Facing a striker as complete as the Dutchman, Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen would have hoped to have kept his predecessor as captain out of the game for as long possible. He lasted just three minutes into the game when he did this…
By March 2013, the Belgian centre-back was dropped by manager Arsene Wenger after a string of slip-ups and individual errors that had cost Arsenal dear. They went out to the Allianz Arena where they beat Bayern Munich 2-0 but exited the Champions League all the same.
The pairing that evening of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny emerged to become one of the most formidable defensive partnerships in the league – they both played a crucial role in the Gunners’ 10-game unbeaten run at the end of the season that saw them clinch a Champions League spot ahead of North London rivals Tottenham on the last day of the season.
This term, things are more than a little different – Arsenal sit top of the table, five points clear of Chelsea in second and travel to a Manchester United who sit in 8th after a difficult and disappointing start to the season under new boss David Moyes.
Van Persie still poses the greatest threat to Arsenal on Sunday, along with Wayne Rooney and youngster Adnan Januzaj but the Gunners have some attacking threat of their own in Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, and Mesut Ozil.
What has changed is Arsenal’s defensive steel – the Gunners have conceded just 9 goals this season in the Premier League, keeping three clean sheets in ten games played.
Goalkeeper Wojceich Szczesny has been in fine form and he’ll be hoping his backline protect him better this time at Old Trafford than they did last time around. In all likelihood, Thomas Vermaelen’s mistake against his former friend and colleague was the first nail in the coffin of his Arsenal career – so far this term he has made not one start in the Premier League.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald