Saturday, September 16, 2006

Weekend Outlook (17 Sep 2006)

Manchester United vs Arsenal

"...a defeat on Sunday would effectively mark the end of the Premiership race for Arsenal..."
- JayWalk, 16 Sep 2006

Midweek saw the big boys kicking off their respective European campaigns and I am happy to report that most of the English clubs have fared fairly well with the exception of West Ham United being the only casualty to go down 0-1 at Upton Park in the UEFA Cup.

The ManUtd-Arsenal is the big clash of the weekend and it is of utmost importance to Arsenal who are currently 10-points adrift from the top. 13 if they go down again today. Even with a game in hand, a defeat on Sunday would effectively mark the end of the Premiership race for Arsenal and that would leave Wenger with the Cup tournaments to focus on. And yes, we are only 5 games into the season so far.

ManUtd may have had the perfect start to the season with 4-for-4 on the domestic front and a recent 3-2 win over Celtic. However, there were signs of danger as the last 2 matches (against Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic) were won unconvincingly. Midfield is still relatively weak while Ferdinand seemed to have spurts of concentration lapse on the pitch of late. If not for the fact that we have Van der Sar saving our backsides week in and week out, we wouldn't be placed at the top of the league table today.

Michael Carrick so far has been performing well. His distribution skills are quite good and he has to ability to "think a step ahead". In spite of that, I am still not convinced that he is worth the 18.6 million Sterling price tag. 8.6 million, maybe. 18.6 million? He needs to step his game up another notch or two before I get warmed up to the price tag. Anyway, it looks like we are still lacking bite in the midfield department and don't be surprised to see Fergie making a second bid for Owen Hargreaves during the January transfer window.

JayWalk The Talk: Strength report from the ManUtd camp says that we lost Giggs and Park to injury. This would severely weaken our left side and I foresee Fergie placing Richardson on the left flank on Sunday.

On a brighter note, Alan Smith should be back but probably starting him off on the bench again while Scholes and Rooney are definite starters after having completed their respective suspensions. Heinze also looks good as his recovery date is set to be this week. Expect the Argentine defender to work his way back to the Starting XI with reserve games in the upcoming weeks.

I am speculating today's formation to be Rooney and Saha up front with Smith and Solksjaer on the bench. Carrick and Scholes will command the middle with the latter placed slightly in front. Richardson will take left flank while Ronaldo or Fletcher will stick to the right. Brown, Neville, Silvestre and Ferdinand will continue to hold the defence as they did during midweek.

Our main worry would still be the midfield but the comforting news is that Arsenal's squad health isn't doing that well either. Henry and van Persie are doubtful. Toure, Clichy, Lauren, Senderos and Diaby add to the injury misery. Looks like Ljunberg has the ardous tasks this Sunday, of carrying the team that sorely missed the services of Viera, Bergkamp, Cole, Pires and Campbell.

JayWalk The Walk: ManUtd has been unbeaten in their last 5 head-to-heads and bookies are making the home side to give a 0.5-ball handicap and a difficult decimal odds of 2.025 to overcome.

Arsenal is currently in an unfamiliar place in the league table, sitting 4th from the bottom. The big problem with the Gunners is that for the past 3 league matches, they often start the game with a goal behind. As long as ManUtd ensure that Arsenal do not score first, it should be yet another victory for the home side.

The way I see it, it would be a ManUtd victory but only by the skin of their teeth. Small punt on ManUtd to give the 0.5 ball handicap.

Disclaimer: The above views are purely my own two-cents' worth. In other words, I cannot and will not guarantee that my predictions are accurate. If you want to bet on the game, do so at your own risk. Also, please bet responsibly and within your means regardless of how "sure thing" that game may appear to be. As the old saying goes, "The Ball Is Round". Good luck.


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