Paul Parker

Fabregas can lead Gunners charge

Paul Parker

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MATCH OF THE WEEKEND: Arsenal v Burnley

My comments on Monday about Arsene Wenger's reaction to Aaron Ramsey's injury provoked a very strong response from Arsenal fans. Perhaps I would have been better off saying that Ryan Shawcross should be hung, drawn and quartered.

I was in no way trying to trivialise what is a very serious injury for a young player. I have nothing but sympathy for Ramsey and his team-mates. I was just stating my belief that the criticism aimed at Shawcross, and especially Wenger's post-match comments, was not helpful.

Arsenal's first match since that unfortunate incident sees them welcome Burnley to the Emirates. With Chelsea playing in the FA Cup this weekend, the Gunners have a great chance to draw level with the league leaders.

Burnley's form away from home is pretty shambolic, having only picked up one point on their travels all season, but one of the reasons that this title race is so open is because the big clubs have all dropped points to the struggling sides at some point or other.

However, if captain Cesc Fabregas can again inspire his team, as he did so effectively after losing Ramsey at Stoke, then Arsenal could well turn on the style and strengthen their claim on the title with an emphatic win.

UPSET OF THE WEEKEND: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United

After announcing that Michael Owen will miss the rest of the season, Alex Ferguson also revealed that Wayne Rooney is a major doubt for the trip to Molineux.

Given the form the England striker has been in of late, losing him can't be seen as anything other than a huge blow.

That was certainly evident in the impact he had on the Carling Cup final, after replacing Owen just before half-time and going on to score the winner.

The fact that an out-of-form Dimitar Berbatov is United's only senior striker in the squad will give Wolves a real lift. They don't even have Ryan Giggs to call upon to do a job up front for them.

Mick McCarthy may have essentially waved the white flag when he fielded a reserve side at Old Trafford earlier in the season, but playing a depleted United at home will be a different story, especially when the champions will have half an eye on Wednesday's match against Milan.

If the Molineux crowd can replicate the atmosphere of Turf Moor, where United lost early on in the season, then they have a shout at causing an upset and give the title race yet another twist.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Fernando Torres

Torres is back and looks fighting fit after scoring last week on his first start in the league for two months. All of a sudden, the pretenders for fourth spot are looking over their shoulders at Liverpool.

When Torres plays, he scores goals. He doesn't need anyone else to help him find the back of the net. Dirk Kuyt needs the supply, and Steven Gerrard has plenty of other responsibilities in the team, but Torres can get you a goal out of nothing.

This may not be a vintage Liverpool side, but when Torres and Gerrard combine well that's usually enough to win matches.

They have had a poor season by their standards, but yet here they are, one point behind Spurs and suddenly with one of the best strikers in the world back in their side.

Their experience of season after season in the top four, and going so close to winning the title last year, means it is highly likely that the top four will remain unbroken once more.


Phil Brown is a man who is feeling the pressure from above, now that his team are back in the bottom three. After the recent change of ownership - or resumption of the old ownership, to be precise - he has a point to prove.

He must show that he is the man to lead them to survival or, if they do go down, that at least he is the man to bring them straight back up again.

Obviously it is highly unlikely that any club would change their manager at this late stage, but there will inevitably be a taking of stock in the summer, and Brown has a lot of work to do to ensure that he is part of the club's future.

Another final-day escape act may not be enough to keep him in the KC dugout come August.

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