Saturday, April 08, 2006

The dark Northern hinterlands await.

Yes, in a few hours, our brave boys will have to brave the journey that any self-respecting southerner dreads: heading 'Up North'. Sends a chill down your spine doesn't it. Especially given our appaling form, every time we've been forced North of good old London town. Everton, Liverpool, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, and, of course, the graveyard that is the Reebok stadium: we are the archetypal southern softy team.

Hopefully our recent European performances have replaced our jellied spines with some good old sheffield steel, and we can finally put a decent performance in up there. We did beat Wigan at the JJB, so it's not impossible.

There's a good deal of hype surrounding the match, and hopefully we'll see a better game than the appalling match over Christmas, when we were at a particularly low ebb. We're on a good run of form at the moment, and so are United, who clearly, with Chelsea's recent slip ups, have sensed blood, and are trying to go in for the kill. What should make the match interesting is that we're going to go for the win as well.

This could be just talk from Arsene, but I think he really believes we can win all our remaining fixtures on the run in, which would, obviously, give us fourth. I was wondering whether he would stick with the 4-5-1, and it seems he'll elect to play 4-4-2, with Adebayor, I should imagine, partnering TH. Who gets the nod in midfield will be interesting therefore. I should imagine, Fab and Gilbs are a given - although Diaby might be useful in a match like this - but the wings are up for grabs. Jose will probably start on the left, even after his pretty poor performance in Turin, which leaves Hleb, Bobby, and Freddie all fighting for the right. Who he picks will say a lot about our intentions. I can't see Bobby getting the nod, especially after this ill advised sulky statement concerning the Juve game, and I don't think he's got the skills or the steel to play 90 minutes up at OT anymore. So Al or Fred. Fred would beef up the midfield, but will not pose the same threat Al does. Especially given that he actually tracks back, and does make a lot of important tackles which few people seem to recognise, Ally, the CIS player of the month [that's the Commonwealth of Independent States, not the insurance firm] gets my nod. Him and Eboue down one wing, Jose, Flam and probably TH down the other will really cause United problems.

As for defence, I expect, and I think Arsene will pick, the same 4 as in Turin. Sol will be on the bench. He might be back for Wednesday to give kolo or Phil a rest, but he now has to accept that he is not our first choice central defender any more. It seems I was wrong about Curtis Davies, but the curtain is still beginning to close on Sol's Arsenal career.

What's important is that we try and physically dominate the game. United have no dominating physical midfield players so we can do this. If they've been reduced to playing Giggsy in centre-mid, they've got problems we can exploit. Fletcher is a soft touch we need to get at. First thing Flammy needs to do is put a big tackle in on Gary Neville - and tell him if he touches Jose he'll get another one. Adebayor and TH need to expose just how weak Man U's central defence is: perhaps it'll wake Rio up into becoming a decent defender again. Jens needs to be screaming and shouting from the off [as if I need to tell him]. Hopefully he positively channel the flood of adrenaline he's feeling at the moment, from Klinsmann's correct decision to make Jen's his no. 1. Congrats Jens -obviously the German FA were reading yesterday. He's also just signed a one year deal, which is also good news.

The way we're playing at the moment, we can dominate this United team with the speed of our passing, and with the solidity of our back line. We might be lacking an overwhelming physical presence in the mould of a Vieira, but United have no Keane. The most important thing we do tomorrow is take Rooney out of the game. Get someone to man-mark him if necessary. No Rooney, and United are half the team.

We can win, but I'd take a draw. Man U always raise their game for the big occasions, and refs are always intimidated up there. You may remember the 'penalty' that ended our unbeaten run. It seems that defeat is as painful in Arsene's mind as any of ours. Tomorrow is a great chance to exorcise some demons, and show that we're back.

One thing's for sure: Pizza won't be on the buffet.

Til then, Enjoy reminiscing with these.


Anonymous said...

we have a real good chance of getting a result up there but again i feel the ref is key. as long as he does not let manure kick us off the park i'm confident we can acheive at the very least a draw

Anonymous said...

I'd take a draw. We have winnable games coming up (tiredness and injuries permitting), whereas Spurs are facing ManU, Bolton and us, and Blackburn have Liverpool and Chelsea. I'd guess we'll play Sol against Portsmouth and West Brom, both of whom have everything to fight for, so he'd better put in a decent performance. Personally I wouldn't trust him a yard but it's obviously essential to give Toure and Senderos a rest before Villarreal.

Who actually was the pizza-thrower - anyone know? My first thought when it happened was that it had to be Jens - throwing things (water-bottles and such like)is rather his style - but later I read it was Cesc. Not impossible when you think how brave and passionate he's turned out to be. I just love Cesc. Wonder if Adebayor will rise to the occasion - ideally with a goal or two but, failing that, a chucked bowl of soup.

Goonerboy said...

Jens would be the obvious canididate. Haha I can just imagine him doing it! Although, cesc also cares enough to do something like that.

The protagonists were never officialy named were they? I guess we'll never know...