Before the 2013-14 Premier League season began, the bloc of matches that projected to give Manchester City the most trouble—the one that just started with a win at Old Trafford—jumped from the slate:
Even looking at it now could give a City fan indigestion. All four of those sides are presently in the top half of the league table. Liverpool and Arsenal presently sandwich City near the summit of the standings.
And though Southampton finished poorly last season, they are now a club on the rise. Besides, no City fan will soon forget the loss at St. Mary's Stadium last season (or the draw there this season). Southampton are no joke.
So those four matches seemed a real gauntlet before the season started. On present evidence, though, that presumption was only half-right.
Southampton's pace and guile make them a very tough match for City, and the Sky Blues probably will not be favored to do anything but draw or lose at Anfield, such is Liverpool's outstanding form now.
But Manchester United's resistance in the recent derby was so pathetic that Mark Ogden of the Telegraph reported recently of fomenting player revolt:
David Moyes is facing a critical battle for his Manchester United future with squad misgivings over the manager’s tactical approach...the patience shown by the majority of Moyes’s players with his tactics and approach to the job is now at breaking point, with Telegraph Sport aware of the concern of squad members over the inability of the manager to arrest the slump.
The ease with which City toyed with the Red Devils on their own pitch looks to be, if not the last straw for Moyes, the continuation of the descent into unemployment.
Which brings us to the next match in City's supposedly scary four-match run, the coming trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal. Again, a match would normally be cause for concern seems now to perhaps be little more than a tuneup for the two really tough matches that follow.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is not about to lose his job, not after recently managing his 1,000th match for the Gunners. But Arsenal's seemingly annual late-season swoon is in full plummet.
Wenger's charges have won but two of their last seven league matches, including a 5-1 defeat at Anfield and the recent 6-0 drilling by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Could City lose this match at Arsenal? Sure they could. Will they? Probably not. As of this writing, City are nearly even money at Oddschecker.com to win at the Emirates, while Arsenal are a remote 11-to-4 proposition to win at home.
Wenger has confirmed that Laurent Koscielny will not be fit for Arsenal's clash with Manchester City on Saturday. Koscielny joins Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby on the sidelines and Wenger revealed that none of his injured players will be available for the visit of Manuel Pellegrini’s title chasers.
Wenger must feel like he is hoping to repel a swarm of angry hornets with a tennis racket. As for City, they will likely be without striker Sergio Aguero and, per Daniel Taylor of the Guardian, midfielder David Silva:
How many of my projected XI will start for City at the Emirates?
City manager Manuel Pellegrini recently noted that his side's recent figurative defenestration from the Champions League, and their capitulation in the FA Cup, do allow City to focus sharply on the only task they have left.
From a recent Raf Diallo item at newstalk (click the link to hear Pellegrini), the City boss said that "one of the positive things (is that) we are now just focusing on the Premier League."
Look out Premier League. City are not playing around in Europe or in domestic cup time-wasters any more.
City projected XI against Arsenal: Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Vincent Kompany, Aleksandar Kolarov; Samir Nasri, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas; Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko.