I was a little busy last week and never found the time to man my post, so I apologize to everyone for that. Hopefully a nice preview and correct prediction make up for my absence. Sunday's Tottenham/Chelsea match-up is definitely one to keep your eye on and I'm sure all of us Spurs' fans will be looking for a Spurs victory. Unfortunately, 4th place Man City is playing the minnows of West Ham United, so Tottenham might find themselves holding onto 5th place even if they beat Chelsea. Or when they beat Chelsea, shall I say. I was going to preview that match, but after careful consideration, and throwing out my Tottenham bias, I decided the match-up between the current #1 and #2 teams was a better game of the week. Arsenal will travel north to Old Trafford and battle Man U on their home turf. ESPN3 will cover the game, so if you don't have FOX Soccer Channel, you can catch this one on http://www.espn3.com/.
Things could get messy when #1 takes on #2
The Raw Stats
Arsenal is in first place with 32 points, and have the most wins out of all the EPL teams. Their current record is 10 Wins, 2 Draws, and 4 Losses. They have a +16 goal differential and have been in decent form lately. Despite imploding against Spurs at Emirates and losing to FC Braga shortly thereafter, Arsenal, through the misfortune of Chelsea have found themselves at the top of the table. While this looks good on paper, I feel their position is temporary and one found on tons of good timing.
Manchester United sits a point below the Gunners, with 31 points. Man U's claim to fame this season is the fact they haven't lost a game all season. That sounds amazing on the surface, but to think they've tied one less game then they've won makes the claim a little less awesome. With 8 wins, 7 draws, and no losses; Manchester United has managed to clinch the number two position with mediocrity. I use the term mediocrity loosely; I'm not hatin' on Man U, you've got to give credit where its due. But 7 draws shows that the team hasn't been scorching their opponents. While they've a +19 goal differential, it seems the Red Devils have trouble putting teams away.
When I say breakdown, I'm talking about discussing the team and their tactics; not referring to Arsene Wenger's actions during the 2nd half of the Tottenham game at Emirates. Which was pretty hilarious, considering the usual demeanor of the french-man. Arsenal claims to be the Barcelona of the EPL; which means they pass back in forth and win games on ball-control. I don't see any comparisons between the teams, other than the fact that Arsenal attempts to pass their opponents to death. But you can't argue with Arsenal's offensive prowess.
I really hate his faceOffense
Striker, Marouane Chamakh is having a good year, filling in for the always-injured Robin Van Persie. The Moroccan import has found the net 7 times in league play, second on the team behind Samir Nasri who has totalled 8 goals. Samir Nasri has been playing great football, and as much as I hate him and his stupid facial expressions, the Frenchman has got some game. He is an offensive-minded middie who creates more scoring opportunities for teammates then anybody on the team. He's only 23 years old and this year is showing his progress could put into the top-class of players.
Also, Van Persie is getting back into the game and seems to be coming into decent form. While keeping Chamakh in the true striker position, he has placed RVP a bit further out in a 4-2-3-1, giving the dutchman some room to create scoring opportunities.
Samir Nasri will have to step up his game and the retard faces come Monday, because Arsenal is without Cesc Fabregas; arguably their best all-around midfielder.
Fabregas' only playing flaw is that he tries to do too many things at once - even with his hair
Defense and Troubles Between the PostsArsenal's strong suit is definitely their ability to keep possession and put the ball in goal, the defensive group aren't a bunch of slouches, but are a lesser unit when compared to the offense. The defensive unit has picked up some minor injuries and have been patching line-ups together last minute. One vulnerable position is LB; Gael Clichy sat out last game with an injury and his back up, Kieran Gibbs went down with an injury. So it will be interesting to see who starts the LB position, whoever it may be, they'll be dealing with Nani. Nani's play and ability to get open to cross could prove the key match up of the game.
Arsenal's obvious weak link has been the goalie position this season. Everyone thought Wenger would pick up a goalie on the market before the beginning of the season, but to their surprise, he didn't. Manuel Alumnia started the season, and after a handful of follies and mistakes he was benched. The final straw came back on September 25th when Arsenal lost to West Brom 3-2.
Oh no he sucks again......The close your eyes and dive technique doesn't work too wellSince then Lukasz Fabianski has been between the posts, and while he hasn't played horribly; hes not the type of guy you can rely on game in and game out. Fabianski is weak when not given some early saves to bring him into the game, and this works against Arsenal with their style of play. Often, Arsenal plays a strong first half, maintaining possession and playing their pass-them-to-death approach. 30 to 50 minutes later, Fabianski is put to the test and is often caught on his heels. Arsenal would be better off allowing the other team to take some poor shots early on just to get Fabianski's head in the game. Fabianski's performance may be the defining aspect of Monday's game against Man U.
