Arsenal's seven-game winning streak in the Premier League came to an end at Queens Park Rangers last week, and they barely managed to hold on to the third spot in the league. With only seven games to go they have a real battle with Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle for the final two Champions League places. Ideally Arsenal will win all of their remaining games, and tie up the third spot before the final game of the season.
Of course Arsenal fans know things rarely happen in an ideal fashion, and the game with QPR proved that. There has been much talk from the club of how the players' concentration slipped and complacency was also cited as a factor. It's never nice as a fan to hear that your team hadn't got their attitude right for a game, and it's something Arsenal have suffered from far too often in the past.
I have no doubt the attitude will be absolutely right for the game against City, but it will still be a very tough game. At their very best this Arsenal team are a match for almost any other side, but the three points dropped last week would have been easier to win than the ones against City will be. It's infuriating to think that the players got that game wrong, and I think they may possibly have had their minds on this week's game.
I won't dwell on QPR too much though, as I'm still more than happy to see Arsenal in with a real chance of finishing in the top three or even the top four. The importance of qualification for next season's Champions League cannot be too exaggerated, and it's worth an awful lot of money to the club too. Arsenal have some serious business to do in the transfer market this summer, and it's always easier to lure players with the promise of Champions League football.
Arsene Wenger said that the loss to QPR has not stopped the team's momentum, and hopefully he is right. If the players can put that game out of their minds and play like they did in their previous seven league games they will give City a very tough afternoon. There is an awful lot riding on the game for both teams, but City probably have even more to lose than Arsenal.
By the time the game kicks off City will more than likely be eight points behind Manchester United at the top of the Premier League, and a defeat to Arsenal would end their chances of winning the title. They have lost hundreds of millions over the last few seasons in their quest for trophies, and the consequences could be dire for their manager Roberto Mancini. There has been much talk of his job being safe, but I would doubt it if they don't win the league.
City have been quite fantastic at home this season, and their draw with Sunderland last week was the first time they failed to win at home in 21 league games. They have fallen by the wayside on their travels though, and they have only managed two wins in their last nine away games. They were seen as a free scoring team earlier in the season, but they have only scored five goals in those last nine away games as well.
The Arsenal team more or less picks itself at the moment, and I don't expect any real changes despite last week's blip. With Arsenal playing at home I think Aaron Ramsey will return to the bench, and a more naturally wide player will play on the left. That means it's a straight choice between Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho, and I hope Chamberlain gets the nod.
I still think Gervinho has struggled to regain any form since his return from the African Cup of Nations, and Chamberlain will have a lot more to offer on the day. There was a suggestion that he might make the English squad for Euro 2012, but his lack of playing time for Arsenal will surely count against him. He could have made a real impact for England in that tournament, but he needs the chance to make a real impact for Arsenal first.
It's not easy to understand why Chamberlain has been given so few opportunities this season, but I suppose Wenger is introducing him gradually. It may have been a different story if Theo Walcott or Gervinho had been injured during the season, but I'm sure his chances will come in the future. It also has to be remembered how well he played in a midfield role against AC Milan when Arsenal almost did the impossible against them.
I'm expecting Arsenal to attack City from the off today, and if City play like they have being doing recently they will have quite a few problems. There is no doubt that City have some very good players, but it seems they have found the pressure of a title challenge too much to take. It would be nice to see Arsenal put the final nail in City's title challenge, even if it hands the title to United.
I'm sure it will be far from plain sailing for Arsenal, and the performance of Robin van Persie will be very important for them. He hasn't scored in his last three games, and there is now a chance that he will not reach the magical 30 Premier League goals mark this season. With only one year left on his contract there is a real possibility RVP could leave Arsenal this summer, but a few goals from him today could be the impetus Arsenal need to seal a top three finish.
If Arsenal do finish in the top three I think RVP will stay and sign a new contract, and the players Arsenal need to compliment him will arrive this summer. A goalscoring performance from him today should hopefully be enough to take all three points for Arsenal, and put them back above Spurs in third place. With Newcastle and Chelsea also winning this weekend it is very important for Arsenal that they do not lose.
I hope City try to attack Arsenal and leave a little bit of room at the back for Arsenal to attack them. If they do I can see Arsenal scoring the goals they need, and getting the result they want. I'm predicting a 2-1, but I suppose I wouldn't be too unhappy with a draw either.
Arsenal have to play Wolves and Wigan in the next week, and wins in those games will be vitally important for them no matter how today's game turns out. The pitfalls of playing teams at the wrong end of the table were all too obvious against QPR last week, and Arsenal have to take six points from those games. Even if the worst were to happen today wins in those games would put the team right on track.
Ultimately it doesn't matter where Arsenal get the points from, as long as they finish in a Champions League spot. Of course a win over City would be a real boost for their chances, but last week proved that three points are three points no matter who they beat to get them.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.
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