That’s the second time Liverpool have brought tears to my eyes in my life. I was an inconsolable 13 year old at the Millenium Stadium in 2001, and I nearly resorted to that child like state on Tuesday. It was absolutely ridiculous. A greater being has been shitting on us from a great height all season and I’m FED UP WITH IT. That was a TRAVESTY. There’s no point any other teams entering the damning competition if Liverpool are going to get that sort of luck. They get one clear chance all game and score, and then Babel drops to the ground under minimal contact and suddenly we’re out of the competition, when 30 seconds earlier we were all delirious. Adebayor misses an open goal, Hleb gets raped in the first leg without a penalty being given, Bendtner accidentally blocks a certain goal for Fabregas, and it all ends with scouse hero Stevie G thumping home a penalty at the Kop end to send us out in the most vomit enducing inevitable scouse fairytale finish ever envisaged. I want to kill everything and everyone around me. Thanks to that match I’m now emotionally numb. That’s definitely one of the most heart breaking games I’ve ever watched, and it’s come in the same season as a 5-1 defeat to Spurs and a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford. And it’s going to get worse tomorrow. This is a run of results that is certain to have us all committing suicide at the end of the season. What do we reckon, 7-1? Last minute Fabregas own goal? Wait and see. This is the game that, when looking at the fixtures remaining after losing our five point lead in record time, it was thought a victory could see us get back into it. Well here we are.
Somehow win this game, we’re level on points with Chelsea, three points off of top spot, with United’s next two games away to Blackburn and Chelsea. Chelsea have Wigan at home on Monday night, which is three points, but we’d still sort of kind of be back in it. We’re then relying on Blackburn and Everton getting points off of the top two in the next set of games, before United travel to Stamford Bridge. Results could still go our way, but they probably won’t, and we probably won’t win our remaining five matches in order to capitalise. Still, a win on Sunday wouldn’t be a bad way to start putting doubts in people’s minds. We’re capable, this squad of players has beaten United before and they’ll probably do it again, at some point. But we need to do it at the right time. Beat them twice last season on our way to scraping fourth while they win the league, fine. Beat them in their backyard to set up a final challenge for the title, different story. Wenger’s sides have done it there when it counts in the past, let’s see if this one can do it.
Wenger’s comments last Monday had me thinking he’s completely lost it. To say "I think we’re still capable of winning the league", or, "I believe this side is still in the title race", would be fine. We are, to an extent, and you wouldn’t expect him to come and say "The players have blown their chances in the league, it’s over", before we travel to Old Trafford. However, to say that, in his opinion, we WILL win the league, is ludicrous. That’s some serious optimism. Manchester United, who have won six of their last seven, WILL drop seven points in their last five games, and Arsenal, who have won one game in their last six, WILL take advantage and win all their remaining games. If his marbles aren’t lost, they’re at the very least misplaced. We won’t win the league this season, and to have a better chance next season we’ll need to strengthen. Fair enough, he’s invested (a loose usage of the term) in a youth policy, and those young players will develop. I think most of us have supported that. Players like Clichy, Fabregas, Flamini, Adebayor, Walcott etc will get better. However, it’s the lack of competition for places in key positions that have most fans frustrated. Our title winning sides of the past were based partially around potent wide midfielders, getting goals to augment the attack. Yet our first choice left midfielder is permanently injured, and our second choice left midfielder is a central midfielder. Our first choice right midfielder has scored two league goals all season, our back up right midfielder is a right back who has scored none.
We’ve missed Rosicky, who got seven goals in nineteen starts in all competitions, but you can’t rely on a permanently injured player. In the other positions we can probably function with what we have, but the one area where we have desperately lacked for two seasons is the one area that continues to be neglected. Unless Carlos Vela is the second coming of Jesus Christ, in football form, we need to spend in that area in the summer. I don’t care about the age of the players, as long as they’re Arsenal quality, which Eboue and Diaby aren’t. Not on the wings anyway. When using the "strength in depth" arguments with Arsenal, it has to be remembered that the other top sides have deficiencies in areas of their squad too. United’s back up right back is Wes Brown, their back up left back is Mikael Silvestre, and if Vidic and Ferdinand are both injured for Sunday, they’ll panic about as much as we would if Toure and Gallas were injured. Their third choice striker is Saha, who is as injury prone as Rosicky, so they essentially went into the season praying that Rooney and Tevez stayed fit for the whole campaign. Which they have. No double compound fractures for any of their strikers. Chelsea went into the season with a mere one striker they could rely on, Shevchenko barely makes the bench these days. The difference has come from their big players turning it on when it matters, which ours haven’t managed to do.
In all competitions since 92, home and away, the score stands at Arsenal winning fourteen, United winning seventeen, with nine draws. In the running head to head between Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson, the current score is Arsene 12 – 12 Ferguson, with eight draws. In the last eleven seasons worth of games at Old Trafford in all competitions, we’ve won four, drawn three and lost six. Before last season, our last victory there had been in February 2003.
Sagna could return at right back for us. Rosicky is still injured, although it would be nice to have him back. van Persie might be fit to play, although his thighs were heavily strapped on Tuesday and I don’t really remember him doing anything in the twenty minutes he had on the pitch. Did Walcott do enough to warrant a starting place ahead of Eboue when he ran nearly the length of the field to single handedly set up the goal that should have put us straight into the semi finals of the Champions League? Probably not, in Arsene’s eyes. Flamini will miss most of the remaining games with his ankle injury unfortunately, with Gilberto the most likely candidate to deputise. Diaby is still suspended.
Subs: Lehmann, Senderos, Denilson, Walcott, Bendtner.
Vidic, Fletcher and Saha are definitely out. Neville has been nearing fitness but I doubt his first start after thirteen months out injured would be in a game like this.