It now appears highly likely that Arsene will be fielding an under-strength side tomorrow at Old Trafford, citing injury problems as the reason. Arsene says:
“We are down to the bare bones. We have just 14 players and everyone will travel then I will make a decision.
“Clichy, Senderos, Adebayor, Flamini – all are muscular injuries. I will have to take a look and see who is in the most dangerous position.”
You can be sure that all of these players (bar maybe Senderos) would’ve been certainties had this been a league game, ‘muscular injuries’ or not. Swiss Phil was clearly only about 60% fit vs Blackburn, yet he played as it was such an important match (and to all you Senderos detractors out there, he had a solid match). I don’t think Wenger will be taking any chances here though, which could see us with Armand Traore facing Ronaldo – this just doesn’t bear thinking about. Traore looked impressive when he played last season against the likes of Liverpool in the Carling Cup, but he has looked worryingly weak this term, none more so than against Sevilla (although in fairness he was given no protection from the midfield). Although we may well be able to write off the FA Cup, I always feel that a defeat against United is bad for team morale, no matter how it comes about or in what competition. There is a mutual hatred between the sides which has run for many years now, so a defeat to them would be more damaging than a defeat to anybody else.
If Arsene could guarantee no ill side-effects to a defeat, and a renewed focus on the Champions League and, most importantly, the Premiership, then I would happily forfeit this competition. But I am certain that a big performance and a big victory would give us the greater confidence to push on and end the season on an unbelievable high, and probably two seasons ahead of schedule into the bargain. For that reason, I will be praying that as many of the big names as possible are included in the starting line-up, and that the Arsenal return from Old Trafford with a greater psychological edge over their rivals.