By Phil Gregory
Arsenal host Manchester City on Sunday, in a match that has been billed as must-win for the visitors. Already trailing United with the games rapidly running out this season, City head into the match knowing that a win is a must if they are to keep their title dreams alive. For the Arsenal, Tottenham’s latest stumble in the league means Arsenal could afford to draw against City and still hold on to third spot going forward. A win would be ideal however, opening up a two point gap and with it, a little margin for error too.
A win against City would be very nice, but a note of caution must be sounded, given we are discussing a team who have put together a credible title challenge and sit thirteen points ahead of us. That said we’ve had the better of City in recent games, winning three nil at their place last season, playing well and only narrowly losing there this season and absolutely dominating them at the Emirates last year, albeit not managing to put the ball in the net. Not a clear cut case for Arsenal smashing City I’ll concede, but certainly things to look back on positively.
Recent performances also bode well for the Arsenal. While a storming run of consecutive wins were brought to an end by QPR, the form book would still back Arsenal, given City’s recent stumbles.
Abou Diaby won’t be involved, with a minor issue in training meaning he won’t be risked. Wilshere has a few friendlies lined up to build up match fitness, while the likes of Coquelin, Mertesacker and Frimpong are also out.
Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Gibbs
Walcott Van Persie Gervinho
Some Arsenal fans have been critical of Wenger’s recent experimentation, with Aaron Ramsey’s inclusion in the line-up on the left hand side in recent away games not the most popular. Such comments have missed the point for the most part, as Ramsey played deeper and narrower than say Gervinho would if included in the side. Indeed, the Welshman was almost like another central midfielder at times, likely to help us get a foothold of possession and strengthen us when the opposition have the ball. Ramsey’s left side plays deeper, Walcott plays higher up so it’s actually a wonky 442 really, baffling the opposition with Van Persie also dropping off. Tactical dinosaur Wenger? I’ll be having none of it.
A home game though will see more of a standard line-up, with two out and out attackers flanking Van Persie. The Van Persie one is a hard role to play: dropping off deep, getting involved in the play and then also getting on the end of chances too. I tried to replicate the style with my Sunday morning side that I coach, but my best centre forward is in the Zlatan mould, phenomenal touch and passing but doesn’t cover the ground to quite make the position to work. Kudos to Van Persie, the distance he covers in games often goes unnoticed.
Gibbs may be benched with the return of Santos. I’m not 100% convinced of Gibbs defensively but he has done well during his recent run so much will depend on how Wenger views the youngster versus a now-fit Santos.
Looking at the match I think we should be in for a good one, with City desperate for points and Arsenal always on the attack at home. Apparently City’s cause will be boosted by the return of Sergio Aguero after the Argentine had a nasty run in with an analgesic spray. A few ex-Gunners may be in the City line up for the return to the Emirates, with Clichy a regular fixture for City this season. Nasri’s been a bit more peripheral after struggling to impress so far this year… hopefully the Frenchman won’t decide to turn it on against his former club.
I’m actually pretty confident of a result on the whole. We’ve a relatively settled side, some good players throughout the eleven and are confident despite the recent QPR hiccup. That said football’s a peculiar game; I was confident of us running amok versus Liverpool’s overpriced and overrated England B team but in the end we ended up pinching a win so it may not go as we’d like. 2-0 to the Arsenal for me, with us bagging the second later on with City looking for some points out of the tie.