Arsenal

V

Manchester City

The Emirates Stadium, North London

16:00 Hrs GMT, 13th Jan 2012

****

It is super Sunday! Although Manchester United’s match against arch rivals Liverpool is sure to take most of the lime light, the clash at the Emirates between Arsenal and Manchester City will hold massive importance. It is a relatively new rivalry that has evolved between these two teams over the past few seasons.

While Arsenal have failed to instigate any sustained title challenge over the past few seasons, City have evolved as one of the most potent force in England backed by their cash rich owners. But the main reason behind the commencement of this rivalry has been the transfer sagas that have taken place between these two clubs over the past few seasons.

Manchester City have snatched some of the big names from the Emirates in the past three – four seasons. Starting for Kolo Toure to Gael Clichy, in fact currently they have three former Arsenal players in their squad and former Gunner captain Patrick Viera as their Football Development Executive. These have given enough reasons to the Gooners to feel aggrieved, especially during a period where they have failed to retain some of their most influential players.

As these two teams clash once again at the Emirates today, they do so with lingering hopes; although largely different. Manchester City hopes to take advantage of any possible slip-up by United in their clash against Liverpool, which can affect the title race, while Arsenal would want to make the most of both Everton and Tottenham dropping points yesterday in the race for the fourth place.

We bring you the detailed preview of this enthralling clash on Sunday.

Team News

Arsenal

On the injury front things have improved dramatically for Arsenal off-late.  Fabianski is currently the only player out injured, while Giroud, Diaby and Santos will undergo a late fitness test before the match.

Gervinho will be unavailable as the Ivorian forward joins his national team for the African Cup Of Nations. It would be interesting to see if Wenger decides to risk Giroud in this match given is troublesome knee. In all likelihood Theo Walcott will once again start upfront with Giroud coming on the second half.

Abou Diaby’s return is like a new signing (once again) for Arsenal. The Frenchman has hugely influential at the start of the season before he got injured (once again). Diaby is expected to play some part in this match and he is someone who would add some steel to the midfield.

Tactically, Arsenal would look to take advantage of City’s misfortune in missing out on a lot of players in this match. City’s defence will be particularly vulnerable in the left hand side of the pitch. Silva isn’t expected to track back and help Clichy, who is shaky defensively, add to that an inexperienced Nastasic would play as the left center back. So once can seem Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain being a big influence in this match, given he keeps his head.

Per Mertesacker will have the responsibility to deal with the aerial threat of Edin Dzeko at the back, Sagna and Arteta deals with City’s most creative player – David Silva. If Arsenal can take Silva out of the game, that would largely affect City’s attacking threat in the match as they miss the likes of Aguero, Nasri and Yaya Toure.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere; Cazorla, Oxlade Chamberlain, Podolski; Walcott

 

Manchester City

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has a lot of headache when it comes to team selection for this match. City have as many as eight players unavailable for this match. Sergio Aguero and Jack Rodwell are out with hamstring injuries, while Maicon and Richards have a troublesome knee. Manchester City have also been hit hard by the African Cup of Nations with Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure and Razak leaving the club to join their national team for the upcoming tournament.

Out of all these names, the absence of Aguero and Yaya Toure will hurt them most. Mancini has switched back to his 4-2-3-1 formation after his early season disastrous experiment with three men at the back. But in recent times, his 4-2-3-1 has varied to 4-4-1-1 with the wide men dropping deep.

Toure will be replaced by Garcia in the midfield alongside Barry, while Aguero will be replaced by Tevez and Nasri by Milner. David Silva will have to shoulder the responsibility of providing the creative spark in the midfield and one should see him drifting in-field with Tevez drifting to wide areas.

Dzeko has been in good goal scoring form and his clash with Mertesacker will be one to watch out for. The inclusion of Tevez and Milner will add more defensive solidarity in the midfield as both these players are extremely good at tracking back and helping out in defense. Both these players will press upfront when Arsenal have the ball and try to deny Arteta and WIlshere time and space to dictate play from the midfield, while Garcia man-marks Santi Cazorla.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-4-1-1) Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy; Garcia, Barry; Silva, Tévez, Milner; Dzeko.

Key Facts

  1. There have been four red cards in the last five Premier League meetings between Arsenal and Manchester City.
  2. City have failed to score in each of their last five Premier League visits to Emirates Stadium.
  3. Arsenal have missed their last three penalties taken against Manchester City, starting with the infamous Pires/Henry mix up at Highbury.
  4. There have been just five goals scored in the last five meetings in all competitions between Arsenal and City.
  5. Arsenal players have made 12 individual errors leading directly to goals this season, more than any other team.

Player(s) To Watch Out For

Theo Walcott (Arsenal)

ArsenalThe Englishman has reportedly agreed to a new deal at the Emirates and this has brought similes to the face to the face of supporters who were becoming increasingly disgruntled at the club’s inability to hold on to their key players.

Walcott has also proved that he can score goals when played upfront as a striker, but now he needs to show that he can do it consistently and against top and sturdy defence. Wenger is expected to once again start with him upfront considering Giroud’s problems with his knee  and this will prove to a litmus test for Walcott as he will be up against one of the best, if not the best, central defender in the Premier League in Kompany.

David Silva (Manchester City)

With the likes of Aguero and Yaya Toure unavailable for this match, David Silva will be the key to Manchester City’s chances of conjuring up something brilliant and effective in attack. Arsenal’s defence has been shaky and Silva’s performance could well decide the outcome of the match.

He will also be up against fellow countrymen Santi Cazorla and the Spaniard who has the most influence in this match will tilt the balance in the favour of their respective teams. Emirates could witness a Spanish master class.

Prediction

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City

Both the teams have been in decent form recently. Manchester City don’t have the best of records against Arsenal at the Emirates and they will once again find it hard against the Gunners, especially with their considerably weakened midfield and attack. Expect Arsenal to take an early lead in this match, but City will strike back in the second half with the Gunners’ defense coming under pressure once again.

Both teams should share the spoil at the Emirates, with Arsenal dominating the midfield (due to the absence of Yaya Toure) and City hitting Arsenal on the break.

Blast From The Past