With United there for the taking, Nasri should go central

I get more excited about games against Manchester United than any other team.

I hate, hate, hate them with a passion: a feeling stemming from the intense rivalry that existed between the two sides when I started following Arsenal in the 1990s, as well as their consistent tendency to surround the referee like a pack of bonobos whenever they decided they needed a decision to go their way.

They’re still a team packed full of extremely unlikeable players: Wayne Rooney is the creme de la creme of course, but guys like Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher and Nani are folks I would seriously consider kicking if I ever saw them in the street. Of course, they’d probably kick me back but that’s a risk one has to take.

Nasri should be moved central today

It might only be the FA Cup — a competition that has to rank as our second priority to the league title — but it would give me such satisfaction to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford today. Aside from the fact that we need a bit of a boost after recent disappointments, a win against our major (dare I say only?) title rivals on their home turf would strike an enormous psychological blow with just ten league games left to play.

The papers were enormously critical of our attitude at the Camp Nou but as I explained in my alternative report of the game, that conclusion, in stark contrast to Inter Milan’s performance at the same stadium last season, only came about because we lost the game.

Everybody was quite happy to use the fact that we failed register an attempt on goal as a sign of the weakness of our performance on the nigh. But a much more significant statistic was that fact that over two games we only lost by one goal and at the time of Robin van Persie’s sending off, were leading the tie by three goals to two.

So despite the negative reactions to losing against Barcelona I believe we look better placed to win this game than Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. Our injury situation is poor, but not desperate, while United’s lack of form as well as their need to leave some gas in the engine for their midweek Champions League clash with Marseille leaves us with a slight advantage.

Our next fixture is not for a full seven days which means there is no excuse for us not to play our best available side. To my money that means Manuel Almunia in goals behind a back four of Bacary Sagna, Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny and Gaël Clichy, a midfield triangle of Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri and a front three of Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin.

That line-up includes a couple of interesting structural changes to the side — namely Nasri dropping into the centre and Bendtner being brought in on the right — but I just feel without both Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas, we need a little bit more character in the centre of the park. I agree that Nasri performs best closer to goal but as United’s midfield is generally conceded their weakness I feel using the Frenchman in a more central, influential role would be more effective.

Manchester United are in a bad run of form, have injuries to key defenders and their best attacking player this season — thank-you Jamie Carragher — and have a Champions League game in just three days. Liverpool and Chelsea have shown over the past few weeks that their position at the top is more down to their pedigree and winning culture rather than the quality of their team and I firmly believe they are there for the taking today.

Our boys will of course still be feeling the effects of a difficult result against Barcelona, but need to get over it quickly. Despite taking a 2-1 lead into the game at the Nou Camp we were always underdogs to come through the tie and there was no disgrace to be knocked out by such a strong team. Hopefully our team can see some perspective in this, put all their mental and physical energy into beating Manchester United tonight and enjoy the week-long rest that will follow.

I say that United are there for the taking but just as their position at the summit of the Premier League suggests, they are a team who can get results when they don’t deserve them. At home, in front of their fans and with pride on the line, they will put in a huge effort and may turn this game into a scrappy, dogged affair, similar to the game at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

Today is a big opportunity for our boys to turn the page on a difficult couple of weeks and begin the final charge to the finish line. Against Manchester United the games are always important and despite there being no league points up for grabs, today may turn out to be a significant day in the title race.

Spread your love of the Arsenal by leaving a comment.



  1. Great post Andy.
    People talk about the rivalry between Utd & L’pool and also ours with Spurs but for me (I actually started supporting Arsenal when Wenger arrived in ’96), rivalry means Utd vs Arsenal!! I also “hate, hate, hate them with a passion”. Sometimes I enjoy their losses (like Barca 2009 CL) more than our wins.
    It’s a great opportunity for us to bounce back & take a psychological edge for the title run-in.
    I fully agree with your line up. Arseblog included Denilson in his probable line-up this morning but that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t think Denilson is in the right form even to be in the 1st team at the moment.

