Whoever wins this, sinks the other’s top four hopes. Whichever manager loses this, and misses out on the top four may not be in his job by July. This FA Cup tie, for both Arsenal and United, seems a more significant event than the non-chase for the Premier League title.
And for the Gunners, it is even a bit more of a momentous challenge.
Arsenal have not managed to win a single game at Old Trafford for eight years and that has not been due to the different quality between both teams; it’s not been about the quality but the mentality. This was not more evident than the defeat in November at the Emirates which, while it was not terrible in performance, was cowardly with regard to approach.
Wenger has taken teams to the San Siro and Bernabeu and come away with victories and so it is not quite logical why a hurdle down to the North West will continue to prove insurmountable. And indeed, Wenger need not look far for inspiration having taken all three points from the last trip to Manchester in January this year.
With Gabriel set to spend the next three weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring, the lot automatically falls on both Mertesacker and Koscielny to keep the guard secured. The duo has not replicated their solid formidable partnership of the previous campaign and it will be a good test of their resurrection from the decapitation against Monaco to see out how they fare against top opposition.
Cazorla has worked well playing from the deep midfield position and it has to be noted too that he has not shirked from defensive duties. However, in all of the games in which he has been deployed alongside Coquelin, it clearly did not work against Tottenham and Monaco, arguably the toughest of the teams played with this set up and it may be best, in a game of this magnitude, to deploy him in a more attacking role where he can influence the final third more. Aaron Ramsey’s flickering hamstring makes picking him a dodgy decision but against an attack minded United team, he should be Arsene Wenger’s main man to contain and control alongside Coquelin.
We may also expect to see Theo Walcott, Calum Chambers and Wojciech Szczesny all play starting roles as they bid to force their ways back into the League team sheets.
Win or Don’t Wake Up
No manager has won the FA Cup more times than Arsene Wenger; no club has won it more times than Arsenal. While the first record will remain whatever the outcome of the clash will be, we will however, wake up Tuesday morning knowing something has happened to strengthen or dent the second.
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