With the Gunners out of the two trophies Arsene Wenger is yet to win, things seem to have gone back to old ground in more ways than one. We are used to seeing Arsenal challenge for the FA Cup and Premier League, especially once February and March hit and only two trophies remain, and now the team must go back to an old ground: Old Trafford.
Arsenal. Manchester United. Two great teams, one great rivalry and tomorrow, Saturday 12th March, will see a rebirth of that rivalry, in the FA Cup Quarter-Final.
The Gunners seem to have dealt the fans their usual trick at this stage of the year and imploded. However, although a shocking result in the League Cup final was followed by a clash with a hugely dominant Barcelona side, the two remaining trophy possibilities provide fans with the best memories. With Man Utd. dropping form as well as points, there may be no better time to play the 11 times FA Cup winners. With a sense of injustice circling around the Arsenal camp, the North London side may just come out tomorrow with something to prove. In plainer terms, the Arsenal mindset may be perfect for a tough game at the Theatre of Dreams.
Latest team news
The now normal Arsenal injury crisis has begun to hit. Cesc Fabregas will miss ‘maybe two games’ according to Wenger and although Robin van Persie is available for tomorrow’s game, there have been questions over his fitness thoughout the week. Alex Song and Theo Walcott remain out, whilst Thomas Vermaelen says he does not know when he will be able to play again.
However, a more immediate concern for Wenger and Arsenal fans alike is the goalkeeper situation. Analysis of Wojciech Szczesny’s dislocated finger has suggested an injury lay-off of around six weeks. The same time period has been placed on Vito Mannone’s thigh injury while on loan at Hull. With Lukasz Fabianski already ruled out for the rest of the season, Manuel Almunia remains the only fit first-team goalkeeper, leading Wenger to say: ‘We absolutely need some cover in goal.’
Even James Shea, the most promising youth goalkeeper in Arsenal’s ranks has a slight injury, leaving 17-year-old Sean McDermott and 18-year-old Damian Martinez as the only other available goalkeepers. An emergency loan is the best and possibly only option available to the manager. Tomorrow however, expect McDermott to be placed on the bench. As with the last meeting between the two rivals, the game will act as the start of yet another change of first-choice ‘keeper for the season.
No single player is likely to be rested against the Red Devils on Saturday, with the league and FA Cup assuming added importance after the recent events in Arsenal’s season. Expect both sides to field full-strength teams in a game which could be the turning point in the race for the League title as well as the FA Cup itself.
Predicted starting line-up:
GK Manuel Almunia, RB Bacary Sagna, CB Johan Djourou, CB Laurent Koscielny, LB Gael Clichy, DM Abou Diaby, DM Jack Wilshere, CM Tomas Rosicky, RW Samir Nasri LW Andrey Arshavin, CF Robin van Persie