  2. I would love to see Ramsey back in some capacity he must be suffering watching and desperate to make an impact, you cannot buy the hunger he must be feeling, Nasri has to be played centrally, 2-1 to us, heard song may be fit which could make it an interesting afternoon, I just want to see some real effort, as usual I expect to hear our wonderful away fans to singing their hearts out,, come on you gunners!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I’ll start slightly offtopic by saying there are two teams that I really dislike in this world – except all of the Italian football clubs – and those two are Man Utd and Chelsea. And while in the second case the term “dislike” applies quite well because buying their way into football seems like something everybody and their mother could bo, it only barely resembles what I feel for Utd. Their players aside and on a more personal note, every Man Utd fan that I know, and I mean every single one, gets on my nerves. And with the risk of being shallow on this, I’m saying if so are the fans, so is the team… or vice-versa.

    This being said, I promise to forgive everything bad about the Barca game if we win tonight. To beat them at their home today, to show everybody that what we had midweek was a bad day, to go there and fight hard, like we have nothing to lose, to teach them a lesson, we need this. It will shut those filthy mouths of our detractors and show them how ridiculous they are. Because I don’t mind seeing the fans of the club criticising our football and our manager, that way it stays in-house somehow, but when someone from outside comes and passes judgement on our club it only makes me think of ways to shut them off. And since I can’t do it, I hope the lads do it tonight. GO GUNNERS!

  4. good blog. come on Arsenal! your alternative view of the barca game was spot on.

  5. i think if we press utd like we did with barcelona we will win this game, regardless of what squad they’ll play (and i expect a weaker one bcos of CL), i’ll be sick if we have another one of those games where our players look like they don’t give a shit.

    one more thing, lets hope we have a neutral referee, very rare occurance at old trafford unfortunately…

    just checked on bbc website, Chris Foy will be the ref today. is he an evil manc lover by any chance ? i hope not. we’ve lost too many points/games bcos of bad refereeing

  6. Ferdinand says MU have never lost three games in a row.For his info,there is always a first time. No team had evr gone thru the whole season undefeated. The gunners did in 2004. No manager has ever won the double in his first/second season. Wenger did it in 1998. That is a first by any manager.This is the law of averages.
    Of course it doesn’t mean the gunners will not lose.The gunners must be careful because the ref could on the side of the red faced.It may not mean much but his decisions could impact the result. Out of the blue following a melee in the gunners box he could give the red faced cunt a penalty.
    Then the gunners will have to play catch up and it will be a hopeless case. Of course the scenario I have painted may not come about if the gunners take their chances and score to win.

  7. Actually, that’s very much similar to the team I had in mind. I heard, besides the comment above, that Song MAY be back in action but I have my serious doubts on that one. My bet is that Wenger will start with Rosicky. Why? Because he has done in some precarious scenarios when Fabregas has been unavailable. Please oh please, Mr. Wenger prove me wrong..I really would like to see Nasri take advantage of the weak CB pairing though. The way Suarez took the defence apart for that first or second goal was incredible and I’m sure the rest of the Arsenal fans can agree with me on this, but Nasri is more than capable of doing likewise or better. I hope RVP is filled with a savage determination to get ahead and put something into the net after Barca. That should hopefully have him pumped up to rip the defence apart himself, let alone with the help of Nasri.

    As for Wilshere, what more can be said? Over the previous 2 threads, praise has been given to him which I cannot match but I will say just this: he deserves all of it. And then some. The rest of the team should learn to have the same heart as this guy. It might do them some serious good.

    Oh, btw, thankyou Nicholas. You summed up my own feelings towards ManU. And yes, if we win tonight, I’m willing to forgive Barca midweek. We played better than expected over the two legs and I’m proud knowing the fact that we lost by just ONE goal to arguably the best footballing side in the world. So Arsenal, do us proud. GO YOU GUNNERS!!!