Nani could wreak havoc on Arsenal's injured left-side, and his uppercut-punch dives are Oscar worthy
Manchester United Breakdown:The team that hasn't lost. The team that seemed to be on the verge of implosion in October when their star player announced he was looking for greener pastures.....well, basically more money. The four day incident had the media going crazy and the speculators were speculating on the speculation of speculatory specters. Or something like that. In the end, ole Sir Allie Ferg reeled Rooney back in and solidified his role at Old Trafford for years to come. Interestingly enough, Man U has accomplished much of what they have this season without Rooney; or with him in some limited role. Nani and Berbatov have put together some amazing efforts to keep Man U winning and drawing during Rooney's absence.
Management finally took control of Rooney's fitness situation. They picked him up from his seemingly endless vacations in Dubai and sent him to Nike's Training Facility in Oregon to get him in match fitness. Rooney is back on the field, and is starting to get his groove back. His role and performance this Monday could prove to be the key to the game. With Rooney in, Berbatov is given more space; and that space can result in a bad-ass performance as seen by his 5 goals against Blackburn last week. It will be interesting to see how the Red Devils progress with Rooney finding his rhythm on the pitch. They were capable without him and may be lethal with him.
Manchester United, similar to Arsenal, are weaker on the defensive side of the field. Man U's back line is aging yet skillful, but with all the offensive stars up front, its hard to fill your defensive roster with superstars - unless you're Manchester City - and as the season has shown thus far, money can't gurantee victory. The formidable duo of Ferdinand and Vidic anchors Man U, but Ferdinand is questionable this Monday. Whether he plays or not, a less then 100% Ferdinand or a 2nd string player could open some things up for Arsenal.
The picture Ferdinand wishes was never takenGolden Years Goalie
Dutchman, Edwin Van der Sar is 41 years old and is still a world-class player. I was surprised he wasn't part of Holland's international team this past World Cup. Martin Van Steklenburg played a great Cup; his save against Kaka in the quarterfinals vs. Brazil was one for the highlight reels. But Iniesta's score in extra time to win the cup; while point blank, it could've been stopped. But I digress, (I could go on all night, I hate Spain and follow Holland so....). One can only wonder what might have been.
Back to the game at hand. Whatever four line up in front of Van der Sar, there is little doubt he will come ready to play.
He's not quite banging a young muscled Taye Diggs, yet.... but he is on his way to the islands
Arsenal has been playing in a 4-2-3-1, with Alex Song and Jack Wilshire playing as holding middies. This duo keeps the defense tight and opposing teams in check. Man U's living legend, Scholes is likely out with injury; and if that happens, Michael Carrick will fill his position; teaming up with Darren Fletcher who has been playing good football as of late. I haven't seen much of Carrick, but Fletcher seems to be tireless and plays with determination through-out the game.
Another big match-up is Arsenal's LB and Nani. With Rooney getting his groove back (I used it twice so my picture was more relevant), any room given to Nani will surely turn into precise crosses and Berbatov and Rooney will leave Fabianski diving for nothing.
Manchester United will most likely open up with a 4-4-2 line up. With Rooney and Berbie heading the onslaught. That will give Nani plenty of room to run at opponents and give himself space to create scoring opportunies. Nani will be teaching Arsenal a thing or two, much like our Nannys of yesteryear. On the opposite wing, parked comfortably in the starting 11 lot, will be Park Ji-Sung ....................................................Oh excuse me, my Nani/Nanny and Park puns had me in stitches. Does anyone else's side hurt from that knee-slapper.
Puns and knee-slappers courtesy of Wehman Bros. Publishing - Thanks again mates!
Surely I jest, and I do it to make a point that English people over do it with the puns. Every message board, article and comments board I read regarding soccer is bound to have a string of pun littered messages strewn across it. Damn it you Brits. Puns are played out, cheesy and boring. They are do not make you clever, funny or likeable. Take off the damn newspaper boy hats you all wear and put on a god damn baseball cap. Also, scarves are for girls. I know its cold over there, but scarves make you look like a pu$$y. Oh me oh my, there's a bit of a draft, thanks to goodness I have my scarf to protect my neck from the chill, oh diddly dee.
Oh diddly dee, Monday's fixture is sure to be a dandy, fit for the Queen herself, if I say so myself Cheerioooooo
Manchester United is going to take this one. The Red Devils have made their way into the #2 spot by underachieving. When they go down, they manage to find the brace goal, but when they're up they put teams away. Arsenal's play seems to have peaked already and now the reality of injuries and a weak goalie will take them down.
I'm picking Manchester United 2-1 at home.