Saturday, 22 September 2012

City vs Arsenal: Match Preview

City go gunning for glory...

By Dave Walker

Who will ever forget the incredulous scenes as Sergio Aguero wheeled away triumphantly, stripped to the 
waist, shirt whirring in the air proclaiming Manchester City as Premier League champions after the winner
against QPR?

Amid wild celebrations - seen the world over - City clinched the title accompanied by the now legendary ‘Agueeeerrroooooo’ commentary and iconic footage. 
Contrast that with the final whistle at the Emirates Stadium just 35 days prior.

Defeated, dejected and seemingly dumped out of the title race by a resurgent Arsenal, courtesy of a 25-yard screamer from Mikel Arteta, who could have foreseen what was to follow?

City remain unbeaten in the Premier League since that seemingly calamitous Easter Sunday, having risen Lazarus-like to the top of English football - but now they face Arsene Wenger’s new look Gunners once again.

It was a sweet win for Wenger’s men, so long the butt of jibes of being City’s feeder club, given the procession of ex Gunners rocking up at the Etihad.

As such Gael Clichy is probably the only ex Emirates employee likely to be on show this Sunday. Samir Nasri should be spared the wrath of the away fans with a pulled hamstring, Kolo Toure no longer figures in Mancini’s plans and Adebayor is long gone. At least the sell-out crowd will be united in their shared condemnation of one, Robin Van Persie.

A 10-game unbeaten record will come under fire from a radically reshaped Arsenal with a mean defence and a Franco-Prussian attack, carefully orchestrated by an Iberian playmaker.

Accusations of being a one-man team were banished when RVP chose the ‘Dark Side’ and Arsenal used the £24m fee to acquire new boys Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla.

Given City’s worrying propensity for leaking goals this season a 0-0 draw would seem a very unwise wager at the bookies. City’s PL leading defence from 2011/12 has conceded six already with Arsenal’s miserly rearguard – masterminded by Wenger’s new deputy, Steve Bould – being breached just once.

The teams sit in the top four with eight points apiece, but come into the clash at the Etihad having experienced hugely different Champion’s League emotions this week.

Arsenal notched an expected win against Montpellier, while Roberto Mancini’s men suffered last minute devastation in the 3-2 Bernabeu thriller.

It will be a testament to Mancini’s managerial skills, aligned to the players’ resilience and determination if City were to enhance a remarkable sequence of 25 home wins from the last 26 home fixtures.

Changes in personnel are inevitable. A fit again Aguero could start and perennial maverick Mario Balotelli should figure somewhere, after being banished to the stands in Madrid amid accusations of late night partying and cigarette smoking.

If the enigmatic striker does make it on to the pitch City fans will be hoping he leaves the field either at the behest of his manager or at the final whistle – unlike his senseless antics and dismissal last Easter.

Apart from a 3-0 reversal in 2010/11, City have enjoyed home wins of 4-2, 3-0 and 1-0 in recent cup and league matches in Manchester, plus the pre-season 2-0 curtain raiser victory in Beijing.

For City it provides the sternest examination yet of their ability to defend their crown and it’ll need a much improved performance to maintain that winning sequence. 

Player watch

David Silva vs Santi Corzola

Not the Spanish Inquisition – the Spanish Opposition as the two ex La Liga playmakers face off at the Etihad.

International medal laden Silva is one of the barriers keeping Arsenal’s new star out of the international starting XI, but the ex-Malaga maestro is earning rave reviews since joining the Gunners.

City’s ‘Merlin’ has just signed a new five year deal and needs to get back to his mesmeric best after a demanding and energy sapping summer. Carzola has the element of surprise to the English game and City will need to beware.

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(c) The Sky Blue View 2012

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