  8. Andrew u forgot to name another enemy of our’s evra, the bastard.

  9. I think you’ll find Arsenal surround the ref a lot more than United do these days so I think you should get you’re facts right for future reference mate, its also funny how Fabregas didn’t perform against Barcelona, maybe he was looking for Barca to win haha

  10. Thank you Sobin! Evra is my most hated of this year’s ManUre pile. Of those who have gone on, Roy Keane and the Portuguese diver are also high(low?) on my list.
    Only class acts on their team are Giggs and VanderSaar, IMO.
    They have always been like the NY Yankees of football. Recent financial report said they sell $100,000,000 worldwide in contrast to our paltry $30mil annually!
    They badger the officials as AW noted in his post, and they always get extra stoppage time if they need it.
    They are hurting physically and they are getting older. I’m very hopeful but nervous as always today, but still think our best chance is the 38game Premiership title.

  11. I have followed the Gunners since Ronnie Rooks days. I know i wont be popular saying the following. If Barca comes up with a big offer for Fabregas in the summer i would snap there hand off and use the money to buy a good goal keeper and centre half. You cant keep on paying top wages to a player who plays two games and then out for weeks with injury. And like Henry he doesnt seem a big game player.

  12. Thanks Drew,
    Good to move on from Barca.
    I got 33/1 on a two goal Gunners victory so it took it.
    Basically,putting my money where my mouth is I guess.
    Does anyone know if Crazy Jenzy is the mysterious goalkeeper X?
    @icehammer; Brums went down again, time for the business.
    Oh yeah, Go You Gunners!

  13. Familiar score at HT. Very disappointing once again!
    The problem with this Arsenal team is the lack of commitment & desire. Where’s the fight in Denilson & Diaby? 2 jack asses in midfield!
    Pls explain to me how can you be on the losing end (as things stand) to a make shift Utd team?????

  14. Lets blame the ref & the commentators that hate Arsenal. its their fault that we are not winning

  15. sight! no excuse for losing tonight. I think we lost that killers instinct a while ago, during the Carling cup final! I hope that Djourou is all right. Other then that something should be I mean, really, this isn’t it working.

  16. Gibbs’ only merit in this game was that at some point, around the 50th minute, the ball hit him in the head. Accidentally. As for his ol’ buddy, ol’ pal, ol’ teammate Sagna, you know, it’s called right BACK for a reason. They absolutely thrashed us on the flanks. Add-Goon, totally agree with you on Denilson and Diaby. Let’s add to this night Djourou’s injury, which I’m willing to bet is gonna rule him out for the rest of the season, we’re in for a treat in the weeks to come.

    The good? Well, for what it’s worth (and it ain’t much) we played football this time. The other good part? Wilshere, of course, for the 20th time this season man of the match.

    The bad? Ruled out from 3 competitions in some 3 weeks or so. The fact – not opinion, not desire, but pure FACT – that Denilson and Rosicky have no place in this team. If we don’t change something in our game, we won’t beat Man Utd at Emirates. As much as I hate that team, they play a very efficient football. 6-7 passes, a cross maybe, and then a shot at goal. We? Some 20-30 passes like we’re enchanting that ball, untill we find someone like… well, of course, Denilson, who * up the last pass and sets them on the counterattack.

    Curiously, I didn’t even get mad tonight. I think the game against Barca exorcised me, I just stood on my chair, almost numb, watching as we were losing the game. No shouting, no kicking the furniture, not biting my nails. I think there was a bleak hope left in me, that we still have the EPL for a chance to win. Cause if we don’t win something this season a lot of fans will be really, really angry, it was enough to watch the faces of our supporters on the TV to have a sneak preview.

