Wenger’d Be Mad To Start Alexis In Such An Important Game
Match Preview – Arsenal vs Manchester City – Premier League – 21.12.15
After our opening day defeat to West Ham I said that whilst I was disappointed it said nothing about the future of the team. Ten matches I said, to echo thousands of others, ten matches is the minimum you need to get a rough idea of where most teams will finish. After twenty games the table has almost taken it’s final form with a 1-2 place buffer.
We’re creeping up on the 20 match mark and the table will soon start to settle down. In the 7 matches since matchday 10 we’ve seen Man City, Arsenal, Man United and Leicester swap places in the top four, with Leicester rising from 5th to 1st to top the table over Christmas. It’s been a phenomenal ride so far. I’ve been predicting Leicester to fall off the pace for a few weeks now and it might sound foolish to continue to do so but I will. They’ve been superb and they’ll fully deserve a Champions League spot if they hold on to a top four finish but I don’t consider them title rivals.
That may seem a little contradictory to my assertions of how the table shapes up but there has been a quirk in the fixture list for Leicester. Possibly the momentum they’ve gained will carry them through the next few months and they will be serious title challengers but I have my doubts. The Foxes have Liverpool and Man City to play before the twenty match mark and regardless of the result tonight that puts them in serious jeopardy of not starting the New Year on top.
Their next 6 matches after that includes a match against Tottenham and a three match run against Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. I cannot see them coming through their next 9 matches with any more than 14 points. That would give them a respectable 52 points after 26 games but I estimate City will gain at least 21 points in their 9 matches after tonight and we’ll win tonight and get 23 in our next 9 putting Man City and Arsenal on 53 and 59 points respectively. I don’t see them clawing their way back to the top after that, especially with the amount of goals they concede.
As fantastic as Leicester have been in attack they’ve leaked goals. They have conceded 24 goals which is the joint-most in the top 10 and more than three teams in the bottom ten, not to mention the same total as Swansea who occupy 18th. We know from the form of Aaron Ramsey in 2013/14 that Mahrez cannot continue the way he has for another 21 matches and Vardy is already showing signs of overuse. As much as the Leicester underdog story appeals to most sports fans it’s a sad fact that they do not have the squad the likes of Arsenal and City have. Leicester’s standing is built on the excellent form of their best team whereas Man City and Arsenal have kept pace at the top with mounting injuries.
With both teams having plenty of money to spend in January and key players returning to the squad from injury it’s probably too much of an ask for Leicester to keep their noses in front. In a long-winded way I’m saying that tonight is a clash between the true title rivals and may have a strong influence on the outcome.
Petr Cech could create Premier League history with a clean sheet tonight and it would be the perfect game to do it but I think this game has goals for both sides. As mentioned, both teams have injury woes but also have the chance of starting key attacking players who have recently been sidelined. If Aguero is even slightly fit I expect Pellegrini to start him, he desperately needs the points and if he has even the faintest hope of staving off Guardiola to keep his job next summer he needs to deliver the Champions League and the Premier League. With no Europe to worry about for a few weeks I assume he’ll want to build a points buffer so he can rotate when the time comes with little worry. I believe this means starting Aguero and I also think this benefits us.
Aguero hasn’t had the time to get up to match fitness, let alone the fitness needed in a match like this, to not aggravate his injury. I suspect he’ll play and City will come to regret it in a few weeks when he breaks down again. My hope for Arsenal is that we do not make the same mistake with Alexis. We have a solid unit with good momentum and can beat this City side on merit without risking Alexis from the start. By all means we can throw him in close to the end to stretch his legs if he is needed but starting him would be a grave error. Too often we’ve fallen foul to long-term losses for short-term gains. We can’t afford to lose this game but neither can we afford to lose Alexis for any longer than we already have.
In Campbell and Walcott we have enough speed and finishing ability to cause problems for City when Özil works his magic. Giroud is an aerial threat and also creates space for others, plus the return of Aaron Ramsey to the centre has made us a more aggressive attacking threat. Defensively we are weaker without Coquelin but so too are City without Kompany. This is a match that will be won on fine margins and I believe Arsenal have the edge.
If we make the right selection choices I trust whoever starts to get the job done and then we can unleash a fully fit Alexis on the rest of the league for the remainder of the season.
Arsenal from; Cech, Ospina, Chambers, Bellerin, Debuchy, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Reine-Adelaide, Özil, Campbell, Giroud, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Iwobi, Walcott.
Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Özil, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud
I expect to see substitute appearances from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis and Gibbs.
“All of us can be for one day in our life exceptional but character is to have a target and maintain your focus on that target. That’s what I call character and that’s what we have to show in the league.” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Man City 0-2 Arsenal (18.01.2015)
- Arsenal 2-2 Man City (13.09.2014)
- Arsenal 1-1 Man City (29.03.2014)
Arsenal Last 5
Man City Last 5
Manchester City have looked fragile at the back this season, especially without Kompany. In some respects that they look stronger with Kompany is indicative of their inherent shakiness as Kompany would make most fans’ fraud XI. He’s a good player but massively overrated by the media.
David Silva is leagues behind Özil this season and City are less potent for it. He has been struggling for fitness and form and this shows in their creativity. City have struggled on the road this season and have been fortunate in recent games to come away with all the points. This will be an open match.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their 18 Premier League home games against Manchester City (W11, D6), but have won just one of the last six.
- City haven’t won a league game away from the Etihad since September (D2, L2).
- Arsenal haven’t lost at home in the Premier League since the opening day of the season.
- City haven’t won back-to-back league games since mid-October.
- The Gunners have scored in their last 10 league games.
- The last two league meetings at the Emirates have ended in a draw.
- Iheanacho’s two Premier League goals this season have won Man City four points. That’s the same number of points that Olivier Giroud’s nine goals have earned Arsenal.
- Arsenal have won more points away from home this season than they have at the Emirates (19 away, 14 at home).
- There have been five red cards in the last five Premier League matches between City and Arsenal at the Emirates.
- Mesut Ozil has had 13 Premier League assists this season – six more than nearest rival Gerard Deulofeu (seven).
- Petr Cech needs one more clean sheet to surpass David James’ record of 169 Premier League clean sheets.
- City have failed to score in their last three away league matches. The last time they failed to score in four successive Premier League away games was in February 2006.
3-1 to Arsenal.
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