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Arsenal v Manchester City: the preview (well what else would it be?)

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By Phil Gregory

Birmingham away was a great win against a side who’ve caused us trouble over the last few years, and most of the Premier League various difficulties in taking three points since their latest promotion.  The stats were certainly interesting reading, our three nil beating of them being only their second home defeat in thirty home games, or something like that. Manchester United having suffered a last-gasp draw against them didn’t hurt, either.

That’s all in the past now, and it’s an in-form City side that come to the Emirates.  Slightly benefiting by the postponements  affecting the teams around them, City have climbed near to the summit of the table and announced themselves as title contenders. In a taxi back home for part of my journey from the Wigan game, I ended up chatting about football with the taxi driver, who was a big City fan. A nice bloke, but he did fit the “massives” stereotype. He told me about their grandiose plans to expand the stadium, to which I commented they haven’t been having sell-outs just yet, and indeed don’t even own their own ground. He did mention the side would go from strength to strength as they gelled as a team, which is a fair point, but he didn’t really believe that the, shall we say, disparate personalities within their squad would cause issues. Lo and behold, since writing that sentence, Toure and Adebayor had to be separated by six people during training. Great scenes.

As of today, they’ve announced that a fee has been agreed with Steve McClaren’s Edin Dzeko. Given their lack of a wage structure, I can’t see there being too many issues in regards to personal terms, so that transfer is surely pretty much tied up now.

Balotelli and Silva are too big absentees for City for this game. While the former was unlikely to start if Tevez was available, the latter has been City’s Player of the Month for October and November and has certainly made himself an integral part of the City team. After an iffy New Years Day performance you might question whether Tevez will start for them, but just a glance at his  goalscoring record suggests it is a mistake to leave the Argentine on the bench. Looking at their recent line-ups and injuries, I’m expecting the following team from City:

Hart

Boateng Kompany Lescott Kolarov

De Jong Barry

Toure

Johnson Tevez Milner

For the Arsenal, we’ve got Almunia and Diaby out, while Gibbs is back in full training. Given the lack of space on the bench he’s unlikely to be involved on Wednesday night but he offers an option for rotation in the coming weeks.

Fabianski

Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy

Song Wilshere

Cesc

Theo Van Persie Nasri

Fabianksi continues in goal, while a back four that, in the general opinion, is probably our first choice returns after Djourou was rested against Wigan. Song and Wilshere return to shield the back four, with an increasingly influential Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield.

A slight change in the first-choice eleven sees Nasri playing on the left in recent times, with Walcott  replacing him on the right. Van Persie continues up front, leaving Arshavin benched

We’ll likely see the same sort of system as we saw against Chelsea, which  would be tactically spot on. Looking in particular at that City midfield, it’s built primarily around solidity and whilst players such as Barry and Toure are not incompetent with the ball at their feet, heavy pressing may force them into losing possession.

Moreover, heavy pressing will block off that long, forward pass as an option and so we won’t be worrying about Tevez getting in behind the back four as much. Such an option will force them to go wide, and will result in the both Milner and Johnson getting the ball to feet. I’d back both Clichy and Sagna to be able to deal with whatever tricks the City pair can throw at them.

In fact, in terms of their forward line, bar Tevez I’m not particularly convinced by them. Both Milner and Johnson are good players but when labels such as world class are applied to them, it is simply a case of the English hype machine, in my eyes at least. If Johnson or Milner were Spanish, they’ve be concerned good Premier League players as opposed to world class, potential saviours of the English national side.

Set pieces could be a concern. Besides the obvious big players amongst their centrebacks, Boateng is not small, while all their midfielders are potent in the air. Djourou is a certain starter if Wenger doesn’t think it represents a fitness gamble.

We’re getting into the part of the season where three points is more important than ever. A draw wouldn’t necessarily be a bad result but can we afford (psychologically) to potentially slip seven points behind United at this stage? I think not. A win is a must, and you generally expect to win at home against a side who you beat 3-0 away. City will be eager to put that result behind them, but I can’t see them getting much joy at the Emirates.

2-1 to the Arsenal for me. It certainly won’t be an easy game, but with the concerns around City’s team spirit the most important thing for me is to take a lead and make them get frustrated. City have scored a lot of early goals recently, so we need to be switched on from the off avoid giving them a lead to defend.

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18 comments to Arsenal v Manchester City: the preview (well what else would it be?)

  • flake

    as long as Denilson dosn’t play we can beat this mob

  • swikrath

    Nice one Phil, you see no chance for Arshavin for this game? Also Chamakh might be back considering he has had a few days off and LE Prof might be wary of playing RvP twice so early. So i reckon the team ll have Chamakh for RvP and Arshavin over Theo and Nasri back on the right.I am guessing most of city’s attack ll come through the middle os if we can get it right there the game should be ours and lack of quick wingers on their side is why i think the lil Russian ll play today.

  • we are confidence we can beat them…….

    if we apply same tactics we did against chavs…..heavy pressing and maintaining possession …then i don see them stopping us

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Absolutely agree with your team Mr Gregory. Wilshere will have a key job helping Clichy to keep Johnson quiet (if he switches wings, Song likewise). He’s young, he’s fit and he can put himself about so he’s well capable.