    We’re a great club, I really believe that, but a couple of things need to happen in order to come on top at the end of the season. The players need themselves to believe they can do it, as the fans do. Even more than this, they must have the desire to do so, the hunger, the attitude that Wilshere has. Wenger needs to be very careful with squad selection and he needs to adapt tactics for the next match, the other really crucial one against United. Let’s not forget we’ll also play Liverpool and Tottenham in the coming weeks, it will not be easy at all.

    In the end I would say that we, as fans, need to believe, but that’s the whole deal, that we DO believe, that’s what makes us so very angry, that’s what makes us reach out, talk, argue with each other, and the most concerning moment will be when we’ll be quiet, watching our team relaxed, grabbin’ a snack, leaving the furniture, the TV and the people around us coexist in complete harmony.

  17. Now we have lost the 3rd Cup can we now come down to earth that we did not reach up to the plate? I recollect stating this some months back, and I was called a non believer. We just need some big players who have won things before.
    I bet you, we will lose a lot of these players who are ambitious at the end of this season.

    A poser: Would Wilshere be playing the way he is playing was he the main midfielder of the club? Have Cesc and Song not inluenced his game positively?

    We need competition in every position, from GK, to back 4, Midfield and attack. Let us not decieve ourselves, what Gurdiola said before our match aboutplaying Wilshere so prominently is apt and should be looked at.

    I rest my case and feel the anger and shame of most Nigerian supporters of Gunners.


  18. Have you ever seen Denilson play a forward ball? Always to the side & backwards…..he has been at the club for 5 or 6 seasons now; same for Diaby. Pathetic!!
    What about that useless Russian? Pls send him to Siberia.
    Abject performance against Utd’s 2nd team…..I don’t know where & when the years of miseries will end!

  19. Like Nicholas above, I have stopped getting angry and even frustrated seeing Arsenal lose again. Our players, save a few of them, face every game as if it were a training camp, passing the ball sideways, backwards and occasionally forward – where it is immediately wasted. Where is the fire in their hearts, the will to win, the committment to bring some silverware to their loyal supporters? I have predicted some a month ago, that we would be eliminated of all cups within a few weeks, and was taken to task; but, if we cannot beat teams like Birmingham and other third rate teams, in important games, then it borders on the indecent to even keep hoping of winning the BPL. So let’s just accept the fact that we have become serial losers, and perennial also-rans. The end of the season will surely see a mass exodus of our best players, Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie, but we will of course retain the likes of Denilson, Arshavin and Bendtner. Clearly it is time to re-think the whole managing team, and seriously consider a post-Wenger era.

  20. @maltagooner

    no one in arsenal knows how to win a trophy already. save maybe cesc and rvp. it does take a mental toll to be chasing and running out of games. united are used to it, can draw from experience, they have battle harden players who know how to KILL games off during a run in for the title. arsenal only know how to shoot themselves in the foot and get rvp crocked

  21. Positives from the match: Wilshere’s effort and Ramsey’s return. Though on the pitch for a short amount of time, Ramsey’s passes were pinpoint, quick and sharp. I think he should come in the starting XI now.

    Won’t be too harsh on the team. I actually don’t get too upset about an occasional wayward pass or missed chances. What angers me is lack of effort, and this is what distinguishes Diaby from Denilson for me. Sure Diaby wasn’t sharp, but I think he worked his socks off. Moreover, when Diaby gets match fit, he is brilliant.

    Denilson, on the other hand is terrible terrible terrible. His biggest offense is lack of effort. He was lazy today and should be shipped out. Sure Jack may have more talent, but when you look at the effort that Jack and Denilson give then you can see that they are miles and miles apart. In sports, an errant pass or missed goal can be forgiven. A lack of effort cannot, and Denilson is a serial offender.

    On another note, who thought we’d miss Theo so much??

  22. i had hoped after the carling cup when i predicted we would not win a thing this year that i would be proven wrong. there is nothing that makes me believe i’ll be wrong now. while i have definitely been a fan of the youth movement, i do believe every side needs a few veterans who have won and know how to win still. i seriously doubt anyone like that will be bought this summer, however. but count on 12 more 14-17 year olds from wherever, all midfielders of course.

    this season is getting ridiculous.

