Manchester City vs. Arsenal: 5 Key Battles to Watch in Preseason Friendly

James WalkerAnalyst IJuly 26, 2012

Manchester City vs. Arsenal: 5 Key Battles to Watch in Preseason Friendly

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    As London celebrates the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games, Manchester City and Arsenal will be competing in Beijing’s former Olympic stadium.

    Although the fixture is a preseason friendly, it is of particular importance to Manchester City, who are hoping to increase their influence over fans in the lucrative Asian market.

    John MacBeath, the Citizens' former interim chief executive, told the Daily Mail:

    This game will be a hugely exciting one for Manchester City. The "Bird’s Nest" Stadium is a truly iconic world sporting stadium, and it will be a fitting venue to host a classic encounter between two of the English Premier League’s greatest clubs.

    It is clear that there is huge appetite for the Premier League in Asia, and we are very much looking forward to taking our talented squad there to witness the excitement and put on a sporting spectacle for our fans in China.

    Arsene Wenger’s men put a huge dent in Manchester City’s title aspirations when these two teams last met.

Sergio Aguero vs. Laurent Koscielny

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    Laurent Koscielny put an underwhelming debut season and League Cup final howler behind him in last season’s campaign. His importance to the club is symbolised by the new contract he signed earlier this week.

    Sergio Aguero, on the other hand, has shone the brightest in a Manchester City squad full of stars. Since his impressive cameo performance in his Premier League debut versus Swansea, "Kun Kun" has become integral to Manchester City’s success.

    His sensational debut season was encapsulated in a decisive goal against QPR in the final seconds of the season.

    Aguero is a difficult prospect for defenders to handle. He is a composed dribbler and has the ability to fire in shots from all corners of the pitch.

    Koscielny, however, is well adept to handle the Argentine’s nimbleness. He is perhaps the best reader of the ball in Arsenal’s back four and excels against players who are running at him with pace.

David Silva vs. Mikel Arteta

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    Mikel Arteta would find his way into almost any international squad in world football. His only flaw is that he was born Spanish.

    The 30-year-old former Everton midfielder has been forced to watch from England whilst David Silva, a player who fulfils a similar role to him, scoops up three major international trophies.

    The two Spaniards are the creative spark for their respective clubs and, although the game is only a friendly, will want to claim bragging rights over one another ahead of their Premier League encounter on September 23rd.

Abou Diaby vs. Fitness

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    Arsene Wenger has claimed on the Arsenal website that Abou Diaby is the best midfielder France have to offer.

    Fitness, however, has proven itself to be a major hindrance for the 26-year-old midfielder.

    Last season, Diaby only managed to achieve five league appearances for the Gunners, many from the subs bench. In the previous three seasons, he had cemented himself as a first-team regular.

    He played in an uneventful 45 minutes against a Malaysia XI last Tuesday, but he has the undoubted potential to cause the Man City midfield problems with his pace and physical presence if he can stay fit for long enough.

The Left-Back vs. Theo Walcott

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    Roy Hodgson did not fancy Theo Walcott during this year’s European Championships, but a match-winning-cameo performance against Sweden offered a short glimpse into the quality the 23-year-old is capable of producing.

    The problem is Arsenal fans have not seen enough of it over the past five seasons, despite having bountiful opportunities.

    Opportunities are something that proved themselves to be slender for Aleksandar Kolarov in City’s title-winning campaign. The left-back will be hoping to eclipse Gael Clichy to a starting role and outperform his French teammate.

    Whoever Walcott is up against will share the same burden: They need to impress to be sure of first-team football this season.

    Expect mistakes and the occasional flash of brilliance.

Roberto Mancini vs. Arsene Wenger

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    Roberto Mancini got his tactics all wrong in his team’s potentially decisive encounter against Arsenal last March.

    Granted, the manager was not helped by a disgruntled Mario Balotelli—the Italian got himself sent off in the second half—but he should have been able to spot the warning signs.

    City looked one-dimensional and clueless against a resilient Arsenal side that simply had to watch as the Citizens ran circles around themselves. There was no purpose in the attack and were it not for a brilliant defensive display, Arsenal may not have had to wait until Mikel Arteta’s shock goal on the cusp of full time.

    Mancini failed to take a risk and turn things around. Wenger looked on—with a calm satisfaction no doubt.

    Although this is only a friendly, Mancini will not want to be out smartened by Wenger on two consecutive occasions, so expect a game that is tactically interesting.