Both Arsenal and Man City would be so far relatively disappointed with their respective seasons, the former especially.
Whilst both sides have a race for the top four to compete in, this is a step down for what supporters would have been hoping for at the start of the season in consideration of the amount invested in players and Man City’s recruitment of arguably the most reputable manager in world football.
With this in mind, Sunday’s clash takes on a new dimension of importance as Man City will surely wanted to salvage something memorable from a lukewarm season and Arsene Wenger will want to go out on a high or at least provide some justification to supporters and detractors alike for signing a new contract.
Arsenal will be without Mustafi who is out with a thigh injury whilst it is also doubtful that Welbeck will be available due to a toe injury.
Stones will probably be available for a trip to London whilst Sagna remains doubtful on account of his groin injury.
Jesus has astounded everyone with the speed of his recovery, returning from Brazil for specialist treatment for his metatarsal this week.
There is a chance he could start against Arsenal though Guardiola may not want to throw him into the mix too soon and keep him as an option on the bench.
Predicted Line Ups
Cech, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud
Bravo, Navas, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane, Aguero
Arsenal’s victory over Middlesbrough on Monday night marked the first time they beat Premier League opposition since February when they defeated Hull.
Arsenal’s shocking form has been no secret and inspired much in the way of fan revolt.
Wenger will be hoping that a steady victory in the league will inject his side with some much needed confidence and belief.
It is certainly a possibility that this will be the case, even whilst on their worst run for years Arsenal still had it in them to match Man City in a 2-2 draw a few weeks ago.
Man City suffered a less dramatic dip in form during this period, going four games without a win.
They have since bounced back with two wins including an impressive 3 -0 display against Southampton last Saturday. Man City will consider themselves favourites with good reason.
Arsenal stunted their poor run of form against Middlesbrough through experimenting with their formation, seeing improvements with a 3 -4-3 formation.
This does not necessarily mean that this will repeated on Sunday however. It is certainly risky, playing 3 at the back might work well against a fairly hapless Middlesbrough side but when having to contend with the likes of Aguero, De Bruyne and Silva they could easily be punished.
Would Wenger want to risk another humiliation?
I would argue that given their situation it’s a risk worth taking as Arsenal are going to have to be at their best against a rejuvenated City side and it might take a bit of a gamble to play at their best right now.
Man City will go into this as favourites and would not want to pay Arsenal too much respect.
As highlighted by an O-Posts article earlier this week, they still miss the presence of Vincent Kompany.
Whilst Stones should be back, they will have to be on guard against aerial attacks from Giroud and keep their defensive tactics basic in order to limit silly mistakes.
Given Guardiola’s philosophy, it is unlikely Man City will want to stop playing the ball in their own box but I argue that it is offers unnecessary opportunities for an Arsenal attack which could make the difference.
The ‘Wenger Out’ effect?
The second half of Arsenal’s season has been marred by doubt over Arsene Wenger’s future.
The players have so far not responded well at all to the criticism levelled at them and Wenger.
An FA Cup semi-final can feel like it exists in a bit of a vacuum; the atmosphere is special punctuated by it’s Wembley location.
The timing of their victory could be just enough to propel towards a strong performance against Man City.
The sense of occasion can offer the players a unique opportunity to dig deep and fight for their manager which may in turn push them through the last six games in a respectable manner.
Players such as Koscielny, Ramsey and Oxlade Chamberlain have played under Wenger for a while now or been given the opportunity by him.
Whether you think Wenger should leave or not, it can’t be denied that they owe him something and may have a desire to buck the form book and deliver a big performance to give him something good to go out on.
In contrast, they may have already given up and if so Arsenal supporters can expect further humiliation but I would suggest that this game will tell the story of the last chapter of Arsenal’s season, because if not now it will likely be never.
Written by Steve Vujanic
Follow Steve on Twitter @vuj_steve
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