Manchester city vs arsenal
Man City’s long injury list could work to Arsenal’s advantage this Sunday.
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.