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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Arsenal v Manchester United: Can the Gunners bounce back from Anfield drubbing?


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What a difference a few days make. On Saturday afternoon, most Gooners were feeling suicidal having watched their heroes ripped apart by a ruthless Liverpool side. Their 5-1 drubbing, combined with Chelsea’s convincing 3-0 win over Newcastle, saw the Blues topple the Gunners.

It looked as though Wenger’s failure to buy in the January transfer window had come back to haunt them as their title hopes looked dead and buried.

Fortunately, there was some good news for Arsene Wenger and co as free-scoring Manchester City were unable to break down a stubborn Norwich City.

Arsenal v liverpoolAnd there was a huge cheer around north London last night as West Brom’s Victor Anichebe scored late on to deny Chelsea all three points at the Hawthorns, putting the Gunners back in the driving seat for the title.

Win tonight and Arsenal will go into the FA Cup weekend back on top of the Premier League. However, to do that they must defeat their old rivals and current league champions Manchester United.

There is no love loss between the two clubs. There is a begrudging respect, but both parties will be keen to get one over their old foes.

Manchester United are struggling badly under David Moyes. Their inability to see the job through against Fulham on Sunday has left them 16 points behind Chelsea and nine points off a Champions League place. But, United are always one for the big occasion, and Arsenal were stung by the champions at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

The Gunners have only won two of their past 17 meetings with Manchester United, with their last success coming at home in May 2011. That stat needs to change tonight if Wenger wants to end his club’s nine-year trophy drought. 

Arsene Wenger will be determined to see a positive response from his men following Saturday's humiliating. There would be no better way of getting the fans back on track than beating United. 

Rooney, Mata and the former Arsenal hero Robin van Persie will be desperate to keep their feint Champions League hopes alive and that magical tree will keep Arsenal’s defence on its toes, but the Gunners have enough attacking threat of their own for United to worry about.

This is a huge game for both sides, but one player who must start producing the goods is Mesut Ozil. The Gunners' record signing has found life in the Premier League tough going in recent weeks. His displays have fallen flat and his assists and goals have dried up. If ever there was a time to repay the club for their massive outlay on him in the summer it's now, particularly with another clash with Liverpool coming up and a Champions League outing against Bayern Munich next week.

Games between Arsenal and Manchester United are always eventful and action packed. I can't see this one being any different. But, come full time, will the Gunners be back on top?

SQF Prediction: 3-1

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Colin Illingworth

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