Arsenal Vs Manchester City PREVIEW: Title Clash Under the Lights

The date is December 21, 2015, the time is 8:00 PM GMT, the location is the Emirates Stadium, and the occasion is the clash between the two title favorites. Boy, am I glad that we are involved in a title clash this year after having never gone close to challenging for the top spot last season. It’s a cliché but this is one of those games that could really prove crucial if we win but also one that we cannot afford to lose.

We’re facing Man City- the bookies’ pre-season pick to win the league. It is fair to say that both teams have had many reasons for regret and concern this season. Man City have already had a few forgettable performances already- namely away performances at Tottenham and Stoke and home to Liverpool. They also are not playing well currently; they’ve won only 3 out of their last 7, and all those wins in that run have seen either last minute goals scored by them and/or overall unconvincing performances. It is also not an exaggeration when I say that they have conceded in every game this season in all competitions that their captain Kompany has not played. In the 14 matches that he’s not featured, City has conceded 23 goals, which means a relatively high 1.64 goals conceded per game.

For us, the injuries to key players have been a concern (almost every season at one point or another), and we’ve had a regrettable November in which we’ve failed to win a league game and dropped a whopping 7 points against teams we should really be beating. Both us and City should have accumulated more points than what we currently have, but we are where we are- chasing Leicester and sitting 5 and 6 points behind them respectively after their win at Everton on Saturday. Even though we have a pretty good record against City at home (11W-6D-1L against City at home in EPL), the two teams have been inseparable in the league recently (3 draws and 2 wins a piece in the last 7).

Alexis Sanchez took part in training on Sunday

Alexis Sanchez took part in training on Sunday

Now, to the team news. I had hoped Sanchez would be fit to make the squad for this game. From looking at the team training pictures on the club’s website, it seems that he did take part in training to some extent. It would give the team a huge lift if he even makes the bench.  Assuming he won’t start, the team basically picks itself.

Cech

Bellerin—-Kos—-Mert—-Monreal

Ramsey—-Flamini

Walcott—-Ozil—-Campbell

Giroud

The only real question was if Oxlade would come in to replace either Walcott or Campbell, but I don’t think he will since Walcott offers a lot more than he can offensively and Campbell seemed to have found some form after having a run of games in the team. No returning players so we’ll once again have the kind of bench that will prove really useful if we’re in a position to defend any sort of lead.

For City, Kompany seems like he’ll miss out- news is that he has returned to light training but not done full training with the squad. On the other hand, Aguero has rejoined the team in training earlier this week and will definitely be in the squad for City. This is how I think City will line up:

Hart

Sagna—-Otamendi—-Mangala—-Kolarov

Fernandinho—-Yaya

Navas—-Silva—-Sterling

Bony

It seems like Demichelis has fallen out of favor since his labored performance against Stoke so Mangala will probably keep his place in center back. Even though Pellegrini likes having two holding midfielders lately, Fernando’s absence probably means Yaya Toure keeps playing in central midfield. The City Manager also likes picking Navas on the right side when playing away to Arsenal for counter attacks so I think he’ll start, which means only one of Silva or De Bruyne will start. I think Silva will, since he’s played in big games before many times. Since Aguero just returned to training this week, Bony looks likelier to start but I won’t be surprised if Aguero took his place just because of the magnitude of this game.

We definitely have a better and more solid back five in terms of quality and stats. Aguero (if he starts) gives them a slight edge in attack, and also their bench is stronger due to the squad depth of City. I think the game will be decided in the midfield due to both teams not having the preferred midfield two to call upon. We definitely would have Coq and Cazorla starting if they were fit and Pellegrini probably would play Fernando alongside Fernandinho too if he could. Ramsey’s willingness to drive forward and Yaya Toure’s defensive lethargy that he is sometimes guilty of could make this a really open game. I can’t stress how important Flamini is going to be for us this game. He needs to have the discipline that he showed against Villa and also offer the back four as much protection as possible from Silva, Yaya and Aguero etc. Considering this is our home game, we’ll need to take the initiative in attacking and City will sit back and hit us on the counter like how they’ve set up the last few times they visited the Emirates and how they got their first goal in this fixture last season.

Aaron Ramsey & Yaya Toure will be part of the battle for midfield supremacy

Aaron Ramsey & Yaya Toure will be part of the battle for midfield supremacy

Our current team have had some pretty big scalps this year- away at City, twice against United, thrashed Liverpool, got our first win against Chelsea in a million years, and ground out a 2-0 against Bayern. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that we’re not a naïve team anymore that struggle against big teams and that we definitely have what it takes to go up against the best and handle the big game pressure. Thierry Henry said on Sky a couple weeks ago that he’s getting frustrated by the fact that none of the big teams have really taken the league by the scruff of the neck and asserted their authority on the other teams yet. To an extent, I agree with him. This game could be our opportunity to do just that. We can make the most resounding of statements by beating our closest challengers and the team that everyone has picked to be the Champions this season.

 

 

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