Hassan Chamas & David Gold
What: English Premier League
Who: Arsenal vs Manchester City
When: Sunday 8th April, 2012, at 16:00 UK time
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England
The defeat to Queen Park Rangers last week put an end to Arsenal’s eight-game league unbeaten run, with the Gunners’ last domestic defeat a 2-1 setback against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger put the defeat down to a lack of commitment and will hope he is right; Arsenal cannot afford a blip that lasts for more than the one game with the Champions League race tightening. Tottenham are getting back to form and, perhaps more worryingly, have a particularly simple run of fixtures. It would be a surprise if Spurs dropped more than four points between now and the end of the season.
That means Arsenal can ill afford to bank less than three points for a second week in a row, making this a huge game for Wenger’s men. The Gunners must beat either Manchester City or Chelsea this month, and lose to neither. Robin van Persie has not scored in his last three games, which is a surprise of its own, and Wenger will hope that changes soon. If it does, Van Persie will become only the fourth player to score against 17 teams in a Premier League season. Nonetheless, he will be encouraged that the rest of the team have started to share the burden, a sign that the club’s collective game is coming together.
Wenger has assured the fans that his side will be competitive against Manchester City, while admitting that his players lacked some key elements against Queen Park Rangers.
“It’s a good opportunity to put things right again, of course. I believe that we will see a different Arsenal on Sunday but I can tell you as well that it will be needed”, explained the Frenchman.
No More Room for Slip-ups
Once holding a five-point lead over town rivals Manchester United, Manchester City find themselves in an astonishing predicament as it is the Citizens who are trailing by five points going into the 32nd Premier League matchday of the season. Should the Red Devils make a successful trophy defence this term, then Roberto Mancini’s side would only have themselves to blame.
A poor March saw Manchester City’s Premier League aspirations hit hard times, as they drew two and lost two of their last four domestic games. And while a potential 18 points are left to be played for, Mancini knows a slip-up against Arsenal, along with a Manchester United win against QPR this weekend, would mark the end of his side’s title quest.
“If we lose against Arsenal and they beat QPR – yes”, commented Mancini on how the race could be over.
In many ways it should be no surprise the Citizens have stalled; their early season form was largely predicated on the form of David Silva, who has tired. Somewhat similarly to Arsenal last year when Samir Nasri, now at Manchester City, lost his form, the Eastlands outfit have dropped with Silva’s slip in standards. That has left them struggling for ideas going forward, without anyone prompting and creating chances.
That means the potential return of Carlos Tevez could be key. He is a player who is capable of taking the game and controlling it. But if that happens, it would mean Manchester City playing a more direct style to that they have employed for most of the season, as the Argentine naturally plays further forward than Silva. Nevertheless the Citizens need something quickly to turn around their flagging fortunes.
Everton 0-1 Arsenal (21/03; Premier League)
Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa (24/03; Premier League)
Queen Park Rangers 2-1 Arsenal (31/03; Premier League)
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea (21/03; Premier League)
Stoke City 1-1 Manchester City (24/03; Premier League)
Manchester City 3-3 Sunderland (31/03; Premier League)
Arsenal: Per Mertesacker; Jack Wilshere; Abou Diaby
Manchester City: Sergio Aguero (doubt), Samir Nasri (doubt)
Players to watch
Arsenal – Tomas Rosicky: Arsenal’s sudden upturn in form has coincided with that of Rosicky. The Czech schemer has suddenly rediscovered what made Wenger sign him from Borussia Dortmund. Always good with the ball, the midfielder has of late discovered a turn of pace that has enabled him to take the ball, turn with it and get Arsenal moving the ball quicker through the centre of the pitch, something they have lacked, uncharacteristically, for much of the season. He has provided a focal point around which many of Arsenal’s attacks have been built, and has supplied Theo Walcott brilliantly down the right, a combination which has been behind much of their good form.
Manchester City – Yaya Toure: Toure will be absolutely pivotal here. With Silva’s loss of form, Toure must find a way of compensating for that in order to help Manchester City pass the ball well against a team who will look to monopolise possession. His ability to break up play and deny space to Arsenal’s midfielders will also be crucial if the Citizens are to dominate in the middle of the pitch and give themselves a platform to build from.
Arsenal improved in possession in recent weeks as they built up a good run of form, until the defeat to QPR. Expect the Gunners to have plenty of the ball on, but Manchester City also like to keep possession and should enjoy periods of pressure themselves. In a game like this, where both sides like to dictate play and possess the strikers to take chances, defences will be key.
Arsenal’s defence is good at playing against teams who try to pass through them, and that is what the Citizens will do. The unit of Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs has given Arsenal a solidity they usually lack, and they will make it difficult for Manchester City to create clear cut chances.
Manchester City too though, know how to defend against Arsenal – as was shown last year in this fixture. They will give Arsenal’s forwards little space and will play quite narrow to prevent through balls to Van Persie. This will make the influence of Theo Walcott and Gervinho more crucial, as their ability to get out wide and drag the opposition’s defenders out of position will be key to creating the space for Rosicky and Van Persie to exploit.
Then there are the following statistics to consider. Arsenal have scored in only one game of their last six against Manchester City in all competitions. The Citizens have scored in three of their last four Premier League games with Arsenal, and all four of their last games at the Emirates in the league. These are two teams who can attack with style, but who know how to defend against each other very well. Expect an attractive game, but also one of few clear opportunities. Arsenal 0-0 Manchester City.
Arsenal v Manchester City is a key game in this season’s Premier League. Who will win? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.