Arsenal’s title credentials will be tested to the limit when they travel to Manchester City on Saturday in the midday kick-off. Arsene Wenger’s men will face a City side unbeaten at home in the League and brimming with confidence after coming from 2-0 down to defeat Bayern Munich 3-2 at the Allianz Arena.
The defending champions went 2-0 up within the first quarter of an hour, until David Silva, Alex Kolarov and James Milner came up with the goals Pellegrini required to be victorious over Pep Guardiola for the VERY FIRST TIME in his managerial career.
City have been in dominant form especially at home in the League, winning all seven fixtures and scoring 27 goals in that stretch. They have only let in 2; one of them a fantastic free kick by Wayne Rooney in the 4-1 clobbering of Manchester United. Recently, it was Spurs that collected a sound thrashing. Kun Aguero, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo all had their names on the score sheet in what still remains one of the most one-sided matches I have ever seen.
Arsenal task has been made the more difficult judging by their last performance in the Champions league where they were beaten in Naples. City are yet to be prevented from scoring in 60-odd home games and it will be difficult to see how Per and Kos stop the Kun-Negredo combo from netting at least one goal.
The North Londoners sit five points clear of the chasing park and are aware that there is no room for lapses in concentration. With the big London derby coming up next, anything less than a draw could be detrimental to the lingering hopes of finally ending their EPL title drought.
Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Negredo.
Possibly the strongest starting eleven Manuel can put out with injuries to Richards (wouldn’t have started ahead of Zabaleta anyway) and Gael Clichy. It is not the Chilean’s fault that Dzeko is rotting away on the subs bench. ALVARO NEGREDO has been possibly the best purchase made by City in the last three years. The Spanish attacker has proved his worth in four months and cannot be benched on current form.
We all know who the chief supplier of goals is and he has returned to the set-up after an injury ravaged start to the season. David Silva is surely assured of a starting place ahead of anyone in the playmaker slot.
Samir Nasri has done very well this season and should start against his former club and Sergio Aguero must lead the line as usual. Vincent Kompany was swept aside effortlessly by PABLO DANIEL OSVALDO in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, but he is still the Leader of the team and strongman of the defence.
He should get the nod alongside the vocal Demichelis. Both should be comfortable against Olivier Giroud who is goal shy away from London. The Fernandinho-Toure midfield is as assured as any other in World football and should show that on Saturday. The presence of Fernandinho has allowed Gnegnery to maraud further up field and cause some damage.
It has yielded the right results for the recently crowned BBC AFRICAN FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR and his club. He returns after sitting out the Bayern victory through suspension. Joe hart remains an able deputy to Roman shot-stopper, Costel Pantilimon. Role reversal.
Szczesny, Jenkinson, Kos, Per, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini/Wilshere, Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, Giroud.
Pretty much the same as we have seen from Arsenal all season. Aaron Ramsey is set to start after being rested in midweek as well as the imminent return of Jack Wilshere whose sore ankle must have healed in time to face the blue army. Lukas Podolski is set to return to the team after almost four months on the sidelines, but Bacary Sagna is still out with a hamstring injury.
Mesut Ozil is set to battle it out with David Silva in a tale of two excellent lefties with some of the most unique passing skills ever witnessed/seen. Silva is no slouch and Ozil is different class. Aaron Ramsey can add to his 13 goals this season on Saturday which will further push his case up the ladder for him to be crowned PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR cum May ’14.
On current form, he is among the best in the World in his position-which is currently unknown as he is deployed to several in every match. Mikel Arteta, who has assumed full responsibilities as team captain, since the ouster of club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, from the team, is accumulating too many red cards this season. Nevertheless, he is one of the most effective players in the League can be relied upon to give the midfield the needed balance.
Wojciech Szczesny has been very dependable this season but almost brought back memories of his over confident self in the first half of the game in Naples. Luckily for him and Arsenal, the mistake amounted to nothing.
With Pantilimon between the sticks for City, they have kept a few clean sheets along the way. Joe Hart might be facing deja vu. Roy Hodgson might be forced to look elsewhere for a replacement to the England first choice goalkeeping jersey if this current situation does not change soon.
A game that pitches two of the best sides in Europe against each other. It is the viewers’ dream to anticipate and finally watch some of the greatest footballers in the world slug it out for bragging rights. IT could be nine points-advantage Arsenal or three points-gap trimmed by City at the end of proceedings.
What is required of us is to wait as events unfold. Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton will keep a close watch on this game as it has a bearing on their current positions in the League.
As for Manchester United, this is beyond their reach at the moment. Focus should be on how to gather enough points before the new year. Who knows? Arsenal might be the first team to inflict on City, its first home loss. In football, nothing is certain.
Written by Ohireime Eboreime
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