There are not many fixtures in this league of ours that you know a bad day at the office can leave you with your Arsenal handed to you. This is definitely one of those fixtures. In fact, Manchester City are probably armed with the largest array of attacking talent in the league and that is something this Debuchy-less Arsenal defence will have to deal with this afternoon. That said a quick look back at their results at the Etihad this season and Manchester City have only averaged 2 goals a game. Scoring 20 in the 10 home fixtures. Only one team have kept them out and that team were Stoke City, the team that we dismantled last weekend. Funny how it all works isn't it? That same Stoke team would more than likely get a tonking by City today but it's all about facing your opponents at the right time and as Arsène would say, producing the right performance.
The meeting at the right time part is interesting, interesting given the last few results from both teams. Manchester City have not been overly impressive during their last four games. Letting slip a two goal lead at home to Burnley. Beating Sunderland 3-2 also at home before narrowly defeating Championship club Sheffield Wednesday 2-1, yup you've guessed it, at home. Last Saturday they drew 1-1 with an out of sorts Everton at Goodison Park. Based on results, we have little to fear but today is different. They have a certain Sergio Agüero back for this fixture which is pretty damn typical. Hopefully he will take his place on the City subs bench and then come on and struggle to make an impact on the game as his team is trailing 4-1 with twenty minutes left. Wishful thinking perhaps but I guess there is a chance that they will want to ease him back in slowly. The good news for us is that Yaya Toure will not be imposing himself on us as he is strutting his fancy stuff at the ACN. Nasri has also hurt herself so won't be available for today. So that news on top of Kompany and Aguero hopefully not being fully match fit might just give City a fraction of the continuity issues that we've had to deal with all season.
Enough about them anyway, what about the Arsenal? The squad is pretty much as it was. We need someone to replace Mathieu Debuchy who 'injured himself' in our last match or so they say. His replacement will probably depend on how we want to approach the game. I know Arsène is a sucker for going toe to toe with the big boys and that has been our undoing in recent years but I think it may well be different this time. But I wouldn't listen to me too much, I tend to get all over excited just before a big game. But I'll try to explain, I think we are a team who build confidence based on our performances rather than our results. We could win 5 games in a row, the way we beat Crystal Palace at the start of the season but I'm not sure it would do much for the team in a big game. But a 3-2 loss the week before a big match with the team clicking together would give us a better chance of taking the points in my unfounded opinion. We saw some good signs against Stoke that the swagger had returned if only for a brief moment. Stoke were submerged in our pressing game along with our quick passing. I think Santi, Rosicky and Alexis could hurt City. But on the other side of the coin we could be better served to revert back to last season's approach to normal fixtures and play with a low block, defend deep, keep compact and hit them on the break. Well the whole hitting on the break last season proved to be a little bit of a problem given that we had little in the way of speed and mobility. Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud in attacking areas will not frighten anyone on the half way line. This season things are very different. We have a player who could be left to his own devices in the final third with everyone else defending outside of our penalty area and Alexis Sanchez would still give International defenders the run around, that is how good he is.
Going back to the right back question, I think Arsène will select Chambers , especially if we are to play a more cautious game. If we are brave enough to take the game to City then just maybe Arsène will persist with Bellerin who interestingly replaced Debuchy last weekend. I would be inclined to stick with Monreal even if Gibbs is back in the squad.
As for the rest of the team I just don't know what Arsène is going to do. Will he leave our star returning players on the bench? I kinda hope so but I wonder if Arsène will bring back Aaron Ramsey back into the fold. I have a sneaky suspicion that Tomas Rosicky will make way. I really hope not because he has been very good for the team and part of the reason why we have gelled in recent matches. Even though we have injuries coming out of our ears there are still many questions. Who plays alongside Francis Coquelin? Will Arsène look to add a bit of Flamini's bite? Or will Aaron Ramsey provide the drive and engine from that position? Risky perhaps.
Does the Ox start out wide? Or does Rosicky get pushed there to give us more experience? This is all assuming that Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil are still not ready for a start so really and truly I have no idea what Arsène Wenger will do.
Mean Lean Predicted Line Up
Personally I will be disappointed to see Rosicky anywhere but the starting 11. As I mentioned at the beginning of the last Arsenal Vision Post Match Podcast I think we are a far more fluid side with him in it. If defending didn't matter I would love to see us line up like this
That would be fun, even if we'd probably ship double figures.
Anyway gotta shoot off, back later with the usual match day stuff.