Preview: Arsenal v Manchester City
There’s little doubt that Arsenal fans will be looking for revenge for the Adebayor game at Eastlands earlier in the season, not to mention knocking their side out of the Carling Cup. City simply want the points to keep alive our challenge for fourth place.
Following their defeat at Wigan, Arsenal have little to play for and Roberto Mancini will no doubt be cursing the controversy that predates his arrival at Eastlands. The club have done well in stopping Adebayor from giving interviews this week.
Last week was misrepresented as our biggest game for decades when, in fact, we could afford a defeat. The match against Arsenal is bigger in that we need to get a result as least as good as Tottenham. If we don’t, then we’re unlikely to catch Spurs, even if we beat them. If City and Spurs both lose then Villa, who play on Sunday, come into the mix.
City’s record away to Arsenal shows our last victory was in 1975. Not good, but past results are even less relevant than usual with this side that bears no comparison with any since the 70’s. Incidentally, Spurs have won none of their last 66 Premier League away games against the ‘big four’, so we’re not alone in having a tough task ahead.
It will be fascinating to see which formation Mancini goes with. Normally against Wenger’s side, it makes sense to pack the midfield and stop them settling into a good passing rhythm. Playing with a lone striker would presumably mean Tevez starting, with Adebayor on the bench. Defusing the animosity amongst the home crowd by keeping the Togolese under wraps could be another advantage against an injury ravaged team who could have one eye on the end of the season.
However, City’s four man attack of Bellamy, Johnson, Adebayor and Tevez was looking potent prior to last Saturday. If the returning Song plays in midfield, then Campbell and Silvestre would be a centre-back pairing that we could look to attack.
Maybe Mancini’s selection will depend on how Spurs get on at Old Trafford. If they were to pick up a win, then City would need to do likewise and the gamble of Adebayor and Tevez may be taken. Otherwise, a less risky approach may prevail with Vieira, Ireland or Zabaleta added to the midfield.
Wright-Phillips did better when he came on against United, but Clichy can match him for pace. Johnson is better able to beat an opponent via skill and doesn’t give the ball away as frequently, so therefore ought to keep his place. Shaun should come on at some point.
The defence is likely to be unchanged, unless Mancini opts to bring in Zabaleta at right-back. Wayne Bridge should be more up to speed, while everyone will need to be fully focussed against the movement of the Arsenal attack.
For Arsenal, Arshavin and Aluminia have been ruled out, alongside Gallas, Vermaelen, Fabregas, Ramsey, Gibbs and Djourou. The returning Van Persie looks the biggest danger, although Bendtner would be a threat in the air against Toure.
A trip to Arsenal normally offers little cause for optimism, yet Arsenal are struggling for form and fitness. They are unlikely to be as solid as United were last week, and we have players capable of hurting them on the break.
The doom and gloom following last week’s last minute defeat has caused many to overlook the fact we have been in good form. Closing Arsenal down in midfield will be vital, and if we can win that battle, then chances are likely to come our way. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Tottenham and City results of last week will be reversed.
Blue Days line-up: Given, Bridge, Onouha, Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Barry, Ireland, Bellamy, Johnson, Tevez.
Prediction: 4-1 to City.