Arsenal v Manchester City Preview

Arsenal host Manchester City on Monday night, and a win will take them back to two points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City, but perhaps more importantly, leave Man City four points behind, and move seven points clear of fourth. 

Here are my predicted starting XI’s:

Arsenal vs Man City - Premier League - 21st December 2015 - Football tactics and formations

Despite them both having only returned to training in the past week, I am expecting both Sanchez and Aguero to start, in what is the biggest game of the season so far. Meanwhile the rest of the Arsenal team will remain unchanged with Campbell the only player dropping out. City will also be largely the same but De Bruyne will come in for Navas, and Bony will drop to the bench.

Sanchez will have completed a few training sessions, while Aguero has had longer to regain fitness. However we all know that the Chilean doesn’t need much recovery time before he’s firing on all cylinders again. At the same time, the risk of another injury would not be worth the gamble for Wenger if he’s not completely ready with such a busy schedule set to ensue.

Form

Arsenal are going into the game off the back of three consecutive victories, which has taken them to 2nd in the Premier League, as well as securing a Round of 16 tie against Barcelona in the Champions League. Arsene Wenger will be hoping to keep this momentum going and confidence throughout the squad growing before a hectic festive period which see’s the Gunners play Southampton and Bournemouth before hosting Newcastle all within a week.

Meanwhile Manchester City scrapped a late win against a struggling Swansea side last week, and lost away to Stoke the previous week. They will be looking to make a resurgence with a fit again Aguero, attempting to prove that they are rightly favourites to win the league this year.

Key Battles

Bellerin v Sterling

It will be a big test for Bellerin who has not been in the best of form since his return from injury several games ago. Contrastingly, Raheem Sterling has been one of City’s best players this season, if not the best. Delivering fairly consistently while injuries have blighted a lot of his teammates.

Giroud v Otamendi/Mangala

I expect Giroud will mostly take up his position on Mangala’s side given he is the poorer of the two at present. How well he can hold up the ball and bring others in to play will be crucial to our game, against a team who will most likely set up very defensively as they always have done at the Emirates.

Flamini v Silva

With Coquelin a long-term absentee, it falls to Flamini to take up the mantle once again. How effectively he can stop the little Spaniard from picking out Augero, de Bruyne or Sterling, will be integral to Arsenal’s defensive resolve.

Of course there will be battles all over the park, these are just a few key ones to name.

Opta Stats

Arsenal have lost only one in their last 18 home meetings with Manchester City, and 4 of the last 6 games between the two at the Emirates have resulted in draws, with 1 win a piece.

Despite Man City’s wealth and the force they have become in recent years, they have always come to the Emirates looking to play counter-attacking football, and most importantly, to not concede.

Arsenal are often questioned over their performances against the bigger teams, but with 2 wins and a draw against City last season, and home wins against Manchester United and Bayern Munich already this season, the shroud surrounding this is finally starting to dissipate.

 

Can Arsenal Really Win The Premier League?

Arsenal mustered up a performance that will live long in the memory against Manchester United last weekend, winning 3-0 in style with a dominating performance, both offensively and defensively. But does this win make a statement that they truly are title contenders?

It is widely known and regularly reported that Arsenal have not won the Premier League for 10 years, since that famous invincible season. What’s more though, is that they haven’t really competed for it in so long either, despite never finishing outside of the top four. However, on the back of 2 successive FA Cup victories, are Arsenal finally ready to mount a proper challenge for the biggest prize in domestic football?

Arsenal are a sleeping giant

Arsenal are a “sleeping giant” according to Graeme Souness, who believes that Arsenal should be on the same level as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid, as one of the biggest forces in European football. I am sure that many fans would agree, and simultaneously love to see Arsenal reaching such heights, but before they compete for the Champions League, they must surely be able to compete for the Premier League.

In the words of legend, Thierry Henry, Arsenal “must win it this year”, as the Frenchman doesn’t think they will have a better opportunity than they do now. Chelsea’s atrocious start to the season sees them lying around the bottom of the table with just two wins from eight. While Liverpool and Tottenham have the same struggles as usual, Manchester City look like the only team who will pose a real threat to our dreams, having seen off the only other real contenders, Manchester United, with relative ease at the weekend. However I am wiser than to completely write United off at this early stage.

They must win the Premier League this season

The form of the Premier League teams in Europe goes a long to show how poorly our home nation teams are playing this year, compared with the biggest in Europe. We play in the most competitive league, but it appears not the best. And with that, it shows how none of the teams in England have really taken the initiative in the league. Even Man City have struggled at times without captain Vincent Kompany, or other members of their spine, resulting in us sticking fairly close to them for now. No doubt they will be favourites for the league, though.

Yet it is this struggling from which all teams are currently suffering that makes this our best opportunity to win. As Thierry said, “They must win the Premier League this season”, because you know that next year, these other teams will expend a huge amount of resources in order to comeback. Something Arsenal won’t do in the same way.

We can all agree that Arsenal have the basis for a great team, but time and time again they have fallen just short. They have been a nearly-team, a near miss. For years now, pundits and fans alike have cited certain positions in need of improvement. Today though we are finally starting to see things lining up. Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin appear to have come to our saviour in those pivotal central roles, however a lack of cover for them could prove a big problem should injury strike.

With so many games to be played, rotation will be key to our success. We remain in every competition, for now, but face a huge uphill battle to stay in the Champions League as we reside bottom of the group after embarrassing defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos, with two games against Bayern Munich to come next.

Yet could our failures in the Champions League, work out positively? We saw Liverpool come close to winning the League two season ago, when they did not have to play in Europe at all. Similarly Arsenal finish the season strong regularly, once they have been knocked out of the Champions League, in the Round of 16.

Perhaps exiting the Champions League at the group stage for once, would allow the team to push on for the Premier League, without having to worry about resting players, rotation, or fatigue, as much as normal.

While this would be a positive out of a shambolic Champions League campaign, I do not condone us going out with ease, and I believe we should push for the maximum points we can to try and qualify for the next round, because this is the Champions League we are talking about after all.

To win in a big game is always a statement, we are in it, we are two points off the leaders. I hope the result today will give us belief, and ambition to fight for it.

-Arsene Wenger

To take an impartial outlook on the situation, I believe Arsenal can win the League, but Manchester City have to be considered favourites for it. They have the experience and mentality for it, whereas thus far this season Arsenal have lacked the consistency needed. They would need Man City to show similar inconsistencies.

Arsenal’s chances of winning it would be greatly improved were they to be knocked out of the Champions League, but that is not something I want nor hope to see; especially with this coefficient problem, and all the English teams looking fragile at best. Plus those Champions League nights at the Emirates against some of the world’s greatest are some of the best nights of the year.

The final variable will come down to Arsenal’s biggest enemy. Injuries. Keeping the likes of Sanchez, Ozil, Coquelin, Walcott, Cech, fit. We will need our star players to play and deliver week in week out.