    Walcott should have a go at Kolarov if he’s the left back. He’s not that quick…..

    I’m not sure whether Lescott will play instead of Toure, but if he does, test his pace out. He’s an honest pro, but he’s not world class. Probe that…….

    That’s a big Man City side, particularly at the back. Are they capable of turning rapidly? Because Arsenal have small maestros with great acceleration……….potential for penalties, I reckon…….

    Arsenal will really need to be on their game tonight, but if they are, I reckon they can and will win.

    Strangely, this is a game Arsenal don’t want to lose and City need to win. I wouldn’t call it a must-win for Arsenal, but a win would have a hell of a momentum boost going into a run of fixtures we can win. So I hope the Arsenal team see the huge value of a win rather than a draw……..

    Hopefully the lights will turn the after-burners on in the Arsenal hearts like last Monday. Then there will be a similar atmosphere at the ground.

    Which was electric…….

  • DW

    I stick with the same sqaud we played against the Brums, RVP should be fine and Arshavin’s lack of work rate makes him a liability in Games like these. We can afford to play him in games against wigan( even then he was furstrating to watch, yes he scored a great goal but I think the team has to press high and hard against these lot). The game against leeds will leave more room for experements.

  • Dark Prince

    Any chance that nasri, arshavin, cesc, walcot n van persie are all used?? I’d rather hav an attackin 4-3-3 combo with arshavin, van persie n walcot in attackers followed by cesc, nasri and song in midfield….wilshere shud get some rest and should be used in fa cup in 3 days. But i doubt that’ll happen 😛 i can see chamakh replacin van persie and arshavin replacin walcot. Also i hope Wenger doesn’t start with Denilson and Song together. Its always a disaster to play them together. Also Djourou has to start bcoz the squillaci and koscielny partnership is also a disaster.

  • Evil

    @flake & Dark Prince
    But Denilson played (With Song) in the away fixture.

  • Tenza

    I am not bathered about things that are ovious. Ofcourse not only Wenger bt even the players, No one can afford to make silly mistakes. We are winning, But referees should stop fevouring Man U, we want a leveled ground & see who w’l be at the top come may 22.

  • Cosmojon

    Anyone know what Fabregas is talking about? …new player…

  • swikrath

    @ Cosmojon: i am guessing he is referring to Ramsey coming back from loan 🙂

  • Cosmojon

    Aaaahh… Cheers swikrath

  • IndianGooner

    swikanth & Cosmojon,

    There is a rumour runnning on the web that Song has a new weird haircut..

  • Jonny

    Good stuff Phil.

    I have to say I never liked this ubiquitous but woolly term – ‘world class’. The fact is that Johnson is a very tricky customer and one of the best players in the premiership. Milner, I would agree, is a tad over-hyped but I have never heard anyone claim him as ‘world-class’ anyway. He’s a solid player, whose style I think suits the cut and thrust of the premiership – so long as he has some flair to accompany him.

    As for the team – the selection tonight will be interesting – the dilemma most likely falling on whether to start Walcott or Arshavin. If he starts Walcott this perhaps represents a shift towards us seeing a clear idea of Arsene’s favoured starting 11 for the big games. If he selects Arshavin it could be indicitave that Wenger felt Arshavin needed the jolt of being dropped to the bench in order to remind of the competition and his need to show more hunger.

    Complete supposition on my part of course, but I did wonder at the time if that was part of the reason he dropped him from the starting 11 for the Chelsea game.

    I don’t mind which way he runs with it between the 2 players but if Arshavin isn’t at the races I only hope he doesn’t wait too long to introduce Walcott to the fray. He deserves at least 30 mins to run them ragged at the end – these 75 min substitutions sometimes leave me a little vexxed.

  • ak47

    i second that, never fully understood subs at 75-80mins when the game is in the balance, yes fatigue could play a part but thats not a good enough reason in my eyes.
    like ive said before tho, im not a coach.:-s
    if we turn up tonight we’ll win if the ref is good, on paper i think were slightly stronger. not only man 4 man but the system we play will always be a bonus. id say-4-1 to us
    given the home crowd are noisy and we get the first goal. i think rvp wil remember the missed chances recently and give a lil extra. i hope anyway! enjoy the game lads

  • colombo

    The new player Cesc is refering to is, actually song but with a new hair cut

  • DC

    Good stuff Phil and I think that’ll be the side Le Prof will select too!
    I think that the off-the-ball pressing and the defensive cover that Samir and Theo have afforded the fullbacks has been key and Samir is far superior that Arshavin’s non existent shifts! Additionally, Song and Wilshere’s defensive midfield play has improved significantly wrt monitoring the gap in front of the central defenders – far superior protection now exists centrally! I don’t see the Sheik’s mercenaries creating much without Silva and if Samir and Theo play as they did against The KGB, the Sheik’s wide men wil be forced to sit back! At least 3-0 or 3-1 to Arsene’s A-Team if they remain ruthless (possible Citeh consolation from yet another set-piece I’m afraid!)!

  • DC

    All predictions of a victory are assuming that we have a ref that’s fair and isn’t a cronie of Ferguson of course!!!

  • DC

    But then again, why would Old Red Nose want to do his “noisy neighbours” a favour?!