Win at Manchester United and season is back on trackCOMMENT
By Oliver Yew
Once again a season that promised so much for Arsenal teeters on the brink of becoming another missed opportunity to end the club’s near six-year trophy drought.
Two weeks ago Arsene Wenger’s side were fighting on four fronts to land a major trophy but in that time they have lost the League Cup final to Bimingham and this week they were knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona.
It could get even worse if they don’t recover quickly - up next this weekend is Manchester United at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
While Old Trafford may seem like the worst place to have to go after being thoroughly out-played at the Nou Camp, it represents a great chance for Arsenal to bounce back and prove to their critics they have the steel which they are so often criticised for lacking.
For a few years now the north London club have been labelled as chokers who do not have what it takes when it comes to the crunch of winning trophies.
It is a not something which can be argued about as on numerous occasions the Gunners have fallen short when so close to lifting a trophy. It is not a new phenomenon either.
|THE KEY MEN
|Apps: 22||Goals: 14|
|Arsenal will be reliant on Van Persie to get them the goals that could propel them to the Premier League title and FA Cup glory.|
|Apps: 31||Goals: 9|
|The captain had a poor game against Barcelona and even took blame for his part in the defeat. Will need to lead from the front for the Gunners once he recovers from his current injury.|
|Apps: 11||Clean Sheets: 3|
|The 'keeper has come in from the cold due to injuries to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski. He will need to earn the fans' confidence, but he made a good start with a strong performance against Barcelona.|
They lost cup finals against so called lesser teams like Ipswich, Luton, Real Zaragoza, Galatasaray and Birmingham to name but a few.
They also fell away in the 2007-08 title race after setting the pace for so long. The Gunners lost their way after a 2-2 draw at St Andrew's where Eduardo broke his leg in a horrific incident.
Arsenal seemed to lose their heads against Birmingham and it effected them until the end of another trophyless season.
Many of the same criticisms have resurfaced over the past month but so soon after the disappointment against Barcelona they have the opportunity to show they are made of stronger stuff against league leaders Manchester United.
It represents a brilliant chance for Wenger’s side as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are coming into the game on the back of two disappointing defeats.
If Arsenal could finally turn up and win an important game they could go a long way to putting the wrongs of Birmingham and Barca right. It would mean another trip to Wembley for a semi-final and a building block towards re-building confidence.
It would also place down an interesting marker down for the title race. Manchester United visit the Emirates next month and a win for either side would score an early point in the title race.
Now is the time for the senior players in Wenger’s squad to actually act like senior players and pick up the squad before the trip to Old Trafford.
The likes of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, who both had poor games at the Nou Camp by their own standards, need to start performing if Arsenal are to have any chance of getting their hands on trophies.
Fabregas will be hurting after his suicidal back heel helped gift Barcelona their opening goal but it is vitally important he puts the hurt behind him and shows Arsenal fans how important the club is to him.
The same goes for Van Persie. Even though he was harshly sent off against the Spanish champions, his performance was below par and now he needs lead from the front and score the goals that will propel Arsenal to honours.
The same can be said of Manuel Almunia at the other end of the field. The Spaniard, who was thrust into the spotlight after Arsenal lost Wojciech Szczesney to an early injury, will have a key role to play in run-in to the season.
Almunia performed out of his skin against the Barca onslaught and Arsenal fans will be hoping that was a sign of things to come because after the injury to Szczesny and with Lukas Fabianski out for the rest of the season, the Spaniard is Arsenal's only experienced goalkeeper available.
He has gone from No.3 goalkeeper to No.1 in the blink of an eye and now he will have to perform to rebuild the supporters' trust in him.
There is no better place to start for Arsenal's shell-shocked players than Old Trafford and it is time the Gunners left the tag of nearly men behind and put in a big performance in a big game.
It starts with players and they need to give a big response come Saturday afternoon to get the fans back onside and their season back on track.
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