When I say horror city, I don’t mean Manchester City the team (although I won’t be far off with that). It is of course a return to the City of Manchester where our last visit there for a match was one to be forgotten. Had this match be immediately after that one, I would be very worried. Where we are right now, I’m not so worried.
City are of course the league leaders, 2 points ahead of Manchester United. They could temporarily slip down to second place by kick-off and if that happens, hopefully it will put a dent in their confidence. We can talk about the Emmanuel Adebayor incident a couple of seasons back or about the player who left us in the summer for more monetary reward. Or even them becoming the new Barcelona in trying to tap up Robin Van Persie. However, I’ll try to be as objective as I can.
City are up there in the standings for a reason, the team that Roberto Mancini assembled are really good. They’ve good strength in depth and unlike the Carling Cup meeting, we can be sure the Italian will field more of his first teamers for this match. They’ve gone to Old Trafford and embarass United. They have players who contributes goals and assists from all over the pitch.
However, they’ve also just lost the unbeaten run that they had. Chelsea were the first team in the league to beat them this season, this past week. That result may not be overly significant in the grand scheme of things but must have put a little dent in their confidence leading up to this game. They will be without a left back for this game, Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolarov both out injured.
That would likely see Pablo Zabaleta being roped in for that position and fit-again Micah Richards manning the right side of defence. Yaya Toure will be the powerhouse in midfield with David Silva pulling the strings in front of him. They will be looking to provide the ammunition for Sergio Aguero. The little Argentinian could work alone up front or in tandem with Mario Balotelli/Edin Dzeko. Safe to say, Mancini have more than a few options at hand.
The full back situation does not afflict City alone as Arsenal has their own problems in that department. Andre Santos was the latest to join the wounded and we’re likely to start with a 4 centre back defence for the second game running. Luckily for us, the rest of the squad is fit and healthy and should pick themselves out.
We are the form team in this league currently and should go to Etihad Stadium with plenty of confidence. Confidence not only in our attack but also in our defence. A defence that has kept 2 consecutive clean sheets and 5 overall. Full back is not their main position and as such Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen will have to be wary of runners down the line.
City could use Aguero’s pace and try to play him between Djourou and Per Mertesacker. The latter duo will have to be positionally accurate to ensure that doesn’t happen. Mikel Arteta and Alex Song will have crucial role to play in this game. Pace could be something that might unlock the right side of our defence and they will need to drop back intelligently. I wonder if Arsene Wenger might swap Laurent Koscielny and Mertesacker around to give that area a little more spring in their step.
It’s an old cliché to say that the battle will be won or lost in midfield but to deny that would be sweeping rubbish under the carpet. The Toure-Barry-De Jong will be a formidable shield. James Milner could take the place of De Jong but I suspect that Mancini could call the experience of De Jong for this one. Arteta, Song and Aaron Ramsey will have to be at the top of their game to win this battle. The likelihood of both sides cancelling each other out in the middle of the park is definitely there.
Should that happen, the onus is on the attacking trio to find the goal. While Gervinho and Theo Walcott should not overlook their defensive duties, it is in attack where they could be key to our possible success. RvP is bound to be tightly marked by either Vincent Kompany of Joleon Lescott and will find space or time on the ball hard to come by. The wide attackers holds the tipping point on the scale.
Gervinho will probably be up against Richards and the City man is a real powerhouse (built and style). They might match each other for pace but the Ivorian has the trickery to get past Richards. On the other side, pace will be something that Walcott should use to good effect against Zabaleta. The more trouble that they cause the opposition defenders, the higher chance that one of City’s midfield will have to drop back and cover. That would mean opportunity for Ramsey in the middle.
A win would see us be behind of City by a mere 6 points. It’s not a lot by it ain’t much either. From what we went through at the start of the season, to be able to reach that point before the turn of the year will be nothing short of remarkable. Shows you just how much we have improved as the season goes on. Vermaelen puts in partly down to experience. Those experience will hopefully come in handy for this crunch match.
Just like the Chelsea game, this is another one to show that we mean business and we would not fall into the background so easily. It’s time to show that the improvement that we had is not because of easier fixture or luck. It would be wonderful to leave the sky blues feeling blue. Though, I will bite your arm off if you offer me a draw right now.
Up The Arsenal!!!