Date:Friday November 2 2007
Two teams deadlocked on top of the table with the same goal difference and one of them have the edge only because of more goals scored. Draw written all over it.
All the hype, all the pre-match analysing of strength and weaknesses.. is it worth it if it will be a draw? I don't know but for me it is very, very likely to end in a stalemate.
Why is that? First thing is that both teams' greatest strength is the sheer pace of their attacks. Arsenal might be more elaborate, United a bit more direct but in the essence both rely on excessive speed and technique to get the ball to the net as often as possible.
And what is their biggest weakness? Well, United and Arsenal have impressive centre-backs - but neither of them likes to deal with crosses and long balls hoofed into the box. Gallas and Toure, Vidic and Ferdinand are confident when opposing strikers keep it on the ground against them but have difficulties if they have to win headers in the box. God only knows why - at Arsenal it can be explained by their lack of height but I don't know what causes Vidic and Ferdinand to forget positioning if it's a header coming in - classic example is Thierry Henry's winner from last season's corresponding fixture.
Both teams like to keep it on the ground so the game will probably suit the defenders. United's pacey wingers are up against quick full-backs - and that's the case at the other end of the pitch, too where only Brown represents a possibly weaker link but he's got what it takes to match Rosicky.
Of course, he'd probably be lost and doomed if the Czech international had enough space to run at him but I expect that neither team will allow space to the opponent as both teams can do extreme damage when not closed down successfully. And neither manager wants to lose this game, despite all their assurances that this is not a title decider.
Players' form. The teams themselves have that momentum which usually sees them swamping the lesser sides - but it's no lesser side they're about to meet. Individually, there's not much in it. On current form, Fabregas is the best player in the league, as opposed to our Hargreaves-Anderson pairing: one of them lacks match fitness while the other is inexperienced and not fully settled despite all the encouraging signs.
But it is cancelled out by the unstoppable form of Rooney and Tevez while Adebayor looked off the pace against Liverpool. Form-wise Ronaldo and Nani are evenly matched with Rosicky and Hleb and both keepers, Van der Sar and Almunia looked assured and confident so far.
Therefore, I think a draw is a very safe bet for this game, especially if you add that such hyped clashes often end up being a damp squid really. What could decide it? Well, a refereeing blunder, a goalkeeper's error, a moment of sheer individual brilliance... I think we may assume that none of the managers will get it horribly wrong so tactics won't tip the balance decisively.
And let me add that probably everyone would be satisfied with a share of the spoils. But especially Chelsea and Liverpool.
Date:Friday November 2 2007
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