Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and Arsenal bloggers have their say on the game.
Arsenal hosted Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday and our Talking Heads for this game were studio guest Stephen Hughes, Avenell Dave from Arsenal Addict and Goodplaya.
STEPHEN HUGHES, STUDIO GUEST
I thought we started the game very brightly and were excellent for the first 30 minutes. They came into the game as the half wore on and to concede just before half-time was a bit of a blow. I think a draw was a fair result in the end.
The performance was better than the one against Fulham last weekend. The two centre halves were excellent. There were some good individual performances but we ran out of steam a bit in the final third. We didn't have enough to break them down in the end.
I think if we win our last three games, we will make it. It's going to go to the wire though I think.
With the fight for a top-four place looking like it's going to the wire there's no underestimating how big this home game against the newly-crowned champions will be for us. I think it's a game we can win.
There's going to be a lot of talk about Robin van Persie in the build-up to the game but from a players' perspective, it's important to take that out of it and just ensure you are focused on the game. We've got a decent home record so we have nothing to fear. It's a self-motivating game with it being against Manchester United and there is a lot to play for too. It's important the team don't lose sight of that.
The defensive improvement has coincided with the recent run of good form. I think a lot of the improvement stems from Bayern Munich away - we were in a sticky bit of form and had just lost to Tottenham.
We've got a few options with Olivier Giroud out. I feel for him to be honest. I didn't think there was any malice in the challenge. The Club appealed but unfortunately he's going to miss three big games now. Lukas Podolski could start there and so could Theo Walcott. It will be very interesting to see who the boss picks.
I think it's going to be a very close game but I think we'll edge it 2-1.
AVENELL DAVE, ARSENAL ADDICT
Arsenal's record against the other sides in the top five has been pretty atrocious this season. The gang who I go with wore lucky tops, lucky scarves and followed every positive pre-match ritual to try to turn the tide. So when Theo Walcott scored early on, we all dreamt that the United hangover was going to endure but the truth is, the visitors always looked more composed, more organised and, as the game went on, more threatening.
It was another awful goal for us to give away. Sagna had a nightmare and let's hope it was just a blip. We lacked a cutting edge, though I do wonder what might have happened if Ramsey had played in Theo again on the right when in acres of space midway through the first half. He passed left and we didn't score. A two-goal margin may have been enough.
So now the top four is out of our hands. I'm sure there are more twists and turns but right now, my optimism is waning.
When the fixture list came out, you would have had to be a massive optimist to think that Sunday’s game between two of England’s giants would be a title decider.
As the season developed, I told my fellow Gooners that I really hoped the title race was over by the time Manchester United came to our place. My reasoning was that they would be in celebratory mood, perhaps less determined than usual and so it would give us more of a chance in what has inevitably become another very tight race for the top four. Of course the prospect of them winning the title at our place was also something I really wanted to avoid, particularly the possibility of a certain Dutchman celebrating his first medal in new colours.
Now that United have won the title, talk focuses on the guard of honour and who will play up front for us.
I hate seeing anyone but Arsenal win anything. I enjoy the fierce rivalry with the likes of United which has been lost in recent years, and enough has happened not for me to ever want to see our North West rivals do well. When the whistle goes, I’ll be shouting and screaming to support our boys, but for 30 seconds, showing a bit of respect to a team who have won the title fairly and squarely seems the right thing to do. The Arsenal way. And, frankly, the way United gave us a guard of honour when relations were far more strained underlines the fact that this is sport. Winner takes all, battle to the end, but respect the eventual victors. Even if only for half a minute.
As far as strikers are concerned, while it would be great to have Olivier Giroud available, we have started many games without him and won, and I’m sure we’ll find a solution. I suspect Arsène Wenger will go with Gervinho up front, especially if Lukas Podolski is not fully fit and to retain the potential potency of Theo Walcott out wide. We simply cannot afford to lose.
As an aside, it’s 50 years almost to the day since one of my closest Arsenal friends, Jonathan Morrish, watched his first Arsenal match against Blackpool. Jon Sammels scored and his wit and wisdom have engaged and entertained a generation of young fans. Let’s hope it’s a day to celebrate for Jonathan and the rest of us.
You know how big an occasion the Emirates is hosting by the extent to which the constant standing that is most prevalent behind our 'second half' goal sweeps round past the singing section towards the dugouts. Ordinarily, in our seats down by the corner flag you’d expect to spend the entirety of Arsenal v United on your feet. But not on Sunday. I’ve never spent so much time seated for an Arsenal v United game. It wasn’t a conscious choice on my part - it was what we were all doing. It was disconcerting - a hefty something sapped from what is ordinarily such a fine occasion by the fact that for United the result mattered little. It was a strange, discomforting feeling, though arguably still better than them winning it on our turf, which would have just been hideous.
Of course in the best of all possible worlds they’d have come needing something from the game and left still needing something. But on the evidence of what we did see, I’m not sure I’d have fancied us greatly against a United side with something to play for. We started well enough - our goal beautifully worked, albeit offside. It may seem churlish to criticise a successful finish, but to those saying Walcott took it well, I’d kindly suggest that anything less well placed would have frankly constituted a pretty poor effort. After the break they probably looked most dangerous but we were game enough and fashioned a couple of openings ourselves. A draw was fair - it was one of those games where if either side had got a winner you’d have said they merited it but neither did.
The unimaginably horrific thing would have been United winning it at our place. Those high-pitched squeals at the final whistle etched forever in the memory, our hallowed carpet of a pitch forever a little soiled. As it is, we have a guard of honour - a moment which for our players is a little embarrassing, for the fans easily ignored. Yes, we welcome them as champions, but we got over that a long time ago. What matters is that in years to come, we won't have to explain to our little ones why the United fans sing "We won the league at Arsenal". Because they didn't. And for that, we should at least be grateful to Robin van Persie.
It is funny, because I thought this game would be meaningless for us and important for them but in fact the opposite is true. Spurs' late equaliser at Wigan may feel like a point gained but in the cold light of day it is two dropped. But this is still a must win for us - failure to do so and a Spurs victory over Chelsea would consign us to 5th if all other games are won.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 28 Apr 2013