Arsenal come to the Etihad smarting after suffering their second league defeat of the season against Everton in midweek. Liverpool’s victory over Middlesbrough has edged them above The Gooners in the league table although I’m not entirely sure why as they have identical records including goal difference.
Ah, here it is – Premier League Rule 47a states ‘should at any time during the season there be a situation arising where the league records of clubs is identical on all counts rending them effectively in equal position, the ‘historical imperative’ clause will be applied and the club which, based upon the blurred and distant memories of its fans, is deemed to have the most ‘history’ will be placed in the higher league position. In the event of a tie even on this basis then the prominence of ex-players (aka ‘pundits’) in the media will be the deciding factor’. Arsenal never stood a chance.
Meanwhile back in this universe it’s probably because Liverpool have scored more goals than Mr Wenger’s men.
City’s recent record against the Gooners is not great. Not a single win in the last 5 competitive matches which has yielded two draws and three defeats. Overall in the Premier League the sides have met 38 times…Arsenal having won 23 of those matches and City a measly 6. Pretty poor really and so Arsenal would seem to be the favourites to take all three points especially given the patchy form displayed by City in recent weeks. A slightly more robust performance was delivered against Watford in mid-week but at some cost following the injury to Ilkay Gundogan. As the game approached half time he went down under yet another game stopping foul administered by a Watford forward and it appears that the ill-fated German has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee. This is a serious blow to a young man who was rehabilitating himself into top level football after a dislocated kneecap had caused him to miss the end of the Bundesliga season and the Euros as well as the first few weeks as a City player. We can only wish him all the very best as he comes to terms with the likely operation and long recovery period.
For City and Guardiola this is also a significant blow. Gundogan was starting to learn and adapt to his role in the Spaniard’s plans and replacing him will be no easy task – he was that crucial to how Pep wants his team to play. Coupled with the continued absence of Fernandinho as he completes his suspension this will deprive City of two players who sit at the beating heart of our midfield. Toure’s return to the fold will offer some replacement of quality but not the mobility and Delph will be nowhere near fully match fit given the length of his injury lay off. Defensive midfield duties will likely be handed to Fernando who whilst willing does not offer anywhere near the same threat going forward.
Arsenal’s injury list is far lengthier than ours but they do not seem to have been suffering the same woeful fluctuation in form or performances. They are missing Cazorla and Welbeck but not that much it would appear as Sanchez is flying and has been ably supported by Walcott with both of them reaching double figures in the scoring charts already.
Given our defensive porousness recently they will be looking forward to fronting up any one of whichever mix-and-match defending unit Pep will choose to deploy in front of the much maligned Claudio Bravo. I expect a high press from the Arsenal players as they seek to exploit what is now perceived to be a vulnerability in City’s play. It is almost as if this is a self-fulfilling prophesy though. I have witnessed several sides play out from the back with their keepers collecting the ball from defenders and distributing it out wide etc. but it seems that because of the extra emphasis on City attempting to play this way which has resulted in opponents pressing City much harder than they do other teams. I am pretty sure that if Courtois, Karius or even De Gea and their respective defensive team mates were subject to the same degree and frequency of high press that they too would find themselves coming unstuck a bit more often. Just a theory.
When all is said and done this match is probably not one that most City fans will be relishing. Apart from the dismal recent record against Wenger’s team our form has been less than convincing, lacking a cutting edge and with weaknesses at the back which have undermined us. The absence of three certain starters in Aguero, Fernandinho and Gundogan will do little to raise the spirits of City fans and the whole squad are going to have to dig deep and fight for everything if they want to come away with all three points. Nolito replaced Iheanacho up front in mid-week and I would expect him to retain that starting berth. City certainly looked more resilient with a back four but whether John Stones will be returned to the starting line-up is a separate question. With the imposter who was posing as Aleks Kolarov at the start of the season now replaced with the real thing I am unlikely to feel inspired at the thought of him or Gael Clichy facing the pace and trickier of Theo Walcott on our left hand side. Bravo is likely to be in for a busier afternoon than he experienced against Watford.
It is time for our luck to change and the chances that have clipped the bar and sailed over (De Bruyne v Chelsea; Sterling v Watford) to strike the underside of the bar and nestle comfortingly in the back of the net. Hell I’d even take a shot being deflected in off a low flying pigeon as long as we could keep a clean sheet and leap frog our opponents in the table.
Arsenal will not shut up shop of that we can be pretty certain so we might be in for a classic encounter. Pep will go for it and so it could be end to end stuff – hang on to your hats Blues!
Come On City!!!
Out – Kompany; Gundogan
Doubtful – Delph
Out – Cazorla; Debuchy; Mertesacker; Welbeck; Akpom; Mustafi
Doubtful – Ramsey
Danger man – Alexi Sanchez. Enough said.
League Standing & Form
03 Arsenal P14 W10 D4 L1 GF37 GA17 GD+20 Pts34 Form DDWWWL
04 Man City P14 W10 D3 L1 GF31 GA12 GD+17 Pts33 Form DWWLLW
Previous meeting (last 6 matches)
ICF 07/08/16 Arsenal 3 Man City 2
EPL 08/05/16 Man City 2 Arsenal 2
EPL 21/12/15 Arsenal 2 Man City 1
EPL 18/01/15 Man City 0 Arsenal 2
EPL 13/09/14 Arsenal 2 Man City 2
EPL 10/028/14 Arsenal 3 Man City 0
Goals – City 7 Arsenal 14
Y Cards – City 12 Arsenal 7
R Cards – City 0 Arsenal 0
Top scorers (all comps)
Manchester City – Aguero 16; Nolito 6; Sterling 5; Gundogan 5; Iheanacho 5
Arsenal – Sanchez 14; Walcott 10; Ozil 9; Oxlaide-Chamberlain 6; Giroud 5
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