After having gone for 14 weeks without the bitter taste of defeat Arsenal fell unceremoniously to a desperate Everton team at Goodison Park during the week.
Now the North London club face a tricky tie against an unpredictable Manchester city side with no delusion of the game’s importance. A win at Etihad will have both physiological and point benefits to an Arsenal team, who have been having a tough time beating the top teams over the past decade.
Whilst Manchester City have hardly lived up to the hype they remain a dangerous team , especially at home. Their 2-0 win over Watford was not only far from convincing, it was costly too. Their rising star Gundogan limped off injured, adding to citys injury and suspension woes. Fernando is out injured and Aguero is under suspension.
Arsenal has a real chance of going to the Etihad and win it. Manchester city’s backline, especially missing Fernandino’s cover looks vulnerable. John Stones has had a forgettable debut season at city where he has made a variety of school boy mistakes.
Sagna and Clichy, Arsenal’s old boys are not exactly rocks of Gibraltar. They can bomb forward but provide a rickety defence line. The notoriously error predisposed Bravo does little to bring confidence to that back line. This is where Theo Walcot’s pace, Ozil’s creativity and Sanchez’s swashbuckling qualities need to win the day for Arsenal.
On the other side of the field, De bryne, Nolito, Sterling and the ageing but highly talented Yaya Toure will need close marshaling. Gabriel can turn out to be a fine defender but he is no Mustafi. Mustafi reads the game better and is able to see danger before it becomes a goal.
Koshelny’s leadership will be called upon to organise the defense. For all the great work Koshelny does, he is too reserved for my liking. Mustafi seems to be a better organiser and can be seen shouting orders during many a game.
Arsenal will need to play a compact 4-2-3-1. Xhaka and Coquelin must not be sucked by ball action and leave empty spaces which City will gladly exploit. Positional ill discipline has let Arsenal down many a time in the past.
The tactical battle between the managers may very well determine where the game is won.
How does the gaffer approach this particular match?
Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel Paulista, Nacho Monriel, Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka, Theo Walcott, Mezut Ozil , Alex O. Chamberlain, Alex Sanchez
Bravo, Sagna, Clichy, Otamendi, Stones, Fernando, De bryne, Toure, Nolito, Iheanacho , Sterling
That said, I wish the boys good hunting tomorrow. Chelsea are galloping full steam ahead and the gunners can ill afford to lose any more ground. These are the sort of games that define true champions.
I have a niggling feeling someone will rise from the bench to score a memorable winner.
Until next time folks…