Will Wenger treat Manchester United as an additional league fixture?

Often, in a season that may prove dreary, inconclusive or part of a ‘wilderness-year’, the Manchester United-Arsenal derby is the highlight of the season, regardless of what team you support. When Arsenal is back to challenging for the title, that apprehension can become the sole focus for fans on either side; a nervousness and near-dread that can make the match a wriggling, tortuous anxiety with an overloaded spectacle.

Of course, that’s just for a league fixture, which takes place further away in April. We have the FA Cup to contend with tonight, which, as much as Carlos Tevez would insist on you believing, will not have that much baring on our title push. The Argentine-lump of molten flesh says:

If we win this match it would be hugely important for the title race. Psychologically, we have the opportunity to deliver a huge blow to our rivals. People say that the Premier League is one question and the cup is another. I understand that but don’t really agree. They are our rivals so any victory is important and that is why our squad is so concentrated ahead of this match.

Failing to acknowledge that even if Manchester United do beat our very depleted squad 188-9, we still remain 5 points ahead of their overly-paid squad, with their having to play an added cup fixture and juggle with European commitments.

-{…for some reason I see the temptation to play as close to a first team as possible too great (for Wenger).}-

Make no mistake, I want us to win this match and win it well, but the League and Europe remain the priorities of the season. Alex Ferguson knows the conundrums involved in this match, and Wenger knows he must keep his players focussed on the aforementioned competitions alone. Whatever happens in this match happens; it is the Old Trafford fixture in April that really counts, in the end.

As for the team, I really cannot predict it for this one, so putting up a graphic may prove to be a pointless enterprise. I would like to say that should Wenger well and truly see this match as an exertion too far (which he very well might), he would play players like Randall and Diaby instead of Hleb and Flamini, but for some reason I see the temptation to play as close to a first team as possible too great. Wenger says:

I feel United are still in contention. Two games ago we were second and that shows you how quickly it can change from one day to the next. But it’s always better to win because it makes you stronger. You want to win the big games because it makes your whole squad stronger.

Wenger’s quotes on ‘winning the big games’ lends support to the belief that this will be a good effort at trying to win the match – the manager saying that he will play the side he thinks can win the fixture. Will this cost us? One half-full way of looking at it is that things could not get much worse, apart from Fabregas getting a leg amputated, on the injury department. If this Arsenal side are going to go in full strength, then as fans, we have to back them and whatever consequences come of it in the long-haul.

-{After reading Gallas’ quotes, though, you just cant help but feel a little bit optimistic.}-

Indeed, conservatism and safety-first could equally prove to be a falling point for our title ambitions, so perhaps it may be safe to assume we will be seeing a full-strength side (relatively speaking) out today. After the Spurs-debacle, would the younger players really want to put up with another harassing crowd? Senior players like captain William Gallas believe we are in with a good chance, given Manchester United’s ‘arrogance’…this match could be a rather tasty one afterall.

In a quick news-roundup, Wenger has rejected the reports concerning Fabregas’ contract extension, saying Fabregas is just implying he remains commited to Arsenal’s cause; Eduardo has spoken positively about his Arsenal experience thus far; Martin Keown does a run-down of Arsenal’s players, particularly over Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna; and Alisher Usmanov (remember him?) has increased his god-awful stench of a stake in the club to 24%.

Right, I’m off for a bit of a kip before getting up at 3:00am to watch the Gunners take on you-know-who. As undecided as I am, it’s merely a result of this fixture being too close to call, as it nearly always is. After reading Gallas’ quotes, though, you just cant help but feel a little bit optimistic. Here’s a bit of light-hearted reminiscing to get the feet moving:

Perhaps someone has a feeling. Fingers crossed, voice raised, and we’ll see you in the aftermath.

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8 Comments

Filed under Arsenal, Blogging, English Premier League, FA Cup

8 responses to “Will Wenger treat Manchester United as an additional league fixture?

  1. chris

    here’s hoping, excellent post mate

  2. cdjones

    It seems that, generally, the ambitions of the manager reflect those of the fans (and, truth-be-told, I wholeheartedly concur):
    #1: The League
    #2 Champions League
    #3 FA cup
    #4 Carlng Cup (as evidenced by our B-side runout against a full-strength sp*rs)
    We will probably see the strongest XI available to Wenger at Old Trafford (even if that means Bendtner-Eduardo upfront, who do in all honesty have the potential for goals in their bag) but I wouldn’t be surprised if Clichy, Adebayor, Fabreagas, Sagna and even Rosicky could feature against Milan. Kind of a shame, I would have loved it if Adebayor could have rolled another one past van der Sar at the death from a sublime Cesc assist. As for “psychological edge”, let’s see where we’re at come May. At least come mid-February we are in quite good shape (talbe-wise, not injury-wise). I thought Wenger’s miltant health regimes was supposed to keep us fit!?

  3. JohnDemetriou

    3-0 and Eboue sent off.

    MU HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Have that!!!

    John

  4. jammathon

    My point that Spurs fans are just Man Utd fans by proxy. How sad.

    We were beaten fairly, comprehensively and well. I’ll write up a report when I’ve caught up on a few hours of sleep.

  5. Chris

    Great blog mate.

    The loss was almost predictable, but the 4-0 scoreline certainly wasn’t. Let’s hope the Gunners can make up for it in the Champions League clash with Milan on Wednesday!

  6. JohnDemetriou

    Typical scum fan excuses!

    “The loss was almost predictable”

    My fucking arse did you scum fans think it ‘predictable’. Rubbish. It should have been an even match, and you were duly slaughtered like the boring disgraces to football arsenal is. Brilliant.

    What a treat. I’ll enjoy the next cup the scum get blasted out of even more!
    First Spurs re: Carling cup, then the FA cup (another massacre) and next…well.

    I look forward to the scum slipping up in the league and losing to Man Utd!!

    Happy days!!!!!!

  7. cdjones

    What is it with United fans posting on Arsenal blogs? Any Gooners out there ever post on a Man U board?

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