By Josh Reich
Arsenal and Manchester United will be out to make amends after a weekend of damaging results when they meet at The Emirates in the Premier League on Wednesday night.
Arsenal lost top spot in the league after a 5-1 humiliation by a rampant Liverpool at Anfield, with their previously much-praised defence being torn to shreds as they conceded four goals in the first 20 minutes.
Manager Arsene Wenger called the performance “feeble”, and will be hopeful the defeat won’t signal the end of Arsenal’s title hopes as they face a run of matches taking in United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton by early March.
Defender Per Mertesacker admitted the loss was a major setback, but called on Arsenal to summon the spirit they showed after December’s 6-3 loss to Manchester City, when they went on to win six of their next eight matches.
“We feel very bad at the moment, disappointed with our performance right from the start,” the German told the club website (www.arsenal.com).
“It was just not good enough to compete at that level. Liverpool seemed full of confidence. At the start we were eight points clear of Liverpool so we should have been more confident and more aware of the situation but that wasn’t the case.
“We have the opportunity to respond quickly on Wednesday and we have to remind ourselves what we have done from Man City until now. That is at stake and to show that responsibility for ourselves and for the pride of our club.”
David Moyes admitted his first season at Old Trafford had hit a new low after United conceded an injury time goal to Darren Bent that salvaged a 2-2 draw for bottom club Fulham on Sunday, despite the hosts dominating possession and sending in a remarkable 81 crosses.
United are seventh, 15 points behind leaders Chelsea and nine off Liverpool in the final Champions League qualification spot, and are fast running out of time to salvage their season.
“We have to win all our games,” Moyes told the club website (www.manutd.com).
“You can ask me as many times as you like but I’ll keep saying that we have to win all our games. We should have won that one (against Fulham) and we needed to as well.
“We’ve just got to go into the next game. That’s what happens, you take the team on and you challenge them and we’ve got some good players here. I don’t think there’ll be many teams keen to take on Manchester United.”
Chelsea’s move to the top of the table has coincided with Eden Hazard’s purple patch, with the gifted Belgian scoring a hat-trick in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Newcastle United.
They travel on Tuesday night to face a West Bromwich Albion side fast being dragged into the relegation scrap, with their 3-1 loss to a revitalised Crystal Palace putting them in 18th place.
The Baggies face a daunting fixture list in the coming weeks, but manager Pepe Mel, yet to win in four matches since taking charge, was confident they would play their way out of trouble.
“This year the Premier League is extremely tight,” the Spaniard said.
“I knew we had Everton, Liverpool, Aston Villa and now we play Chelsea.
“We also have Manchester United and have to play in London against Arsenal, and play Manchester City at their stadium.
“The fixture list is quite tough but I’m no wimp and West Brom brought me here to keep them up – I am going to achieve it.”
Fifth-placed Spurs will be looking to remain in the hunt for a Champions League spot when they travel to Newcastle, without a win in three matches, on Wednesday, while Fulham are the next side in Liverpool’s sights after their five-star effort at Anfield.
Captain Steven Gerrard warned the result would count for little if they don’t produce against the west London side .
“We aren’t going to look back at the end of the season and think ‘How good were we against Arsenal?’ if we never got (into) the top four,” he said.
“We can enjoy this but we have got to move on quickly and try to get three points against Fulham.”
In Tuesday’s other matches, Cardiff host Aston Villa, Hull play Southampton and Norwich travel to West Ham, while on Wednesday, Everton will be seeking to bounce back from defeat at Spurs when they host Crystal Palace.
Manchester City, without a win in two matches, entertain Sunderland and Swansea travel to Stoke.