The way I see it - Arsenal v Manchester United

Last updated : 02 November 2007 By Jason Hogan
We Gooners remember all too well what the press and media said about us as a club and the state we were supposedly in this summer but bit by bit we have confounded virtually every stereotyped, derogatory thing that was said about us.

Having shown a financial strength off the pitch and a degree of prowess on it that have both belied the assumptions that were made about us, the press and the media were all forced to change their tack.

And, faced with the realisation that Arsenal were taking virtually all before them, our back-peddling dissenters hastily began to earmark our trip to Anfield as a definitive test for Arsenal.

Now, if you really read between the lines and looked at what the press and the media were REALLY saying, it was that they had earmarked this fixture as the one where Arsenal's bubble was finally going to burst and where we would finally be exposed as being no more than a bunch of lucky upstarts who were really in a false position in the league.

Whilst I was aware of the thinking amongst the press and the media going into Sunday's game, it didn't shake my belief for one minute. I knew that we really had nothing to lose going into the game because I knew, even allowing for the worst case scenario, we would still be in a decent position in the league and more than that, a position that nobody outside of Arsenal Football club would have visualised us being in at this or any other stage of the season.

I also believed that the only thing the Arsenal had to fear at Anfield was the fear of selling themselves short, not doing themselves justice and betraying all the qualities that took them to Anfield as league leaders in the first place. In the end, the Arsenal lads certainly didn't let themselves or us Gooners down on that - far from it in fact.

I have seen more experienced Arsenal sides with players of a generally higher repute go to Anfield and fold in the past but, even when confronted by the setback of conceding an early goal, Arsenal's class of 2007/08 never stopped playing and never backed down.

And even though we had to wait until ten minutes from time before we finally gained parity in the game it was no more than we deserved. We could have even won it of course late on when Bendtner failed to convert when Fabregas' shot cannoned back off the upright.

Even though we maybe should have won in the end, it must be said that Liverpool also had a few chances and a draw was a fair result in the end. All the same, I will always be proud of the way we went to Anfield and forced Liverpool to play largely on the back foot for most of the game. Not many teams have been able to do that over the years and very few will do that in the coming seasons either.

Moving on to Wednesday's Carling Cup tie at Bramall Lane, I was genuinely surprised at the comfortable manner in which we won the game.

I knew that quite a few things had changed since we met the Blades in the Premier League on that fateful evening last December but I still expected the name of their game to be the same as it was then.

In reality, despite the fact that it was a cold, crisp night up North, the atmosphere at Bramall Lane wasn't anywhere near as hot as it was for that league game and Arsenal made fairly short work of a somewhat downbeat Sheffield United side.

Getting an early goal helped Arsenal's cause no end on the night it must be said and it was encouraging, certainly in the long term to see Bendtner and Eduardo link up so well. Bendtner's pass to find Eduardo for the first goal was astute and the Croatians finish was ruthless as it was spectacular.

There's no doubt my mind that both Eduardo and Bendtner will have a big part it play in Arsenal's fortunes over the course of the season. But whilst may be both fully fledged internationals, I think both players are very much in the same bracket as Walcott in terms of their progression. They will need time to fully develop but as is the case with Walcott, the signs are promising - very promising.

I was also impressed with young Diarra once again. There were times when he did over indulge whilst in possession but there is no doubt that he looks right at home in an Arsenal shirt, whether he plays at right back or in central midfield as was the case on Wednesday.

But I do have to give a mention for Gilberto. It has not been the easiest of times for the Brazilian at the club of late. I thought the way he was treated over the captaincy issue was particularly scandalous and I thought that he deserved to be at the very least vice-captain this season (to Kolo).

I would readily admit that Bertie hasn't always been a favourite of mine in the past but I have never been able to dispute his commitment to the Arsenal cause and like so many times before he was outstanding on Wednesday.

I hope that he does stay at the club at least until the end of this season. The idea of one of our modern day warriors leaving the club in January and missing out on what potentially could be a glorious season for Arsenal just would not feel right to me. I don't really know what is going on behind the scenes but the air needs to be cleared properly once and for all. I think the club owe Gilberto that much at least.

Now it's time to look forward to Saturday lunchtime and our meeting with you know who.

I'm not going to beat around the bush too much here because for me, Arsenal are very much in the same situation going into this game as they were last week at Anfield.

I don't give a toss really about whether we are a bigger club than them or the widely held claim that ManUre have the better players, the better squad, the better stadium or even better loo paper in their toilets.

Arsenal have nothing to lose once again going into this fixture. Regardless of what we have done this season, ManUre are the ones who are still widely perceived to be the be all and end all in the Premier League if not Europe and they are the ones with credentials that are beyond any question. Where were we at the start of the season?

If there is as big a gulf in class or personnel between us and ManUre as most people think, then the onus is surely on them to come to The Grove and show it to the whole nation.

Do I believe that there is a gulf between us and them? Of course I don't. We may have finished miles behind them in the league but in beating them home and away in the league last term, we showed that we didn't lack ability, we just lacked consistency.

I think The Arsenal can go into this fixture with nothing to fear once again other than the fear of selling themselves short and I think that we should go into this fixture with incentive not trepidation.

Because in my view, this season is all about settling scores one by one for Arsenal Football Club. ManUre may be the reigning champions and in many peoples eyes champions elect once again but if Arsenal are to achieve their ultimate goal this season, they have to make them a victim out of them in the process.

That opportunity stands in front of Arsenal right now.