talent, Arsenal are probably better. Why then are United top, and so used to winning trophies? Because they have stronger minds, stronger hearts.

3. The game is at Old Trafford
Arsenal haven't won at Old Trafford since Emmanuel Adebayor's late goal won an early season game in 2006. Since then, Arsenal have played well and lost, played ok and lost, played terribly and lost at Old Trafford. The games, with the exception of that 4-0 beating in 2008's FA Cup, have been tight and United have rarely played brilliantly, but Arsenal seem to lack the mentality to win there and never score more than once. It can't all be bad luck.

4. Ferguson has the measure of Wenger
Arsenal only play one way. Or they only play well one way, when they try other ways, we get what we had the other night. This isn't the best of United's recent teams but they can defend, they can counterattack, and they use these aspects of their game very well against Arsenal. At the Emirates, where Arsenal tend to overcommit, United have twice won by a wide margin in recent years, by exploiting Arsenal's exposed defence on the break. While the games tend to be tighter at Old Trafford, as Arsenal do not attack quite so recklessly, United's habit of not making mistakes is vital. Remember the game at Old Trafford last season, when Almunia and Diaby made errors to turn the match around? Arsenal make the kind of mistakes that United don't. Ferguson will ensure it's not the kind of open match that Arsenal thrive in. The last time he set up to attack against Arsenal was the last time Arsenal won- when Nasri's double beat a team containing Berbatov, Rooney, and Ronaldo in 2008. He'll probably only play one striker this Saturday, and pack his midfield with the kind of industry and grit that Arsenal still cannot seem to match.

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