Arsenal’s sequence of victories suggests that they are coping well with their latest injury crisis, but Monday night’s encounter with Manchester City is arguably the first test of their title credentials without Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin controlling midfield.
Aaron Ramsey has been their star performer in recent weeks, but his propensity to charge forward from central midfield could be Arsenal’s downfall.
Ramsey’s movement was superb against Sunderland and Aston Villa (two goals, one assist) but this is largely because his attacking instincts were well-suited to deep-lying opponents that rarely threatened on the counter. However, Olympiakos frequently dribbled through the centre of midfield, exposing Ramsey’s defensive flaws (four missed tackles).
This does not bode well for Arsenal, given that Yaya Toure showed signs of returning to his best against Swansea last weekend. His dribbling through the centre of the pitch was reminiscent of his storming performances under Roberto Mancini, and could overwhelm Mathieu Flamini if his central midfield partner is too high up the pitch.
What’s more, David Silva is back in a City shirt. The Spaniard has amassed six assists in seven matches this season, most notably creating two goals against Chelsea in a game defined by Cesc Fabregas’s absence from defensive positions. If Ramsey performs with similar attacking freedom, Arsenal may finally feel Coquelin’s absence.
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