With Manchester United facing Arsenal in the sixth round of the FA Cup on Saturday I posed several questions to members of the Goonersworld forum.
Stretford End Arising: What are your thoughts on Saturday’s game? What team is Arsène Wenger likely to select and what formation will he adopt? Where will the game be won or lost?
Van The Man Persie: If there is a strong referee, something we don’t tend to get at Old Trafford then i can see this being a good game. Your home form is excellent but I’m hoping with Marseille on the horizon, you have one eye on that. We’ll create chances. We always do. Even against Barca with no shots on or off target, we managed to score. Be afraid; be very afraid the midfield battle is where it will be one. I don’t rate Fletcher or Park and they are awful most of the season but against us they are game raising **** and in Parks case, usually scores. We are without Cesc but Wilshere is coming to the fore. He’s seen off Xavi and Iniesta with some ease. Now for your lot.
Gooner Girl: I’m nervous. I think its make or break for our season. Several seasons recently we have had a few season defining fortnights and this is yet another one of them. Does the team have the mental strength to dig in deep and get a win? It won’t be easy and I’m not convinced we will. Formation wise I’d agree with the lads that have already posted. My main concern is lack of goalkeeping cover if Almunia gets injured. I actually think the teams are of a fairly similar standard and I don’t think it will be ‘won’ or ‘lost’ in any particular area of the pitch. I think it will come down to mental toughness and which team wants it more.
SEA: Prior to our game in December I asked whether Arsenal will win the league this season. Massa and Est83 were fairly positive in their response. Arsenal are sitting pretty in the league, however following recent results, performances plus injuries do you remain confident as we approach squeaky bum time?
Van The Man Persie: If we could put our first team out for every game from now until the end of the season then we’ll win the double. We can’t though because injuries come in to play and our squad just isn’t good enough. That will cost us. I’d have taken 2nd at the start of the season and I’d take it now. For us to win the league, we’ll probably have to win at WHL and against your lot at the Emirates. Two massive games, recent history suggest we haven’t got the mentality though.
Gunner11: Arsenal will win the league; as long as Cesc, Nasri, RVP, Wilshere, Song, and our back 4 remain fit (it does not matter if Almunia is our #1 for the remainder of the season). I’m confident that Man United, Chelsea, City, and Spurs will drop points the longer they remain in Europe’s competitions. Getting knocked out by Barca early will help us significantly. It depends on whether we can make the most of our remaining games. The games against Spurs, United and Liverpool will determine if we win the league.
Gooner Girl: No! We always throw it away! Every time this season others such as yourselves and Chelsea have slipped up we have too. I think we will finish 2nd (which is possibly higher then I thought at the beginning of the season) I expect your lot to win it unfortunately.
SEA: Following the defeat to Barcelona I heard several Arsenal fans declare Van Persie’s sending off was a determining factor? Do you believe this to be the case or were Arsenal simply beaten by the better team? What are your thoughts on Wenger’s tactics on the night? Was he wrong to include Van Persie and Fabregas in the starting line-up when they clearly looked unfit?
Gunner11: RVP’s sending off was the determining factor. The longer it stayed 1-1, the more desperate Barca would have become. Mistakes were bound to happen and Barca would have tired (there’s no doubt in my mind). Our defensive tactics was working and if it were not for a Cesc assist it would have been 0-0 going into the 2nd half. The fact that we were losing going into the 2nd half and still managed to get an equaliser tells me that, 11v11, Arsenal would have created plenty of chances in the last 15 or so minutes of the game. Not to mention, we had a more attack-minded bench in Chamakh, Bendtner, and Arshavin who could have came on and significantly change the game. Regarding his tactics: I would not have gone all out defensive. But it was working, so I’m not complaining. He was not wrong in including RVP and Cesc. Cesc is our captain and RVP’s goals-per-game ratio speaks for itself. Whether or not they were at least 85% fit coming into the game? Only Wenger would know…
Gooner Girl: No I don’t think he was wrong to include RVP and Fabregas. The ref was shocking and Wenger’s tactics weren’t great but we can have no excuses. They were all over us even when we had 11 men on the pitch. Not a shot at goal, barely any passes strung together. Frankly, it’s a wonder it wasn’t a whitewash. Would RVP have finished the Bendtner chance? Possibly, but I still think we deserved to lose.
SEA: How good can Jack Wilshire become?
Van The Man Persie: Needs to add goals to his game. Everything else seems fine. Already England’s best midfielder at his age. It’s a case of Sir Jack and one other for England’s midfield. The “can Lampard and Gerrard play together?” question need not be asked anymore.
Gunner11: Provided he does not succumb to the Arsenal injury bug , he will go down as one of the English greats.
SEA: We also discussed Arsenal’s lack of silverware and pressure building on Wenger. The general consensus was Wenger still had the backing of fans. Have opinions changed following the defeats to Birmingham and Barcelona? If Arsenal finishes the season trophy-less is there a possibility Wenger could face the sack or step down as manager?
Van The Man Persie: Don’t want him to be sacked although if we don’t end up winning something then he will have deserved it but I’d like for him to resign. Wouldn’t mind if we won the League and he resigned as he goes out on top but ultimately his youth project has failed. Sure we have some good young players. I’d rather have spent money and get some quality in though and have a few trophies to boot. We are on the verge of being a trophy winning team. Wenger though doesn’t seem like he has it in him to take us that extra step.
Gooner Girl: He won’t get the sack, no, but more fans will turn on him, people are obviously disappointed over the Brum and Barca defeats but I think most are waiting till the end of the season before they decide whether to slate him or not. If we won the league/cup double I suspect the Barca/Brum defeats might not seem quite so devastating.
Massa: No, this team are on the verge of something special and I truly believe that.
SEA: Thank you very much for participating in feature.
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