For the first time since 1906 Arsenal travel to Manchester United for an FA Cup Quarter Final tie, hoping to repeat their victory of 95 years ago. It is the thirteenth time the two sides have met in this competition, the previous twelve seeing an even split of victories.
Arsenal will be boosted by the continued return of Robin van Persie, skipper for the day in the absence of Cesc Fàbregas. The visitors have not scored a goal from open play in an FA Cup tie against United since the 2-0 victory in 2003.
Much is being made of the defeat in Barcelona requiring victory to put the season back on track, consecutive losses in ‘big’ games will condemn Arsenal to another season in the doldrums.
Or at least that is the logic of those with a negative agenda. There is, of course, evidence of previous seasons to support it but another angle worth remembering is the exit of The Invincibles from the Champions League and Manchester United in quick succession. Victory over Liverpool in the Premier League had that season back on course in no time at all.
Arsène gave the theory some credence,
We need it I must say, because we need help. We have been touched severely recently and we are chasing after a win of that type. We will try to win.
We need to keep the right attitude to turn the luck around on our side a little bit.
There is no doubt that the defeat to Barcelona will have hurt, especially knowing that somehow destiny had been grasped close to the Arsenal bosom, if only for three minutes. Yet this should be a spur for the team. Rightly chastised for their unadventurous performance, the defensive nature exacerbated by Robin van Persie’s dismissal, the criticism ought to provoke a strong reaction, overriding the negativity of defeat. Whether it will or not remains to be seen.
The last time that Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford for an FA Cup tie, Arsène fielded a weaker than usual team, the naivety of their play ruthlessly exposed by a strong United XI, compounded by the sending off of Emmanuel Eboué early in the second half. The game had gone by that time.
This time around, United’s injury list is longer than Arsenal’s. Ferdinand, Park, Nani and Valencia are all definitely out. The latter trio ensure that Ferguson will flood the midfield, numbers overwhelming the Arsenal intricacies. Few can argue that it has been anything other than successful in this fixture over the years.
In all competitions, Arsenal have won only one of their last eleven visits, eight of which have ended in defeat with a miserly three goals scored since eliminating United from the FA Cup in 2003. It is a poor record and one that Arsenal will seek to reverse.
Today’s team will see a few but not many changes to the starting line-up. With Cesc out, Wenger has to decide whether Samir Nasri reverts to the central role and Eboué the right or if Aaron Ramsey has sufficiently recovered from his injury to allow a resumption of the central midfield duties that he was carrying out with great promise before The Boot Of Ryan intervened.
Today might be that day. There has to come a point when Ramsey returns to the first team and whilst he might not have played ninety minutes of every match at Nottingham Forest or Cardiff, his loan spells will have hastened his recovery. This evening will see that completed.
The line-up I expect Arsène to field is:
Almunia; Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy; Ramsey, Diaby, Wilshere; Nasri, van Persie, Arshavin
It is an attacking XI; Arsenal are at their best with this style of play and United are not at their strongest. Will defeat be damaging if this line-up were to lose? I do not believe it will be irreversible, especially with a week until the next match.
It is an omen-tastic clash. Twice before during Arsène Wenger’s reign have the two sides met in March; both seasons saw one of the clubs hoist the FA Cup and Arsenal win the Premier League title. Twice before on this date have the two sides met, a goalless draw in 1910 followed by a 4-2 win for Arsenal in 1930.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.