Good afternoon, Gooners! In a couple of hours from now, Arsenal play Manchester City in what is now being called one of the most important games for the North London Club.
Monday night will see the premier league’s two favourite contenders go play each other at the Emirates Stadium. While unexpected table toppers Leicester City momentarily stay 5 points clear off second-placed Arsenal, a victory for the Gunners will see them move closer to the foxes as well as be 4 points ahead of Manchester City, whose third place in the table is not going to be affected upon a defeat.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side go into this game with 32 points so far, having won 10, drawn 2 and lost 4 of the 16 games that they have played this season. Arsenal, have won 10, lost 3 and drawn 3 having played the same number of games.
Match facts and stats: While Arsenal have lost only one home game against the city in their last 18 meetings, they have won only once in their last 6 and drawn 4 times. Manchester City, have lost a total of 22 times to Arsenal, a joint record for most number of defeats against one team in the premier league (along with Chelsea). Manchester City have not won their last 4 away games and have failed to score in their last 3.
Manchester City are likely to welcome back first choice striker Sergio Aguero, who has recently had a heel problem. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez is expected to be back in the lineup, though several reports , as well as Arsene Wenger’s press conference, have been suggestive of the possibility that this game may be a little to soon for the Chilean to find himself in the starting 11. With this backdrop, Joel Campbell could be expected to retain his place on the wing. Manchester City go into this game without skipper Vincent Kompany, while Arsenal’s injury list is, not surprisingly, longer for this one. Long-term absentees Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck remain on the sidelines while first choice midfielders Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin are both ruled out with long-term injury. Club captain Mikel Arteta is apparently back in the squad, but there is little doubt that he will feature only on the sidelines warming up.
Possible strategies and game play: Arsenal will attempt at playing at a high pace from the first whistle, for Manchester City too have several fast players offensively. Given that Eliquim Mangala’s lack of speed and Nicolas Otamendi’s unfamiliarity with Arsenal’s build-up in and around the box, the citizen’s will try to avoid maintaining a high back line, and will look to build up play from the back. In midfield, Arsenal can expect their opponents to press them, and so it can be said that Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey will have to stay in decent proximity to one another. Additionally, given the significance of what happens in the middle of the park to this game, they will both play a key role in creating things on the offensive; on counters as well as in the final third from open play. While Olivier Giroud has been in fine form, given that Wenger will want to play a more counter attacking team it wouldn’t come off as a surprise if Theo Walcott starts in this game upfront. Overall, one can expect a game played at a high pace, intense midfield duels, and undoubtedly, quick and crafty counter attacks.
Predicted Line ups:
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Campbell, Chamberlain, Walcott
Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Giroud, Gabriel, Chambers, Iwobi, Sanchez, Arteta
Injured: Santi Cazorla (Knee) Francis Coquelin (Knee Ligament) Jack Wilshere(Ankle) Danny Welbeck, Tomas Rosicky (both knee)
Doubt: Arteta (Calf) Sanchez (Hamstring)
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Mangala, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Aguero
Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Demichelis, Navas, Roberts, Bony, Zuculini, Delph
Injured: Vincent Kompany (Calf) Fernando (Hamstring) Samir Nasri (Hamstring) P Zabaleta (Knee)