Manch­ester city vs arse­nal

Man City’s long in­jury list could work to Arse­nal’s ad­van­tage this Sun­day.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By RICHARD LIM

AF­TER go­ing down at the Bridge, Arse­nal have an­other chance to prove their ti­tle cre­den­tials in Sun­day’s topof-the-ta­ble clash with Manch­ester City.

The match of the week, Arse­nal’s jour­ney to the East­lands sees the Premier League’s sec­ond and third-placed teams go­ing headto-head and a testy af­fair is on the cards as both sides are in good form.

It must be noted that the con­test might not be one Arse­nal fans would rel­ish. The Gun­ners have an alarm­ing ten­dency of fal­ter­ing against their ma­jor league ri­vals and mem­o­ries of Didier Drogba tear­ing up Arse­nal’s back­line three weeks ago serve a grim re­minder.

In the same light, City could pass as an­other bo­gey team for Wenger’s boys. The Cit­i­zens have got­ten the bet­ter of the Gun­ners in re­cent meet­ings and an­other amaz­ing sum­mer spend­ing spree has bol­stered their ranks.

Sec­ond in the league – and three points ahead of Arse­nal – City will pass as Arse­nal’s sec­ond hur­dle of the sea­son. And if the Gun­ners failed to cope with their for­mer hero Greedy­bayor last year, they will find it hard against an im­proved City squad which fea­tures the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva. How­ever, the ob­sti­nate Wenger will not be too per­turbed by this and the French­man will fancy Arse­nal’s chances – re­gard­less of the odds – on Sun­day. In fact, one would think that beat­ing City – the world’s wealth­i­est foot­ball club by a mile – would be top of his wish list.

Af­ter all, Sun­day’s game does high­light a clash of philoso­phies. Wenger­nomics stip­u­lates that a club should buy mod­estly, nur­ture home­grown tal­ent and keep tabs on the academy of a cer­tain Span­ish club. In con­trast, the City way is to splash the cash. And when that doesn’t work, spend more!

Back to mat­ters on the pitch, Arse­nal re­cently turned the corner in their 2-1 win against Birm­ing­ham City – their first win in slightly over a month of BPL ac­tion. The scrappy na­ture of their win and Jack Wil­shire’s red card were sore points of the game but break­ing a dis­cour­ag­ing run of re­sults was the pri­or­ity.

And if that per­for­mance was more work­man­like than artis­tic, the Gun­ners showed that they were back in the groove when they saw off Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 in midweek Cham­pi­ons League ac­tion.

Pay­ing lit­tle heed to the Ukraini­ans’ sea­sonal statis­tics – a 100% win rate in Europe and 15 wins from the last 17 do­mes­tic games – Arse­nal ran riot as the re­turn of Cesc Fabre­gas gal­vanised the team. Form­ing a dy­namic part­ner­ship with Wil­shire, Fabre­gas was im­pe­ri­ous and the Ukraini­ans had no an­swer to the pair’s ir­re­sistible form.

Show­ing no post-in­jury con­cerns, Fabre­gas played a good 63 min­utes and even man­aged to score from the spot. With­drawn with Sun­day in mind, Fabre­gas will need to be at his best if Arse­nal are to steal the spoils against City and Wenger will be en­cour­aged by his skip­per’s re­turn to in­jury.

The in-form Samir Nasri who has scored two goals in three days is piv­otal for Arse­nal’s chances. Crit­i­cised in the past, Nasri is en­joy­ing a Florent Malouda-like re­nais­sance in the Premier League – mi­nus the tro­phies – and the French­man will be out to tor­ment the City de­fend­ers.

To­mas Rosicky, Nasri’s part­ner in crime on the op­po­site wing must also bring his A-game as spread­ing City’s back­line could be key to an Arse­nal vic­tory. City neu­tralised Chelsea by suc­cess­fully bot­tling them up but Arse­nal’s fast pass-and-move game is quite a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion. And with Marouane Chamakh around, the crosses might not go to waste on Sun­day.

The mid­field dou­ble act which ter­ror­ized Shakhtar, how­ever, will be missing. Thanks to his naivety against Birm­ing­ham, Wil­shire was slapped with a three-match sus­pen­sion and Fabre­gas will have to find make do with Alex Song or De­nil­son.

Fabre­gas didn’t seem to mind and the nor­mally mild-man­nered Spa­niard took a dig at City by say­ing that “team spirit could not be bought in one year”. In hind­sight Fabre­gas’ claims are not un­founded. City’s back­room drama pro­vided plenty of tabloid fod­der last sea­son and there were re­ported ar­gu­ments be­tween Car­los Tevez and Roberto Mancini in re­cent weeks.

In spite of this, the Cit­i­zens keep mov­ing for­ward and re­cent re­sults – in­clud­ing the de­cline of their more il­lus­tri­ous red neigh­bours – have made City into Chelsea’s biggest con­tenders for Premier League glory. Two points sep­a­rate the top two and while it is still too pre­ma­ture to pre­dict a two-horse race, a con­vinc­ing City win on Sun­day could give the pun­dits some ideas.

Now, the for­tunes of a suc­cess­ful team of­ten hinge on a star and Tevez is largely re­spon­si­ble for the City re­vival. His sec­ond­half brace last week saw him take his tally to 28 goals in his last 31 league games and the Ar­gen­tine will be the man to watch out for on Sun­day.

A cult hero at the City of Manch­ester Sta­dium, Tevez will once again lead City’s for­ward line and the Arse­nal back­line – once again missing the ser­vices of Thomas Ver­mae­len – have much to worry. Al­though he lacks Drogba’s phys­i­cal pres­ence, Tevez is some­thing of a pocket dy­namo and a goal is on the cards each time he gets ahead of his marker.

On cur­rent form, Tevez is City’s tal­is­man. How­ever, one must note that the diminu­tive hit­man is ac­tu­ally mis­er­able! Go­ing pub­lic with his re­tire­ment plans, Tevez re­cently cast doubt on the fu­ture of his foot­balling ca­reer and Arse­nal fans will be hop­ing he stays sad. Imag­ine how many he would score in a good mood.

Thanks to in­juries to Mario Balotelli and Jo, Em­manuel Ade­bayor could start against his old club. How­ever, the To­golese looked out of sorts against Black­pool and one won­ders how ef­fec­tive he can be. Likely to be over­shad­owed by Tevez, Greedy­bayor’s City ca­reer is in the bal­ance and Sun­day’s game could be one of his last op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­gain Mancini’s trust.

Kolo Toure – an­other Arse­nal old boy – is also strug­gling with in­jury and his pres­ence will be sorely missed. Joleon Lescott and Vin­cent Kom­pany are likely to con­tinue their dou­ble act at the back and Arse­nal will look to take ad­van­tage of the for­mer’s ten­dency of mak­ing mis­takes.

With that, it is game on this Sun­day and neu­trals should be in for a treat. Di­gress­ing to philo­soph­i­cal mat­ters once again, Fabre­gas is ab­so­lutely right. One can’t pos­si­bly buy team spirit.

One could, how­ever, buy re­sults and City are cer­tainly do­ing so at the moment.

Cap­tain mar­vel: Tevez is some­thing of a pocket dy­namo and a goal is on the cards each time he gets ahead of his marker.

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