LIVE from The Emirates, North London
21:30 I.S.T , April 08
Two teams with completely different aspirations lock horn at the Emirates this Sunday with their immediate neighbors keeping more than a keen eye on them for similar reasons. Arsenal has been quite prolific in the last two months or so before the misfiring happened at Loftus Road last weekend. According to Arsene Wenger, it was just an accidentAi??and was not meant to be.
“We wanted to win the QPR game so much and sometimes when you cannot, you at least don’t lose it.Ai??That is where we were a bit guilty of nervousness, especially defensively, and we forgot our priorities. They were to defend well, attack well and we wanted to attack so much that we forgot to defend well.”
To prove that game was a one-off affair, Arsenal need to pick themselves up real quick, because they face the might of Manchester City now, who are losing their momentum towards their fight for the title against their more illustrious neighbors. Like many managers all over Europe, Mancini has kept it no secret about wanting to buy the league’s topmost striker from Arsenal.
ai???We are interested in all good players. This is normal, but not only us. I think all the good teams are interested in Van Persie.Ai??I think Van Persie at this moment is one of the best strikers in Europe with [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and with Sergio [Aguero] and Mario [Balotelli].Ai??I think he is a fantastic striker, but I think he will remain with Arsenal”
Arsenal and Manchester City don’t carry a history of rivalry in the league but the teams have had some very close encounters in recent times along a bit of unrest between the fans, especially with a lot of Arsenal players switching to The Etihad for supposed monetary reasons. For City to win the league this time, this game is a must-win scenario, or else they will fall so behind United, catching up will be more on the lines of mathematical probability than practicality. Ai??Having talked about City’s situation, the game is equally important for the Gunners who are fighting against Spurs and Chelsea for the two European places available. The enormity of the fixture at the business end of the season cannot be denied, all eyes will be hooked onto it, more so because all teams would have had played by then.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The talk of North London has been the return of Jack Wilshere, which many believe may not happen after all. According to the manager, he is being assessed day-by-day with an eye on the Euros in the summer. If Arsenal do play Jack Wilshere at some point of this season, it will be more of a helping hand to the English contingent for the big summer tournament than fulfilling Arsenal’s ambitions for this season. As far as fresh injuries, Arsenal haven’t had any in recent times, with no other competitions to play for at this point of the season. Abou Diaby and Francis Coquellin are making recovery towards training and first-team football. With the obvious sidelining of Mertesacker and Wilshere, they won’t be available any time soon.
Arsene is likely to field a side that has shown so much promise lately. Though, some of his tactics lately has been questioned – one being the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey on the left side of midfield coming under severe scrutiny. With the obvious choices of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho, the manager has gone for the Welsh captain for some strange reason. With Ramsey in the team, there is a loss of balance, with the Welshman floating all over the pitch unlike a ‘typical’ left winger would do. The Arsenal back four is expected to remain the same, with Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the defense, this time with a massive job at hand – having to contain the City strikers.
Arsenal and the League’s most prolific goal-scorer will start upfront – Robin van Persie , with the company of Theo Walcott on the right hand side, with whom the Welshman shares an incredible goal-assist record. There won’t be any change in the midfield unless a calamity happens to Arsenal in the next two days.
Probable Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1] : Szczesny; Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs; Song, Arteta; Rosicky, Theo, Gervinho; van Persie
By the time City take to the plush Emirates green, there is a possibility of United already sitting eight points clear of their neighbors. With that in mind, Manchester City need to bring their A-game to Arsenal, not the ‘boring draws’ they have usually managed at Arsenal in recent times. City’s most important player has been on news because of a strange injury that happened at Chelsea.
“During the match against Chelsea, I injured my ankle and it was sprayed with a topical anaesthetic that caused a burn on the upper part of my right foot.Ai??The injury worsened after a few days and when boils appeared I was told I wouldn’t play against Stoke and then against Sunderland.”
Apart from the crucial news on the striker’s possibility of playing Arsenal, City has most of their players fit. Jolean Lescott has been passed fit to play against the Gunners, while, former Gunner, Samir Nasri might feature too after an injury spell keeping him out for some time – the Frenchman may be up for some mixed response from the Emirates faithful.
Mario Balotelli may start ahead of Carlos Tevez, being in the news again (not that he’s ever out of it), having escaped unhurt from a car accident. Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry and the mercurial David Silva will play in the middle of the park, sharing a load of the passing responsibility with a two-strikers strategy a possibility. Mancini will also start former Invincible Clichy at Left Back. Giving him company at the defense will be Kompany, Lescott and Micah Richards.
Probable Starting Line-up [4-2-2-2] : Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Barry, Yaya; Silva, Milner; Aguero, Balotelli
Key Match Facts
- There have been three red cards in the last three encounters between Arsenal and City.
- Manchester City have won none of their last 26 away league games against Arsenal (W0 D8 L18).
- Arsenal has failed to score in five of their last six matches against Manchester City in all competitions.
- If he scores in this match, van Persie will become only the fourth player to score against 17 different teams in a Premier League season. Cole 1993/94, Shearer 1994/95 and Wright 1996/97. [ Stats viaAi??http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.comAi??]
TheHardTackleai??i??s Players to Watch Out For
Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
The Frenchman has had a prolific season so far with Arsenal, and his presence in the team gives Ai??the attacking force much more confidence to do what they do best. Koscielny took Ai??some time to settle into ‘things’ that are Arsenal, but is now an integral part of this Ai??team. It is very important how he handles Manchester City’s top man Aguero – which will Ai??eventually decide the fate of this match.
Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
Yaya Toure has been absolutely phenomenal for City after his transfer from Europe’s Ai??most incredible football outfit – Barcelona. He has been the reliable fulcrum of the Ai??team, capable of playing a ‘Patrick Vieira’ role in Mancini’s side. His contribution Ai??towards the business end of the season could well decide City’s fortunes.
Arsenal 2 – 2 Manchester City
With so much at stake, there will be caution as well as panic at different stages of the game, for both teams. Considering the attacking potential of both teams, something has got to give. The earlier stalemates between the two teams will change this time – a 2-2 draw being a good possibility.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past
TheHardTackle’s Poll Of The Week