The coming weekend is one where past and present mix contentedly with the trip to Old Trafford on the horizon. Not the happiest of hunting grounds but one of the Premier League’s enduring rivalries even when both have fallen on harder times. Which segues into this morning’s playlist, Remember How We Started, which can be found here or on Dad’s Jukebox in the right sidebar or in the archives.
There’s an element of Schadenfreude, I know, with the tabloids screaming that United are a club in crisis. Not quite broken Red Devils but with Evans unbelievably fighting his FA charge after the contretemps at St James Park and Ryan Giggs forced to issue a denial of a reported rift between himself and Louis Van Gaal.
A pleasant change from Arsenal holding the crisis club mantle.
For both clubs a top four finish is the priority for the season which is understandable from both points of view. United need to convince themselves that Van Gaal, despite the desperately mediocre squad he has inherited and not particularly enhanced, is taking them on an upward trajectory into next season’s Europa League in all likelihood.
With the winners of that tournament going into the Champions League, the top four trophy is no longer the be-all and end-all of a season; winning silverware brings its own rewards. Taking the Europa League seriously offers the opportunity to regroup and achieve once more.
And despite all this, they still won at The Emirates. It’s hard to put that into words, a bit like losing at Old Trafford last season when you know the opposition is nowhere near as good as it was. A guttural cry of anger and annoyance would best describe how it feels.
There’s an element of psychology about it all for the both clubs. United raise their game against Arsenal, no matter their own form whilst Arsenal have some fear and trepidation which has seeped into the fabric of squad and manager. Recent seasons have seen other clubs go to Manchester and get results, Arsenal meanwhile appear no closer than previous years to taking all three.
Arsenal’s problems in this type of fixture are well-documented and underline the reason that the win at The Etihad was so welcomed. The crucial test for the players is to ensure that result isn’t just seen as an anomaly, a freak if you like. It’s by no means certain that will not be the case.
Arsène sought to push such thoughts to one side,
I don’t believe too much in history. I just believe in the performance on the day. At the moment, we are doing very well away from home. The size of the pitch is exactly the same everywhere, it’s just down to how much we turn up and how much effort we put in to win the game.
The manager has a key role to play. In the past, too much tinkering with the line-up has caused Arsenal to fail in the FA Cup, at Old Trafford. Last season saw reward for luck of the draw and fielding strong teams. I hope he does the same on Monday.
Arsène went on to talk about taking the momentum from the Premier League into the FA Cup. We need a better performance level, one more in line with the second half at Loftus Road than the match against Leicester. If Arsenal play to the peak of their abilities, they can win (even handsomely) but all too often that doesn’t happen.
Look at last season, a run of eight wins in nine unbeaten games came to a grinding halt with an insipid performance. That’s the biggest issue to overcome.
Finally for this segment and on an FA Cup weekend, it seems most appropriate, happy birthday to the most underrated on Arsenal. Wait a minute, I don’t think I’ll bother; it’s only Ray Parlour…
From The Vaults
January 1937, Arsenal are the ascendant English football club having held sway over the game for the decade so far. Things have just begun to get back on track for the season, with a 4 – 1 Christmas Day victory over Preston North End at Highbury taking them to the top of the table for the first time in the season.
They would there or thereabouts for the remainder of the season until a run of one win in the last four games would undo their hopes of becoming champions once more.
This though was the FA Cup fourth round. Chesterfield had been despatched with a routine 5 – 1 win under the watching gaze of the crooked spire of St Mary and All Saints Parish church. It brought Manchester United to Highbury for this encounter.
It wasn’t the best of seasons for the Mancunians, they would end up relegated. It just goes to show that some things never change; a distinctly average 1930s Manchester United were able to take three points out of four from Arsenal even though they were unsuccessfully fighting the drop.
This would different and the true gulf between the two sides emerged as Arsenal showed no mercy and 45.637 watch them unceremoniously dump their First Division rivals out of the FA Cup.