Monday, 6 December 2010

It's Make Or Break For Arsenal As Partizan Belgrade and Man United Loom

Suddenly, it all comes down to this. One fateful week which could well decide Arsenal’s fate after six barren trophy-free years.

On Wednesday night, with their English rivals Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs already qualified, Arsene Wenger’s men must end a run of two successive Champions League defeats by beating Partizan Belgrade at the Emirates to assure their progress to the knock-out stages.

Then it’s off to Manchester United as the Premier League’s top two battle it out for supremacy on Monday night.a

Two defeats, and Wenger will be tearing what’s left of his hair out with impatient fans calling for the German-speaking Frenchman to go. Two wins and all will be rosy for the scarlet-clad Gunners, Wenger will be safe and the bottle-throwing tantrums will subside.

Amid the gloom of Thomas Vermaelen announcing he was out until the end of the year, Arsenal full-back Bacary Sagna, he of the beaded hair, volunteered as the Gooner spokesman in this, the week of all weeks for his team.

One of the safest full-backs in the Premier League, Sagna – capped 29 times by France but of Senegalese descent – argues quite rightly: "We do not want the season to be over at the end of December. Win these two games and we will give even more power to the team.

"It’s about time we won these big games. Against Chelsea, we dropped points, at home we have dropped so many points. At United, we want to play our game and win.

"Going top of the League was great on Saturday. But we need to be more focussed. We have to win at home. We have to keep looking forward."

Fellow Frenchman Samir Nasri has emerged as Arsenal’s unlikely hero with the pivotal Spaniard Cesc Fabregas injured. His two goals put paid to Fulham’s challenge on Saturday and Sagna, 27, recognises his importance: “Sami is now showing his best and has more to show,. We only beat Fulham because of him, He is a really good guy and fits in well with everyone on the pitch. He gives us a good balance.”

Balance is all very well. Sagna arrived in North London in 2007 and hasn’t had a sniff of a trophy since he arrived. Memories of Arsene Wenger’s three early title triumphs have faded. It’s time the Gunners stopped firing blanks.

Nasri, 23, says: “Before I felt too much pressure to score, I wanted it too much maybe. Now I don't worry as much. I'm more at ease in the game and I'm not just looking for goals, I'm looking to work for the team. I think I'm more mature in my football game. I think more with my head.”

“When I'm in front of a goalkeeper I am more relaxed now.”

He’ll need to be relaxed in front of goal at Old Trafford on Monday. A lot depends on it.

Who the hell is Neal Collins? See or nealcol on twitter. Currently in Ngwenya, overlooking the Crocodile River and Kruger National Park. You should see this place.

Breaking news: Mike Ashley, the Newcastle chairman, sacks manager Chris Hughton. I guess everyone knows Ashley, from Maidenhead in Berkshire, is a Spurs fan? What a fool that man is!

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