On Sunday, Arsenal will have the enormous challenge of disposing Manchester City’s threat, currently second in the Premier League, at the City of Manchester Stadium. In the last few games against the Blues, Wenger’s men had to endure a few disappointments, but this time they are brimming with confidence that the result will be a positive one.
Having thrashed Ukranian side Shakthar Donetsk during the week, the Gunners are on a wave of euphoria, but steps must be taken to ensure they do not get complacent for this important fixture. Manchester City are flying high, the endless river of money looking like finally is paying out.
Arsenal were significantly boosted by the return of their captain Cesc Fabregas from injury recently. On top of that, Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner will also enforce the ranks. Still, the Gunners will be devoid of the valuable services of Robin van Persie, Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Vermaelen, Manuel Almunia and Laurent Koscielny. Bakary Sagna has a small chance of making a return too.
On the other side of the battlefield, Roberto Mancini has other headaches to alleviate. The brothers Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure will not be able to take part and will be accompanied by Alex Nimely, Michael Johnson, striker Mario Balotelli and left-back Aleksandar Kolarov in the physio rooms.
Here is a closer look at the players to watch, key clashes, tactics and overall preview of the biggest game of the Premier League Ninth Round.
Players to Watch
Carlos Tevez was tremendous against Blackpool, only luck robbed him from his deserved hat-trick. A very dangerous and tenacious player, Tevez will be the biggest threat to Arsenal’s defence. He is currently on fire with seven goals in eight games.
David Silva will also pose an imminent threat to the defensive organisation of the Gunners. He is highly creative and possesses great technique, attributes that could throw a few surprises if left unchecked for too long.
Nigel de Jong’s tenacity in midfield will prove crucial for keeping the ball in City’s possession. The battle will be fought in midfield and De Jong will have to play the lead role in it.
Cesc Fabregas’s return will be a huge boost for everyone in red and white shirt. His performance will be the key to opening the doors of victory or defeat in this match.
Alex Song will have to keep the tempo high for the entire duration of the match. The midfield battle will be fierce and the Cameroonian’s tenacity could prove beneficial for Wenger’s side.
Andrei Arshavin is another player who has to be watched. On numerous occasions he has proved that he is big-game kind of player. He can explode with brilliance at any time, and this event might be one of those days for him.
Both teams are likely to come out with similar formations: 4-3-3, but that may easily change as Arsene Wenger has other options at his disposal. Le Professor is likely to field players with stronger physiques against City.
In the last game, Mancini’s men used physical force to outplay the technically adept Gunners; and it worked. It’s very likely that they may try to do it once again. To counter that, Wenger will have to field physically strong players like Alex Song, Abou Diaby and Denilson.
This, however, would decrease the offensive potency, so Wenger will have to decide how to find the fragile balance destined for success against the Citizens.
Silva and Tevez are very dangerous if left unattended, so a tight-marking system of those specific players may prove effective. Similar is the case with Andrei Arshavin, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas.
Mancini will probably tell his strikers to swap positions in attempt to confuse the oppositional defence. Silva, Tevez and Adebayor could well join in the dance for goals up front and it depends on Arsenal defender’s ability to think ahead to deal with this threat.
It’s very likely to see an aggressive Manchester City side with strong emphasis on closing down the Gunners for the entire duration of the match in attempt to disrupt the flow of their game. Arsenal, on the other hand, will battle for their right to play their own game and it will depend on whether they can take the heat of the high tempo.
Nigel de Jong versus Cesc Fabregas: De Jong will try to contain the Spaniard by not leaving him much room to breathe. Cesc will have to show the fighting spirit he often demonstrates to find the much-needed free space. De Jong is likely to get support from Garreth Barry or James Milner in his attempt to stop Arsenal’s playmaker, but this could leave empty spaces for other Arsenal midfielders to exploit.
Carlos Tevez versus Arsenal Defence: Carlos Tevez will be difficult to stop as he is likely to cover much ground up front. All defenders must be alert to keep track of his movement at all times.
Marouane Chamakh versus City Defence: Chamakh will pose threat from the air for Manchester City. With the speed of Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin and Theo Walcott (likely to be involved later in the game), chances are that crosses will bombard the Blue’s penalty box. If Chamakh is left unattended, they will probably suffer.
Emannuel Adebayor versus Johan Djourou: The ex-Arsenal player can create chances as well as score. To eliminate the danger he poses from the air, Djourou will have to stick to him closer than Mr. Adebayor’s shadow.
Alex Song versus James Milner: In case Milner is used as a central midfielder, Song’s responsibility will be to curb the chances the English international will try to create. Song can mark him but shouldn’t get carried away as his main role will be to disrupt the game of the oppositional midfielders and to battle for control over the centre of the park.
Although I am not the best at predicting results, I think 2-3 is suitable for this encounter.