Will Arsenal be too cautious to wound a weakened City?
Match Preview: Manchester City vs. Arsenal – Premier League – 18.12.2016
by Kris Carpenter http://twitter.com/afcfreddie8
Tuesday’s defeat at the hands of Everton was Arsenal’s first since in the Premier League since the season opener at home to Liverpool, yet reading various social media channels you would have thought it was a 3rd straight loss leaving the team floundering at the bottom of the table fighting relegation! A sense of calm is needed as the next fixture looms in to view, a trip to Manchester to face City at The Etihad.
So what can we expect from the home side as Arséne Wenger plots to plunder the points from the Blue half of Manchester? Those of you who know me well will be fully aware that I do not buy in to ‘Project Pep’. Whilst there can be no argument he has been hugely successful at both Barcelona and Bayern, I remain highly sceptical about his methods, confused formations and streaks of arrogance in the way he sets up his teams. That said, they can and will hurt us.
The threat Man City pose when given time on the ball and the freedom to play pretty patterns is clear. De Bruyne and Sterling offer precision passing and pacey runs; Yaya brings power to the midfield area, whilst Nolito always seems to come alive in the box given a chance, but it’s at the back we have to exploit their fragile set up. The seemingly scatter-gun approach to organising a defence by Pep is laughable at times. With full backs often played in a back three and seemingly natural wingers at wing back leaves them wide open to carefully planned counter attacks. I hope Arsenal fancy themselves to take the points home and play direct, attacking football but I am sceptical.
City’s defensive flaws present the perfect opportunity to flex our fast, counterattacking muscles but I have the feeling Arséne will set the team up not to be beaten. I can see Mohamed Elneny partnering Francis Coquelin and Alexis wide with Giroud coming back in as a target man.
Despite setting up more conservatively I see goals in this game, lots of goals! To balance criticism of City’s defence I will state that the Gabriel/Koscielny partnership does not fill me with confidence. Losing a goal early could force our hand to abandon the careful approach. With this in mind I fancy a high scoring affair here.
Overall this game is not sink or swim in terms of the title race, but with Chelsea having a winnable home game against Crystal Palace and Liverpool favourites to win the Merseyside derby on the Monday after we have played I feel we have to claim at least a point to keep in touch heading in to the busy Christmas period. Oddly, this is precisely the sort of game I want after a lacklustre defeat; a big stage, against a big side on TV – will the real Arsenal Football Club please step forward. COYG!
Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Elneny; Walcott, Özil, Alexis, Giroud.
I expect to see substitute appearances from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi.
“A defeat should not hit the confidence we have. It should just hit the pride we have.” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Man City 2-2 Arsenal (08.05.2016)
- Arsenal 2-1 Man City (21.12.2015)
- Man City 0-2 Arsenal (18.01.2015)
Missing top scorer Sergio Aguero and midfield enforcer Fernandinho through suspension will have an impact for City. Those enforced absences combined with the injury to Ilkay Gundogen will likely mean starts for both Yaya Toure and Nolito, with Fernando likely to come into the midfield as well. Winning a midfield battle and not allowing Guardiola’s men time in possession will be vital if we are to take a positive result back to North London.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six games with Manchester City in all competitions (W3, D3).
- City’s last victory in this fixture was 6-3 at home in December 2013.
- The last six Premier League meetings have produced 24 goals – an average of four per game.
- Manchester City’s 2-0 victory over Watford on Wednesday was their first win in five league games at home (D3, L1).
- It was also the first time they had scored more than one goal during that run.
- City have not been lower than third in the table on Christmas Day since 2009-10, when they were sixth.
- They could keep consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since March 2016,
- Kevin De Bruyne has provided a league-high eight assists this season. However, he has failed to score in his last 10 league appearances, his longest goal drought in the Premier League.
- Arsenal’s defeat by Everton on Tuesday was their first in the league since the opening day of the season.
- They haven’t lost consecutive Premier League away games since April 2014: 0-6 v Chelsea and 0-3 v Everton.
- The Gunners are the only Premier League side not to be losing at half-time in the Premier League this season.
- Petr Cech has failed to keep a clean sheet in his last seven Premier League appearances; he has never gone eight successive games without a clean sheet in the competition.
- Alexis Sanchez has been directly involved in 17 league goals this campaign (12 goals, 5 assists), already equalling his total from last season (13 goals, 4 assists).
Courtesy of Opta & BBC Sport.
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