Preview: Arsenal vs Man. United
Arsenal roll the carpet for a fearsome threesome of league fixtures this weekend.
And the prospect of knocking horns with the rest of the ‘big four’ on consecutive occasions has drawn up the notion that this could be a defining period in Arsenal’s season.
So hype it up all you want, but recent history says these showdowns are not decisive. Arsenal have often had the upper hand in such encounters over the past four seasons, but it normally had little bearing on their finishing position in the title race.
Here are evidences.
The Gunners did the double over United during the 2006/07 campaign but ended 19 points behind the red devils. Wenger’s men had the best tally of points gained from ‘big four’ matches in 2007/08 but they did not end up champions.
And in this fixture last season, Nasri spearheaded Arsenal to a 2-1 victory while Van Persie did the same in a total turnaround at Stamford Bridge but the Gunners were only successful challengers for fourth spot rather than first place come the end of the season.
Liverpool’s failure to banish their purple patch after that massive 2-0 home win over United in October shows that these sort of games can be false dawns.
While Arsenal themselves can attest that if confrontations with arch rivals had the biggest of impacts on a season, they would have never clawed back into their current position, after that 3-0 humiliation by Chelsea in November.
Therefore, Arsenal will have to shrug off the cup final-like pressure of these upcoming fixtures and see it out the best they can – as if it was any other task.
Pessimists may bemoan the scheduling of the Premier league’s fixture list for these successive tension games but in fact, it could well be a good omen. Check the calendar and realize that by February 10, Arsenal will be done with United, Chelsea and Liverpool with more than three months of football left in the season.
That could mean a steady run-in to the campaign for the Gunners.
So indeed, the turning-point of Arsenal’s title charge may not necessarily be the next ten days but what should follow it. Thus, Arsene Wenger is adamant his side will always fancy their chances no matter what happens in the upcoming fortnight.
“It was our dream to be in this position at this time of the season. Now we know that to be successful in this [four-game] period [we must] be more a team than the other teams. We have to think how strong and how much solidarity it takes to get through a period like this.” the manager said on Friday.
“However no matter what happens after these games we will still be in a position where we will have a chance but we can put ourselves in a very strong position and that is what we want.
Even though matches like Sunday’s may not be truly influential in the final standings come May, they appear significant for a reason.
Direct confrontations with rivals can be a broadcaster of a team’s intentions and Arsenal can send a very clear message to the rest of the Premier League with a result on Sunday.