  23. That was poor. Deja Vu with the way they caught us on the break. I thought we’d learnt our lessons in that regard…And finally, I agree. Denilson must go. He doesn’t chase back, he doesn’t put in any through balls anymore, and he seems like he doesn’t care. Both goals were poor from a defensive point of view. Gibbs didn’t do too well either. A disappointing defeat. Especially the manner of it.

    Oh and Andrew.. How can you not have Evra in that list?

  24. I wanna see some changes. I mean if it was another team losing like us for such a long amount of time, things would have gone west very quickly! on the pitch a lot is missing that few players can’t do on their own. I believe in our team but changes have to be made.

  25. take it easy

    it is really bitter, one has to draw a line now…………

    one has seen it often, there is lacking something in attack, passing around the box, o,k. despite the last 20 mins or so, I must say the last hop or top play was interesting but of course in vain, without success, and that is frustrating of course, but before, a too familiar picture, slow attack, nearly hesitating, ball possession yes, but kicking around on to the box and then losing the ball, last minutes there were several efforts . o.k. , but no good combinations, I mean when ManU contered, the passes were great , always with danger, on the other side ……., maybe it shall not be, there were some efforts, of course, ah, forget about that now,
    new start in the League, they should get a black humour and fight for the rest, now more than ever………

  26. Well it is bitter’ but I guess not a surprise.
    I don’t think blaming or hating will do any good.
    Though I’ve lived in California for 33 years I grew up in Upstate New York a Rangers fan.
    You guys are spoiled. You don’t know what perseverance really means.
    Maybe you need the opposing fans to scream 1940 in you face for a few decades then you’ll get the message. Everybody’s bummed but put the knives away it isn’t quite over yet and anyhow if we full-on choke we’ve got all fucking summer to hate.
    Go you gunners!!!!

  27. A few months ago, after the first United loss, I posted saying this team doesn’t have what it takes to win the league, and after seeing today’s display and result, I still have to believe that we are not ready to make the push. A total lack of belief today, and the bench players simply aren’t good enough, especially with the amount of injuries this squad experiences, coupled with the amount of matches. The Gunner faithful need to sit down, buckle in, and stop giving this team credit for something they haven’t achieved.

    On another note, look at United’s striking options. Rooney, Berbatov, Chicharito. Now look at Arsenal’s. RvP, Bendtner, Chamakh. The former three are goal machines. RvP fits that category when he’s fit, which is for 1/3 of the campaign. Realistically, RvP can’t deliver in every big game (mainly because he’s injured), so we need better strikers and a couple GREAT midfielders (Rosicky, Denilson ahahaha). However, Wenger’s going nowhere and things will not change.

  28. leftcoast, where are you based? I watched the game in Aptos today… I seem to remember that it was your old haunt. or am I wrong?

  29. @California Gooner,
    Yeah I used to watch at the Brit Arms but the owner was such a jerk he wouldn’t put on our games unless we had enough people to make it worth the money or he was pretty sure we were going to lose.
    I’m off west cliff now, Have a German wife and have to watch English footie out in the garage. Ain’t life rude?
    PS her side is Hamburg. They got pounded 6-nil by Bayern so no snuggles a-tonite.
    Rangers-Sharks in a few going for the double dip?(OW)

  30. Well, I watched the game there today, and new things wouldn’t go well when my Santa Cruz based friend took me down Rooney Street to get to the freeway. The place was a bit of a dump and there was no atmosphere… just me and my know-nothing-about-arsenal friend, the owner (who said I wouldn’t get served with That shirt on… but then served me and actually warmed up when I told him I’d rather starve then take it off). Anyhow, I won’t go back anytime soon.

  31. @leftcoastgooner I’m a big time rangers fan myself. This could be a rough saturday for you and i. As I type this, San Jose scores. Why does it feel like it could be July and every team in the east would still have games in hand on the blueshirts?

