The FourFourTwo Preview: Man City vs Arsenal
Don't mention the score...
MAN CITY FORM
- Everton 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 2-1 Sheff Wed (FAC)
- Man City 3-2 S’land (Prem)
- Man City 2-2 Burnley (Prem)
- WBA 1-3 Man City (Prem)
- Arsenal 3-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Hull (FAC)
- So’ton 2-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- West Ham 1-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-1 QPR (Prem)
Arsenal fans may not like it, but there's no way of talking about this fixture without mentioning the 6-3 scoreline of last season's equivalent clash.
It may have been a tennis score, rather than a cricket score, but it was still a thumping that seemed to leave major psychological scars. The Gunners would go on to lose their subsequent big 'away days' 5-1 at Anfield and 6-0 at Stamford Bridge, as the wheels came off their title challenge quicker than you could say "title challenges don't have wheels, you cliche-peddling fool".
Although there has been little to suggest the Gunners will flounder quite so pathetically in the big matches this season (their 2-0 reverse away to current league leaders Chelsea was their joint-heaviest of the campaign so far), they are once again way off the title pace.
Although there's been no prolonged period of gloom and doom (at no stage this season have they gone more than two games without a win), the last five months have been sprinkled with disappointing results.
With Southampton maintaining momentum, and Spurs and Liverpool both gradually improving, Arsenal could yet have a real battle on their hands to secure a top four spot. They know how to manage that situation, of course, and last weekend's victory over Stoke showed the kind of ruthless efficiency in attack required to leave the rest in their wake.
With Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott returning to fitness, Arsene Wenger has great and vast attacking options that could cause any teams problems. That includes Manchester City, who despite welcoming back Vincent Kompany for this fixture should be cautious of the Gunners' creative threat.
Both these teams have made their share of mistakes at the back this season, and in the longer term, minimising those errors will be key to success this season. In the shorter term, attack may prove the best form of defence, which could make things interesting on Sunday afternoon.
With Kompany set to return from a hamstring injury, City should have a clean bill of health, although Yaya Toure and the newly recruited Wilfried Bony will be away on international duty.
Mathieu Debuchy became the latest Arsenal defender to limp back into the physio's room, after dislocating his shoulder against Stoke. Some would argue a dislocated shoulder would't cause a limp, mind.
The Gunners will also be without Jack Wilshere (ankle), Mikel Arteta (calf), Danny Welbeck (thigh) and Abou Diaby (Diabism), all of whom definitely will be limping. Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs could return.
Player to watch: David Silva (Man City)
With Sergio Aguero suffering injury and Yaya Toure only recently starting to approach last season's performance levels, City have needed Silva to carry them through the winter months.
Fortunately for the champions, the Spaniard hasn't let them down, and his form in recent weeks has been typically sensational. In City's previous Premier League fixture - the 1-1 draw at Everton - Silva created 5 goalscoring chances.
Although none of them were converted, this should be a warning sign for Arsene Wenger - particularly as these chances were all in central areas. Silva will drift around the pitch, but it will be centrally that he will do the most damage.
Arsenal's isn't the most mobile or consistent central defensive unit - a swift interchange of passes can often be their undoing - and that could be something Silva, along with his partner in crime Aguero, looks to exploit.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 2-2 City (PL, Sep 14)
- Arsenal 3-0 City (CS, Aug 14)
- Arsenal 1-1 City (PL, Mar 14)
- City 6-3 Arsenal (PL, Dec 13)
- Arsenal 0-2 City (PL, Jan 13)
"Every game I see him making a great effort, showing great commitment, ambition and the maturity needed to keep improving year after year," Man City's Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini said of his compatriot, Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez, this week. "I'm happy for him because, at this time, he is the best player in English football," added the City boss. He may not be saying that should Sanchez dent his team's title push on Sunday afternoon. On Thursday, Pellegrini and Arsene Wenger were shortlisted for December's Manager of the Month award.
Facts and figures
- There have been 6 red cards in the last 9 Premier League matches between these two sides.
- Only Chelsea (11) have won more Premier League games away at Man City than Arsenal (10).
- Arsenal are the only team to score three goals at the Etihad in a Premier League game during Pellegrini’s reign – but this was in a 6-3 defeat.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
One third of last year's fixture. City 2-1 Arsenal.
Back 2-1 at 8/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication