MANCHESTER CITY

v

ARSENAL

Etihad Stadium, Manchester

December 18, 2011; 16:10 G.M.T (21:40 I.S.T)

****

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Some fractions of the football fraternity actually believed that Manchester City was capable of emulating The Invincibles – a feat achieved once in a century in the English League. A week back at Stamford Bridge, all such wishful thinking got annulled by a resurgent Chelsea team whose manager had a point or three to prove. Now, Manchester City starts a new journey, with no UEFA Champions League to play for, it is just winning the league, which will beAi??theirAi??primary target. The run starts with Arsenal visiting them at their home, a Gunners team which has gone unbeaten in the league since that loss at White Hart Lane two and a half months back. It won’t be an easy task from any stretch of imagination for City to beat this Arsenal team with new-found belief, incredible team-chemistry, soaring confidence and of course, carrying a destroyer-par-excellence.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Manchester City

The hangover of the first defeat of the season for the Blues from Manchester should be ideally gone when they face a resurgent Arsenal side at The Etihad. It wont be easy for the club, which is also facing the disappointment of missing out on the Champions League,Ai??to start firing yet again. As far as the Europa is concerned, they didn’t get an easy draw either. FC Porto stands in their way before they can move further ahead in the competition. This week Manchester City need to continue their dominance over Arsenal in recent times, and let the defeat at The Bridge be just a flash in the pan affair.

As far as team news go, the only casualty from that evening at Chelsea, will be former Gunner Gael Clichy, through suspension. That doesn’t make life easy for Mancini, as his second choice Left Full Back Kolarov is also out with a groin injury. This will mean Zabaleta will start on the left hand side as he has done before on a couple ofAi??occasionsAi??for City. This can be a direct impact on the result of the game with the Argentine poised to face the pace of Theo Walcott on that side of the green. Micah Richards, who had been in prime form before his injury, is expected to be back for the game too, and may start at right-back. The home team are flourishing on the defensive stability of their center-back pairing – Lescott and Kompany, both have been absolutely terrific in front of the incredible Joe Hart.

With the ‘rich’ array of midfielders and strikers available to Mancini, it will be interesting to see if he goes with the same team that lost at Chelsea, or tweak it a bit with more defensive stability playing an Arsenal team which loves to attack. City are expected to field two defensive midfielders along with two strikers to keep a perfect balance in defense and attack. The dangerous David Silva is expected to pull the strings in the middle of the park, though he roams around the field searching for the killer ball all the time. Edin Dzeko and Aguero are expected to start ahead of Mario Balotelli in this crucial game against the Gunners at home.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-4) : Joe Hart; Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Zabaleta; Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry, Milner, Silva; Dzeko, AgueroAi??

Arsenal

Arsenal will not want to think about their latest Champions League draw which will take them to the Italian Champions in February, what matters now is present day league football. The biggest concern for Arsenal has been the full-back situation at the club. Exactly ‘none’ are available, the latest casualty being Andre Santos, who will be needing a surgery to come back, and is expected to return not before three months. The rearranged back-four will contain four center-backs if Arsene doesn’t risk the inclusion of former Barcelona Academy product Miquel. On the goal-keeping front, Szczesny needs to stay fit unless Arsenal fans wants to see the return of Manuel Almunia to the team, with both Mannone and Fabianski out with injuries.

The rest of the field for Arsenal doesn’t see any change, a team of six who have been playing for more than two months now, together, in every game. The team chemistry has certainly hit a peak as far as the midfield goes, but facing an expensively assembled Manchester City team at their den will be as mighty a task in this season as you can probably imagine. There has been an interesting discussion about Theo Walcott’s improvement in recent time due to playing with more experienced players around him and the added pressure of Oxlade-Chamberlain helped too. Alex Song and Mikel Arteta, who have formed an understanding of epic proportions, are expected to carry on their ‘dirty work’ with fresh lease of creativity from Song time and again.

The top of the field sees a man who is living in his own utopia of a world, where his confidence and credibility goes almost untouched. Robin van Persie has hit 33 goals in 32 league games played by Arsenal this year. He is just 3 goals behind the great Alan Shearer as far as the records books are concerned. This game is not about record books, it is about performing on the pitch on a given day, and City are a tough nut to crack.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1)Ai??: Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Song, Arteta; Theo, Ramsey, Gervinho; van Persie

Key Facts

  1. Manchester City, two points ahead of United, have scored 49 goals in their opening 15 games.
  2. Manchester City has paid Arsenal 70 Million Dollars for four transfers in the last three years.
  3. Arsenal has picked 22 points from the last 24 available to them in the league.

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TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

David Silva (Manchester City)

The magician!

The Spanish Midfielder has been a revelation for Manchester City and is easily Mancini’s best buy of the who-and-whoAi??of the football world he has purchased. He has orchestrated the midfield, creating chances for the forwards with his unpredictable and elegant style. For City to win silverware this season, it is very important that Silva lasts the mile.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Manchester City 2 – 2 Arsenal

The game is expected to be a very tight one, with City starting more confident than Arsenal at home and scoring first via a set-piece. Arsenal will come back strongly to score two goals before City would equalize again late into the second half.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST

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One Response to “Manchester City v Arsenal – Preview : High-Flying Gunners With Their First Acid Test At The Etihad”

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  1. Aashish says:

    “The game is expected to be a very tight one, with City starting more confident than Arsenal at home and scoring first via a set-piece. Arsenal will come back strongly to score two goals before City would equalize again late into the second half.”

    – Ha ha. This is not a prediction. More or less sounds like a premonition that the author had!
    On a related note, why do all the THT predictions follow a trend? The big 6, when they play each other, are ‘predicted’ a draw, and usually a 2-2 draw at that. The aforementioned, playing mid table clubs are given a win by a goal. And against the lower league clubs, a resounding victory!

    It seems quite frankly monotonous and pointless. Why don’t you scrap the section or base it on more quantified factors such as current form, history, lineup comparison, et al?

    Although, as a Liverpudlian, I wouldn’t want to see it, based on form, history and Citeh’s struggle against free flowing attack, i’d come up with a 0-2 or 1-2 win for Arsenal.