    Well, now the gunners can focus on the prem, that’s the only positive i can bring out of these last few weeks. At least THEY have the game in hand in their favor.

  32. Our flags are burning, man. The end is near. These are dark days and we are going to be playing Championship football next year.

  33. @ California Gooner,
    Just got up (did you know it changed to Daylight savings? I did not.).
    Anyhow for the rest of the prem we should hook up at Johnnie’s Harborside.
    The Barkeeper Paddy, is a friend and if there isn’t a Giants game on (which because of UK time difference there usually isn’t) he’d be glad to put us on. Anyway we can always watch the Tsunami waves suck the dredge out at taxpayer’s cost.(hyuk,hyuk)
    @Danny B Calm down mate and take out your slide ruler. There aren’t enough games left for relegation assuming you mean Arsenal. We’ll be OK yet.
    @ O2BAG, Great God Man Rangers and Gunners!! Welcome to the take yer lumps club, platinum membership area. 3-2 gers last night. That little Zucarello has a lot of Messier in him. Well 3 comps down 1 to go. Come on you gunners!!!!

  34. Que Sera Sera
    Whatever will be will be
    The future’s not us to see
    Que Sera Sera…..

    Stop the criticism of Denilson, it’s not that he dosen’t bother, he’s already playing way above his skill level, You can’t wish for him to suddenly change into a Yaya Toure or a Viera. He don’t roll like that, get my drift G….word.. Peace Out

  35. Did you really believe that UNITED was there for the taking? The problem is that you can’t face the truth. You are used to Rationlizing. Just look at the Barcelona rationalization post!!!

  36. Don’t be so sure, Leftcoast! We need two more points from 10 games to be guaranteed Premiership survival, I don’t think we should be counting our chickens yet!

    kips you little firebrand, of course they were there for the taking. They were missing Nani, Ferdinand, and keeping their powder dry for a big champions league game. Oh wait, the article actually said that, I’m sure you read it.

  37. come end of the season AW will sell someone for more than he paid for him and then he will be hailed a genius!!! by his most loyal fans.

    Deep down we all know that come summer we will be served the same bull shit we have been fed in the past. “the squad has grown, they are 1 year older”, “the market prices are inflated”, “we will promote from within”

    The same injury prone players will suffer injuries again and we will all be surprised and blame the football gods for it.

  38. @ Danny B,
    Ouchy wah-wah Dude, your cracking me up but only a true fan would stress it that hard.
    @lanija, Your attitude is so totally solid. A tip too, Denilson is a tweet-a-holic so he knows what’s we’re saying about him out here. I’m not going to say the criticism isn’t accurate I’m just saying it mat be hurting rather than helping. Still you can’t muzzle the faithful for talking the truth. They’ve every right. I’ve been at this blog defending him for the last 3 years. I’m wrong and they are right. There it is.

  39. I have been lefty speechless with the free fall. Who is in charge at arsenal the board or mr . Wenger. This is unacceptable. No trophy again. People blame Denilson but what did Diabby do on that pitch. What did Rosicky do. Both those players were diabolical at best. Am afraid with Almnia and Squillachi back in our defense. Am fearing for the worst as we are likely to be thrown out of the top four.

  40. I witnessed that we perform,ed poor in the past 4 matches and we are going to have another aseason with trophy not because of the players..but because of wenger’s tactical inefficiency!!…We have to Admit that he has no plan B for the past few games or he has lost confidence in his decisions….have u seen he substitutions in the past 5 games….he has lost sumthing….or everything!!

  41. I intentionally missed watching them against manu.Sorry ,but i can’t see them losing again.

  42. Agree with you on Rooney, Fletcher, Nani, but Rio is a nice guy in my book. I do follow his tweets and he obviously doesn’t hate Arsenal – fun to watch him and Jack Wilshere exchange footballing jokes over twitter.

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