Josh's view of Man Yanited v Arsenal, up close and personal

Sunday afternoon was a stroll in the park in the sunshine.  Victories do not come much easier and Wenger’s first win against Gareth Southgate was a formality, making us 20 games unbeaten in the League.  The team is coming together nicely, Arshavin and Cesc are on some sort of magical wavelength, Eboue is splitting defences open with accurate passes and Bendtner is leading the line like he has suggested he can.  However, one thing struck me most about Sunday; Samir Nasri is quite a player when deployed in central midfield.
On Sunday, in attack and midfield, we lined up in a formation that resembled this:
When I saw the line up for this game, I assumed, as many would have, that Nasri or Arshavin would play off Bendtner while Cesc reverted back to his position as a deep lying playmaker.  However, Wenger gave that role to Nasri and asked Cesc to pull the strings further up field.  Fabregas was ineffectual on Tuesday when he played off Bendtner, but today he was awesome.  The difference though, was that Cesc had someone who could provide him with the ball.
Against Liverpool, Denilson was the man trusted with possession.  Song was there to break up play and look for the free man.  Unfortunately, Denilson had a poor game and Cesc became isolated.  Today, Denilson was given the defensive duty and Nasri was brilliant.  He got stuck in, worked tirelessly, read play excellently, intercepted the ball in dangerous areas and provided the springboard for Cesc and Arshavin with his clever passing.  Wenger now has a dilemma.
With Arshavin cup-tied against Manchester United, how will Wenger select his side?  Adebayor will lead the line, but our midfield is not set in stone; far from it.  Song will definitely start and will be told to continue what he has been doing.  There will be a place for Walcott and Cesc.  The question surrounds the other positions.  After today, Wenger should start Nasri alongside Song and Cesc in the middle.  This is how we played after 65 minutes at Anfield, turning the score line from 2-1 to 3-2 very quickly.
So what does Nasri bring to the middle in place of Denilson for example?  For me, his passion and determination could be crucial at Old Trafford.  We need players who are up for the fight.  Denilson has gone missing in too many big games this season, in particular over the last week or so.  Possession will also be so important.  To stifle pressure, we will need to hold onto the ball.  When we have done well at Old Trafford over the last 5 years, we were in control of possession and frustrated United.  I feel Nasri and Cesc can be influential in this manner if played together.
That leaves Wenger with a decision over the left side of midfield.  Theo should be up against Evra after the way Lennon roasted him.  Arshavin will have to drop out and therefore Wenger really has a straight choice between Bendtner and Diaby.  Bendtner played there against Roma and deserves a chance after today.  His aerial presence could be an added factor when coming in from the left.  He is an outlet and can sniff out a chance in a close tie.  Today, his passing was excellent, his link up play very astute and his attitude spot on.
Diaby has not played well since his injury.  Today he showed a few signs when he came off the bench.  However, he is not match fit and lacks the sharpness Bendtner showed.  He is strong on the ball and could be good if we want to keep the ball.  I personally believe Bendtner has more chance of providing a crucial goal away from home.
This said, I think the line-up should be as follows
The match will be a treat for the neutrals.  Both defences have been leaking goals and looking shaky.  Therefore, it will be a match of pure attacking football.  However, there are a few key battles that may decide the game.  Here are the areas where I believe it could be won or lost.
Wayne Rooney vs Kolo Toure
Rooney has been sensational for United recently.  When United had their small slump, Rooney was the only one playing with any passion and commitment.  Now the team is beginning to purr again, Rooney will only shine more.  Toure has done well against him over the years but has been a little off the boil this season.  If Toure can prevent Rooney getting any space and shut him down early, he can mark him out of the game.  If Rooney gets time and space, he will hurt Arsenal.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Kieran Gibbs
Is this the biggest mismatch of the season?  Can an 18 year old converted winger cope with the best player in the world over the last two seasons?  Gibbs’ positioning is suspect but as an Arsenal fans, he is committed fully to the cause and the fans know he will give nothing short of 100%.  This will be the biggest test of his career.  Fergie knows this and will play Ronaldo on the right.  Gibbs needs to get in a few challenges early to boost his confidence.  If Ronaldo starts to get the better of him early on, it could be a real roasting for Gibbo.
Michael Carrick vs Cesc Fabregas
Fabregas makes Arsenal tick.  Some would say the same about Carrick and United.  When Scholes is not in the side, Carrick has a far more important job in terms of dictating play.  When both are in the side, Carrick will take up the job of stopping the opposition.  Either way, Cesc will be in direct competition with him.  I feel if Cesc can get himself going early and pick up dangerous positions, he may have the beating of Carrick.  If Song and Nasri can do a job behind him, Cesc might be the difference between the sides.
Patrice Evra vs Theo Walcott
Evra was torn to pieces by Aaron Lennon on Saturday and Wenger will have seen this. Going forward, Evra’s ability is up there with the best full backs.  However, his defending can be suspect.  If Theo can unsettle him with his pace and alter his play he will get some joy.  Theo’s runs in behind the backline could see him get the better of Evra.  The full back must spot them early if he is to deal with Theo.  If not, Theo can get in time and time again.  Theo’s delivery is going to have to be good.  Tottenham got joy from the right because delivery was quality.  If Theo can do this, especially on the counter attack, a goal could come.
Nemanja Vidic vs Emmanuel Adebayor
Rio Ferdinand once said that Adebayor was the hardest striker to play against.  Ad ebayor has not quiet put in the effort that made Rio say this.  However, on his day, Ade is still lethal.  He has been scoring recently despite quite abje ct performances.  If Ade is up for this game and decides to give Vidic a restless evening, he will get his chances.  We saw how Torres frightened the life out of Vidic due to the pressure he placed upon the defender, his constant running and ability in the air.  Adebayor can do all these things.  If the same Ade that went to Wembley turns up at Old Trafford, Vidic will have it easy and the ball will keep coming back towards us.

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