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Predicting The Arsenal Starting XI for Their Match Against Manchester City

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Samir Nasri of Arsenal is challenged by Roger Johnson of Birmingham during the Barclays Premier Leaue match between Birmingham City and Arsenal at St. Andrews on January 1, 2011 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Callum D'SouzaSenior Writer IJanuary 4, 2011

Arsenal have a glorious and tough opportunity to prove that they have the muscle to win the English Premier League and diminish their notorious five year trophy drought. In a top of the table clash, second place Manchester City travel to the Emirates to play the third placed Gunners.

In what is destined to be a thrilling, attacking match, it will define who takes the commanding position of second place. Manchester City may be ahead of Arsenal on 41 points, but the Eastland's club have played an extra game to the Gunners 20. Arsene Wenger's men are only two points a drift of City and a victory over the Big Spenders would enable Arsenal to overtake City and but immense pressure on top of the table Manchester United.

The pair met October with the Gunners victorious over City 3-0. However Roberto Mancini's men did have Dedryck Boyata sent off in the fourth minute. Arsenal have returned to form with an impressive 3-0 thrashing of Birmingham City at St Andrews. The Gunner's coped well with Birmingham's aggressive behaviour and were sharp on the ball.

City are also in strong form boasting three successive wins all against tough opponents. In what is sure to be a powerful, goal filled encounter it will likely come down to which defence can withstand the fast paced attacks coming their respective ways.

Let's predict the Arsenal starting XI.

Goalkeeper

Predominant first choice keeper Manuel Almunia is still nursing a persistent elbow injury ensuring current first choice Lukasz Fabianski will continue his impressive run at the front of the helm. Boom youngster Wojciech Szczensy will take the second choice reigns with a spot on the bench.

Meanwhile impressive Italian Vito Mannone has returned froma stellar loan spell with Hull City but has a thigh injury meaning the 22 year old will not be considered.

Defenders

Defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen continues his absents from August due to a persistent Achilles injury. The Belgium is not expected to return until later this month. Wenger will hope to use the inform Johan Djourou, who has been a revelation at the back this season, in the centre with Frenchman Laurent Koscienly.

Wenger will want to refrain from using the struggling Sebastien Squillaci in the centre but may be forced to should Djourou suffer a fitness relapse. At right back Bacary Sagna will keep his his place from the Birmingham City match along with Gael Clichy who will be on the left.

Versatile Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue will receive a spot on the bench furthermore English international Kieran Gibbs has returned to full fitness after a suffering an ankle injury in December but is not expected to be utilized.

Midfielders

Captain and maestro Cesc Fabregas got through the Birmingham encounter unscathed and will continue to lead the attack. In a three man midfield, the Spaniard will be on the right with Alexandre Song in the defensive midfielder role. Wenger then has Denilson, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere vying for the remaining role.

Teenage sensation Jack Wilshere is expected to win out however Samba star Denilson provides extra strength and defensive traits which may sway Wenger's mind. Rosicky will have to settle for a bench role but may feature late on as an impact player.

Imposing Frenchman Abou Diaby is still nursing the ankle injury suffered last week against Wigan Athletic.

Forwards

In a three man forward line, Dutch maestro Robin van Persie is expected to be rested after starting against Birmingham. This ensures Moroccan Marouane Chamakh starts at the main striker. On the right there are a number of players vying for a start.

Theo Walcott was strong against Birmingham on the weekend and his pace and balance provides an extra dimension in attack. Nicklas Bendtner is also an option to give extra height and power however the Danish sharp shooter is unlikely to start whilst Andrei Arshavin's experience and occasional brilliance could win out.

On the left the Premier's League current best player Samir Nasri will be looking to torment the City defence. Nasri holds the key to Arsenal's title success according to Wenger and with the way the Frenchman's playing, he could just unlock the treasure.

Substitutes

With seven players on Wenger's bench, Wojciech Szczensy will be the back up goalkeeper along with Sebastien Squillaci and Emmanuel Eboue, who will be the deputy defenders. Denilson and Tomas Rosicky are the back up play makers whilst Andrei Arshavin or Nicklas Bendtner are the back up attackers with Robin van Persie.

A huge quest for Wenger and his men and if the Gunners really want to show they can be genuine title contenders, this encounter is a huge chance to prove their Championship worth.

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