The first Barclays Premier League fixture after the international break sees the Champions Manchester City travel to North London to face Arsenal. These two teams have served some memorable moments in recent past – prominent among them are Adebayor running the length of the pitch to celebrate his goal against Arsenal and Arsenal fans mocking Manchester City by doing Poznan dance. There is a reason why there is an added zest to this fixture in recent years. Manchester City have been plucking players away from Arsenal for few years now. And some of these players (particularly Adebayor and Nasri) have used words/actions which haven’t been appreciated (to put it mildly) by Arsenal fans. Add to that the two diametrically opposite financial principles of running a football club and you have all the ingredients of a simmering rivalry.
How Arsenal and Manchester City have fared so far
Both the clubs have already faced each other in the season’s curtain raiser – the community shield – where Arsenal had handsomely defeated Manchester City by 3-0. But it will be foolish to read too much into that result as Community Shield is nothing more than a glorified friendly. Sure the community shield win will give Arsenal a confidence boost when facing City, but don’t think that City will keep thinking too much about that drubbing. City will be better prepared than they were in August. So far, both Arsenal and City have had a mixed start to the campaign. In fact both the teams are coming into this match on the back of disappointing results. Manchester City’s last game was shock defeat at home to Stoke City whereas Arsenal was able to come away with just 1 point against Leicester City and some would even say that they were lucky not to drop all 3 of them. Both Manchester City and Arsenal have also had shown flashes of their quality too. City were impressive against Liverpool and Arsenal came back from 2 goals down against Everton at Goodison to earn a credible draw. Now this is one contest that that will test the title credentials of both the teams – City is facing a quality opponent away from home for the first time this season and Arsenal couldn’t have asked for a better opponent than the champions to test themselves.
Possible squad compositions
Manchester City hardly have any injury or suspension worries so they may be able to field their best possible starting eleven. It will be interesting to see whether Manuel Pellegriniwill prefer to play 2 strikers and ask his midfield duo of Yaya Toure and Fernandino to contain the slick passing and movement of Arsenal’s fluid midfield. Manchester City surely have the firepower upfront to blow away any defence. With both Aguero and Dzeko likely to start, Arsenal defence will be severely tested. Manuel Pellerini would have also noticed that Arsenal has so far failed to keep a clean sheet against the lesser opponents, so he must be fancying his chances. It will also be interesting to see whether Pellegrini will start with another ex-Arsenal player BacarySagna. Arsenal on their part have shown in the community shield that if they can get their passing game going then City will not be able to contain them as easily. Arsenal do have some injury worries notably Giroud and Walcott. In the absence of Giroud, all eyes will be on the deadline day signing from Manchester United – Danny Welbeck, who is expected to play more centrally. He is a typical Arsene Wenger type of forward – pacy, can play in multiple position and can hold the ball to bring the attacking midfielders into play. Welbeck must be feeling on top of the world too after his 2 goal exploits that saw off the Swiss in the qualifiers.Aaron Ramsey’s availability (may be not for the full match) is also a welcome boost for Arsenal.
Key players to watch out for
For Arsenal it is undoubtedly going to be Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has so far adapted well to the pace of the English football. He has also shown time and again that he could be dangerous when operating on the flanks.
City’s squad is loaded with talented individual who on their day can turn the game on its head – notably Aguero, Dzeko, Yaya Toure and David Silva. But one player who will be itching to go out on Emirates pitch and silence the crowd is Samir Nasri. In some sense, how Samir Nasri copes up with the boos and his own emotions will some way go and define the outcome of this game.
Expect it to be a tight game. With both teams having good attacking players and an attacking philosophy to play the game, it won’t be a boring goalless encounter. I expect it to be a 1:1 draw