It’s match day. A visit to Manchester and it’s the reigning league champions. The blue half of Manchester that is bankrolled by a billionaire or a rich bunch of group (depending on who you read) and has managed to secured success by spending exorbitant amount of money. Over the years, they have rightly or wrongly, gone up the food chain with the help of a stream of former Arsenal players as they raid us for reinforcement.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure all switch sides either because the money was too high to be rejected or because we had enough of their antics. Either way, it hardly matters now. What matters is who we have in our respective teams now. This season, City did not managed to get their hands on any of our players, so there’s no need to focus there.
City are having a mixed start to defending their crown. Shaky on their travels and have not won in the 2 away games that they’ve played so far. That includes the Champions League. However, while unconvincing, they have won both their fixtures at the Etihad. There are a different kind of pressure linked with defending a title. The push and drive is very different and at the moment, Roberto Mancini is discovering that finding that balance is not easy.
The most obvious threat to our hopes of bringing 3 points back will undoubtedly be Yaya Toure. The former Barcelona man is a frightening player to be up against. Muscular and athletically built, he has the pace and trickery to match. Normally starts from in a deeper role but burst into life whenever he’s pushed further forward and plays closer to their striker. We’ve to make sure he doesn’t get the space to do his driving runs. If we depend on markers to keep up with him physically or in terms of speed, then we could be in for some discomfort. If a team mate needs support to mark we, the support needs to be provided.
The player most likely to go head to head with Toure is Abou Diaby. The Frenchman played in midweek. Was carded very early in the game at Montpellier but never lost his head and that’s a good sign. He must put on his better performances if we have any intention of picking up points from this game. The indecision and suicidal dribbling inside our own penalty box, will have to put aside. If we are on the ball, Diaby’s own driving runs will ensure that Toure and City is pegged back. Just like when we played Stoke in the second game, Diaby will have to be at his defensive discipline best to ensure that Mikel Arteta isn’t overworked.
Sergio Aguero is looking likely to be back and he could pair up with his countryman in Carlos Tevez. From the limited views of them in pre season, they seemed to have struck up a very good partnership and understanding of each other’s game. Their movement and pace will be something we have keep an eye on. There are calls for Laurent Koscielny to be reinstalled at centre back so that we’ll have more mobile defenders in place. However, with our defensive unit working so well, it is hard to make changes or to leave out Per Mertesacker. If I’m a betting man (which I am), then I’m putting my money on Mertesacker.
We must dictate the pace of the game, says Vito Mannone. With him looking to get another game between the posts as Wojciech Szczesny is still out injured, that is of course something he’s looking for. If we dictate the game, there will be less work for him to do. Mannone himself is keen to grab the chances thrown his way this season, with both hands. It’s a big change from that match in Greece when we thought that he will never make it at Arsenal. It’s not saying that he will do it now but there’s less worry about playing him in goal than we would have a year ago.
It remains to be seen whether it will be Maicon or Pablo Zabaleta who will play at right back for City. The former looks likelier than the latter, having started the last 2 games. I do believe this is the area which we can exploit and channel most of our attacks on. The left side of our attack has been a major attacking ploy since the days of Henry and Pires. The combination of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla will be depended upon to find the gaps in that right hand side of City’s defence. Their interchange and movement relative to each other have been improving, game to game. That will be crucial for today.
The rest of the line-up looks very secured with just some difference of opinions for the striking position. Olivier Giroud had another decent game in that Champions League tie but with every match that he doesn’t break the duck, the pressure does build on him. Much is depended on how Wenger and his coaches view this. If they advise Giroud not to worry and just carry on with his game, which I’m inclined to think is the advise they gave, then I see no problem to play him. Especially when we might need his presence during set piece defending. Yet, Gervinho’s movement and flexibility does give us a lot of advantage. I’ll be happy either way.
Let’s hope for a good game. Could be another 0-0, if Roberto Mancini does go for the more cautious approach. It is a fine line which has separates our last few meetings. A single good move or strike or defensive covering could see to that as well.
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