Arsenal have more to lose than Man Utd in must-win clash
Both sides hope to bounce back after a disastrous weekend, but pressure is on Arsenal
MATCHES between Arsenal and Manchester United are always intense affairs, but tonight's clash at the Emirates is a must-win match for both teams – for very different reasons.
A victory for the Gunners would send them back to the top of the table, a position many people thought they had relinquished for good after their humiliation at the hands of Liverpool on Saturday. It would also serve as the perfect response to the weekend's events and get them back on track ahead of two more massive games against Liverpool (again) in the FA Cup and Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
For Manchester United, it is a win-or-bust scenario, as David Moyes tries desperately to salvage his side's season and steer them towards Champions League or, as is looking more likely, Europa League qualification. Moyes said the draw at Old Trafford against bottom club Fulham on Sunday was "as bad as it gets", and he will be desperate for his big names to make a statement against the Gunners.
Neither side "can afford to allow a chastening weekend to become a dismal week", notes Jonathan Pearce of the BBC. "For at least one side though, the post mortem will continue."
Wenger has refused to panic in the wake of the thrashing by Liverpool and has promised to keep faith with the players that failed so badly at Anfield. But as The Guardian points out, injuries mean "Wenger does not have the option of sweeping changes to try to shake his team up". But the paper suggests that Tomas Rosicky will come into the side.
Whether Wenger persists with Mesut Ozil, who has become the lightning rod for Arsenal anger in the aftermath of the Liverpool match, remains to be seen.
As for Man United, they will hope that Robin van Persie, the former Gunner who has taken a liking to scoring against them, will keep up his perfect record and find the net for the fourth successive match against Wenger's side. If he does it will mean he has scored in the last six encounters between the two teams, having netted twice for Arsenal before switching sides.
Defeat could leave United nine points behind the team in fifth place and 12 points away from a place in the Champions League.
Paradoxically, however, United's travails mean that there is more pressure on Wenger more than Moyes, at least according to some.
"We know what has gone wrong at Manchester United this season but, if Arsenal blow it again at the Emirates, what is Arsene Wenger's excuse?" asks Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail.
United are obviously in flux, but Arsenal are supposed to be the finished article – "no longer all potential and pimples" – says Samuel. "There are 258 German caps in his team, plus 98 for France. There are three national captains. The days of jam tomorrow should be over."