Arsenal vs. Manchester United: Match Preview

no more of this please - Michael Regan

You know that thing that basketball teams do when their opponent misses a shot? That's what Arsenal aim to do Wednesday.

Arsenal v. Manchester United
English Premier League
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11.45 PT/2.45 ET/7.45 BT
Emirates Stadium, Islington
Form (League Matches Only):  ARS WWWDW(div/0!) | MUFC LWLWLD
Visually Televised On:  NBCSN

(NB:  I will not be tempting fate by making any "mid-table team" jokes about tomorrow's opponent in this preview)

There's no way to start this preview without mentioning what happened before, is there?  About how what was supposed to be a good, solid game turned into a shitshow within just a few minutes?  There is not, so I will make no further mention of Manchester United's 2-2 surrender to Fulham after this brief paragraph.

Arsenal go into Wednesday night's game with something to prove.  People are starting to wear the "Arsenal always collapse" narrative like a well-worn pair of jeans at this point, and the Guardian even went so far, prior to last weekend, as to say that Arsenal would be "the unlikeliest winners of the Premier League since Blackburn Rovers".

All of which is to say, Arsenal aren't considered serious title challengers, despite having never been lower than second spot since the fourth week of the season.  The reason for this is as obvious as it is shortsighted - people look at the Liverpool, City, and Villa results, and use some form of the phrase "bottled it", "can't handle the pressure", or whatever other lazy cliche they can come up with in the cab ride to the pub.

Make no mistake: Arsenal, as a collective and as individual players, are far better than they showed on Saturday.  As loath as Wenger is to criticize his team in public, Mikel Arteta says he's never seen Wenger angrier than at half time Saturday, and one hopes that anger will carry through this week's training and give Arsenal the focus and attention that they had no part of at the weekend.

As far as who plays, it should be a fairly similar lineup to last week - Yaya Sanogo is available for selection, but I would be surprised to see him play, since it's been several months.  Flamini's still banned, but this is the last game of the ban; Verm's got a calf strain, so he'll probably play no part either.  If I had to guess, which I hate doing, I'd say it'd be something like:

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Cazorla, Wilshere, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Giroud

Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Screech Marouane Fellaini are out for United, as well.

As mentioned above, I'm not a predicting sort - I've never been good at or a fan of making predictions about scores and results.  But in this case, I predict that Arsenal will come out on fire, with something serious to prove; whether that translates into a win or not I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet they'll play like someone's been kicking their ass for three days.

Win, dammit.

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