A return to Premier League action after a two week absence, is a tonic that will hopefully rid Arsenal of recent ills.
In the fortnight’s hiatus, there has been two cup ties that have left Gooners a little nonplussed at the distinct lack of goals, but a visit to a Manchester United who have struggled in the League could provide the answer to our misfiring team.
There is also the small matter of a winless run at Old Trafford in the Premiership that goes back eight games.
Thanks to Europcar, myself and the man behind Goonersphere and North London Is Red – Daniel Cowan – will be at Old Trafford with the ‘Romford Pele’ himself, the Arsenal icon Ray Parlour. The ‘Membership Rewards Supported by Europcar’ event means that we can hopefully oversee the end of a terrible winless streak at Manchester United in the League, but both teams have injury worries to contend with before they name the warriors who will take to the field.
Arsenal have the usual suspects in terms of the walking wounded, with Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky still fighting to regain fitness. Brazilian defender Gabriel is 50/50 to make the squad with a hamstring injury and a fitness test will be given prior to the fixture. One man who will miss the game is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is set to miss ‘ several weeks’ according to Arsene Wenger. This may see Theo Walcott restored to the lineup on the flank, but if one change is needed, it is the form of Alexis Sanchez.
The corresponding fixture saw the Chilean at his fizzing best and he featured heavily in the 3-0 win, scoring two in a blistering first half hour. Since then, Alexis has returned from injury but his form hasn’t joined him. Throw into the mixture a frontman who hasn’t scored in a while in the form of Olivier Giroud and the Gunners will be hoping they can recapture their touch in front of goal that they exhibited so well in that 3-0 win.
Louis Van Gaal has overseen a small revival of sorts, with wins over Shrewsbury in the FA Cup and a Europa League drubbing of FC Midtjylland easing the mounting pressure on the Dutch Manager. Premier League form though, is far removed from cup wins and the calibre of opposition faced is also acres away from the team they will welcome to Old Trafford.
One win in the last four in the Premiership hardly represents European form, and the list of injured players will not aid United’s bid for a much needed win. Fitness tests will be given to key striker Anthony Martial, keeper David De Gea and Chris Smalling, but no matter who takes to the field, a visit to Old Trafford is always a big occasion for visiting teams.
If Martial fails to make the cut, then Van Gaal will continue with young starlet Marcus Rashford, who bagged two in the Europa League on Thursday. A bigger occasion for his debut is hard to find and the youngster will have to find his feet quickly if he doesn’t want the occasion to overcome him.
Both teams are well aware that this is the business end of the campaign and every point is more than vital in terms of League placement. Every slip will be all the more filled with angst, every dose of bad luck will be felt more gravely. Fans look to rivals results and hope that they too will slip and every weekend is filled with nerves.
The late win against surprise leaders Leicester City renewed the thought in every Gooner’s mind that they can finally end the wait for a title. A better chance they have not had in recent memory and every man in the squad will be called upon.
Europcar have enabled me to witness this battle in Manchester first hand, and the event ‘Membership Rewards Supported by Europcar’ is an opportunity to make a rare away trip. there are many fans who travel the length and breadth of the country in fervent support of their team, and if you wish to share your away day stories, then use the hashtag #FansOfTheSeason .
If you can’t watch the game, then be sure to follow the hashtag #AFCLive which will detail the game and all the events, and also our day spent with Ray Parlour. It will be the lifeline you need if you need to follow the game.
And follow the game you must. Such history between the two sides, and the prize couldn’t be greater. To the victor the spoils, and whoever loses out here may just derail any hopes of glory they may have had.
Every match is huge at this stage, but the ninety minutes that will unfold on the Old Trafford pitch will be sure to grab the attention.