Date:Thursday May 14 2009
Arsenal have an unbalanced, inexperienced squad which was never going to challenge for major honours this season. But one cannot deny that they have pace and ability and that could hurt us on Saturday.
Because Arsenal, unlike other teams, the winning types, are at their best when they have nothing to play for, when it seems that all is lost. Witness the difference between their display against us and against Chelsea. They were inhibited, poor, unimaginative in the Champions League where they were under pressure to deliver but could have buried Chelsea in the first half of the following league game. Or how they played good, free-flowing stuff against us in November when nobody gave them a chance...
But I could use last season as an example as well. The accepted wisdom before the two teams' clash at Old Trafford was that Arsenal were out of the title race. Free of the burden of a league challenge which weighed heavily on them throughout a difficult spring, they played very well at Old Trafford, aided by a nervous, listless United side.
However, when they went ahead their composure slipped again. They must have realised that they could regain the chance of winning the title - and they crumbled. Cue inexplicable Gallas mistake which prompted a turnaround and they duly collapsed under United's pressure.
They visit Old Trafford on Saturday with nothing but pride to play for. The chance of denying us the league title is not a strong enough motivational tool for these players as they're not fans and the old anymosity between the two sets of footballers is long gone. They can be up for revenge and they'll have nothing to lose.
For teams who are used to winning top honours the fact that they have nothing to play for would probably result in a disjointed, uncommitted display. For Arsenal who are burdened by their own failure it might come as a relief that for once, they won't lose anything with a defeat, they can play with abandon and courage.
So nobody must imagine that we'll have an easy game. They will be liberated from the pressure of points and cups, they can simply come out and play a game of football. Against a somewhat tired United team that could well lead to problems... hopefully not.
Date:Thursday May 14 2009
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