Smalling: we won’t emulate Invincibles

CHRIS SMALLING does not believe any side will emulate the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ and go through an entire Premier League season unbeaten.

After a third of the campaign, Manchester United are yet to lose.

However, they face arguably their biggest test so far at Old Trafford on Monday when they tackle a Gunners side who took advantage of the Red Devils’ inactivity last weekend to assume top spot. It is a remarkable achievement for a team that has already lost three times on home soil.

Yet it is that inconsistency, that has affected every team to varying degrees, which leaves Smalling to question whether anyone can avoid defeat for a sustained period.

“I am not sure we will ever see a team go through a whole season unbeaten again,” he said. “So many sides are losing matches unexpectedly now you would have to applaud any team who did do it. For us at the moment, it is just about continuing the momentum.

“We didn’t get into top gear during the first month of the season. Now it is time for us to kick on and send out a message because we are getting stronger as a team.”

Smalling realises he will face a fairly stiff examination if he is asked to come into the side on Monday.

“Nasri has definitely shown he is one of the best players in the Premier League,” said Smalling. “He is clearly a key man for Arsenal and someone we will have to watch out for. He is so comfortable on the ball and I admire him greatly but you cannot just single one player out from a side like theirs.”

Meanwhile Manchester United’s Premier League match at Blackpool, postponed last Saturday, has been rearranged for Tuesday, January 25.

Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs is expected to be sidelined for around three weeks with an ankle injury, manager Arsene Wenger says.

The 21-year-old left-back sustained only minor damage when he slipped during the first half of Wednesday’s 3-1 Champions League win over Partizan Belgrade.

“We have lost Kieran Gibbs from Wednesday night, but he should be the only one. We think he will be out for three weeks,” Wenger suggested. “I am very disappointed about it. I hope it will not put in his mind that he is an injured player. It was just an accident and you cannot do anything about it.

“Time will help him get over that and it is not major damage in his ankle.”

Wenger revealed a decision on the fitness of captain Cesc Fabregas, who has been sidelined with a hamstring problem, will be left as late as possible on Monday.

“We could have Cesc Fabregas back but there is a big uncertainty if he can be in the squad or not. That will be decided very late,” the Arsenal manager said.

Gael Clichy could return after missing the Partizan game through illness, while Johan Djourou’s thigh problem has responded well to rest and treatment.

Theo Walcott knows getting the better of Alex Ferguson’s men at Old Trafford will be no easy task, despite Arsenal’s impressive away form.

“United have not lost in the league yet, so hopefully we can be the first to do that,” he said.

“Manchester United are not playing the best, but these are the games where they will step up. Yet if they are not playing well and still are second in the league, then we don’t want to catch them on a good day.

“But we have just got to go there and play with no fear, express ourselves and then the best performance will come out.

“We need to get something there and the way we are playing away from home, we can beat anyone.”

nArsenal have reportedly suffered a blow after Brazilian sensation Wellington Silva — bought by Arsenal for £3.5m — was turned down yesterday for a British work permit.

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