Our game with Arsenal has garnered a lot of attention and some are calling it the biggest league game between the two clubs in a couple of years.
Arsenal are looking a real threat in the league especially with Samir Nasri powering them forward. Patrice Evra’s comments last week haven’t gone down well at the Emirates and I’m pretty sure Wenger’s men will be looking to silence the French man so I spoke to Tony Merakli, editor of Gunnersphere, to pick his brains on tonight’s game.
TheBusbyWay: How do you think your season has gone so far?
Tony Merakli: I think our season is going great at the moment. We are on top of the Premier League table, without really performing consistently. We are also competing for the Carling Cup and have a massive opportunity to bag our first trophy in over 5 years. As well as that, we managed to qualify into the knockout stages of the Champions League. So, I can’t really complain at the moment.
TBW: You’ve had/got a few injuries, how do you think you’ve coped?
TM: We’ve had a few key players out with long-term injuries, most noticeably Thomas Vermaelen and as of late Cesc Fabregas, but I would say the club have coped adequately without them. Of course there is no hiding that our defence has become much weaker with the absence of Vermaelen. Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou are not what you would call world-class defenders. We have leaked far too many goals already this season, and will need to improve on this in the upcoming months. However, due to teams around us dropping points, we have papered over the cracks somewhat, and with a bit of luck, managed to stay on course for the title
TBW: You’re currently top of the league do you think you can stay the course and win the league?
TM: Tough question. Personally, I think it’s too early to call after just 16 games in. We are going well and getting good results on the road, but as I said before we do have major flaws in our back-line that have cost us already this season…especially at home. However, as an Arsenal fan I always feel we have a chance to win the title, and have to believe they can deliver. I have no doubt that we will be there or thereabouts come the end of May, but I think Wenger needs to acquire a top-notch centre-back to enhance our chances, and lady luck needs to shine on us a lot as well.
TBW: What are your memories of the whole Arsenal/United rivalry?
TM: There great games to watch. I will always remember the rivalry because of two men, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. These two midfield generals really epitomised what the rivalry was all with their heart and desire to win the games. A number of wonderful goals have been scored in the Arsenal/United matches, Thierry Henry’s majestic 25-yarder against Fabian Barthez in 2000 will always live in the memory, but there were many others. It’s definitely one of the biggest games in the football calendar and one that fans relish especially in terms of bragging rights.
TBW: It’s only December but it is being said this is a very important game in term of the race, do you agree?
TM: In terms of pride and superiority I would say it is a very important fixture for the fans and players, but to say that the winner of the game has a better chance than the other is just ridiculous at this stage of the season. There will be a lot more football to play after this match and as we all know, anything can happen from now until May. I can assure you that whichever team does lose will fight there way back to the top, no questions asked.
TBW: Where do you think the game can be won/lost for Arsenal?
TM: Without a doubt, our defence will be the area that will either make or break us in this game. They will be up against top opposition in Wayne Rooney, Nani and in-form Dimitar Berbatov, which means our back four have to be on point for 90 minutes (95 depending on whether United are losing). Arsenal create a lot of chances and in terms of winning the game, they will need to convert these into goals. If they don’t manage to do this, then I could see us dropping points at Old Trafford.
TBW: Who do you think Arsenal’s danger men will be?
TM: I think we have a few, but the one stand out player so far this season has to be the man of the moment Samir Nasri. The 23-year-old has been is superb form for the Gunners, and has certainly proved to be a valuable asset to the team in Fabregas’ absence. Nasri has bagged 8 goals in 13 Premier League appearances so far (12 in all competitions), and will be the man, United players and fans will be most wary of. I think other danger men are Marouane Chamakh and Robin Van Persie, but Nasri tops the list for me.
TBW: Who have you got your eye on in United’s team?
TM: I think in terms of match winners Dimitar Berbatov, Nani and of course Wayne Rooney would be on my list. However, I think Nani is the main threat to Arsenal as he always manages to produce something against the North London outfit every year. I also think Rooney will play a big part in the game in helping his team push for goals.
TBW: I take it you’ve seen Evra’s comments, what do you think?
TM: I think Evra’s comments were uncalled for and very unprofessional. I understand players need to hype up the game and play mind games with one another, but Evra may have taken it too far in my opinion. In a sense, what he says is true, Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in over 5 years, but to call them rubbish and in a crisis is a joke. This from a man who went on strike in the World Cup in the summer? Do me a favour. Having read his comments, I believe Evra feels either threatened by the Gunners or he is simply a man looking to get his name on the back page because he hasn’t managed to do so since June with French compatriots.
TBW: Can we get a result/score prediction?
TM: It’s very difficult to predict the result between these two, as both teams play attacking football and create countless goal opportunities. I’ll probably have to say that it will either be a 2-2 draw, or an Arsenal, Manchester United 2-1 win.
I would like to thank Tony for taking his time to speak to us, he can be found here on Twitter
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