The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Man City
A measure of both sides’ early-season cojones.
- Leicester 1-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 Besiktas (Prem)
- Everton 2-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 2-1 Palace (Prem)
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 0-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Man City 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 0-3 Arsenal (C. Shield)
- Olympiakos p2-2 Man City (F)
That’s not to say a disappointing result for either team on Saturday would mean screwing up plans and kissing goodbye to a good season, nor that European failure is on the cards should they kick off their respective Champions League campaigns badly.
But a strong result could set the tone in a season where each of these teams has a point to prove. Can Arsenal finally show they won’t roll over and die when it comes to facing the big boys? Will City ruin the Chelsea title love-in? Might either of them progress past the last 16 in the Champions League for a change?
OK, enough with the questions. Arsenal fans have plenty of those right now, one of which is certainly whether or not new boy Danny Welbeck will prove the net-bulging frontman they need with Olivier Giroud injured.
One thing’s for sure, though – performances need improvement. The Gunners were lethargic at Leicester as they came away with a point, after scrambling for a draw at Everton the previous weekend thanks to Giroud’s second-half introduction.
Nevertheless they remain unbeaten, which is more than can be said for Saturday’s visitors.
Despite a good start seeing off Newcastle and Liverpool, Manuel Pellegrini’s men were beaten at home by Stoke after testing Asmir Begovic with only 2 of their 16 efforts. Must do better.
That applies to their record at the Emirates Stadium too, a ground on which the Blues have won only once in their eight trips (in 2012/13). Going back further, it’s one of just 17 in the Premier League.
So, which side is tough enough?
Arsenal are surprisingly light on niggles with Mikel Arteta (ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (hamstring) both set to return, while Mesut Ozil has returned to training after an ankle knack. Giroud is crocked until the New Year, but Theo Walcott should be back at the end of the month after his ACL nightmare.
For City, Stevan Jovetic (hamstring) and Pablo Zabaleta both returned from international duty early with unhelpful knocks. The Montenegrin is out, as is Fernando (groin) after limping off against Stoke.
Player to watch: Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Welbs in an Arsenal shirt, everybody. Will it look a bit weird at first? Probably. But never mind that, because he’s more or less what Arsene Wenger needs right now.
Two goals for England in midweek will have done his confidence no harm, although it’s hard to say exactly how well the former Manchester United forward will fare as the Gunners’ main man up front – he was barely played there at Old Trafford, after all. Regardless, he’s an upgrade on Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell, and will allow Alexis Sanchez to return to his most effective role on the left.
In United’s 3-0 win at Aston Villa last season, when Welbeck scored twice as an advanced striker, the 23-year-old was highly effective drifting in from the right (as the passes received graphic shows). He got away 7 shots on goal playing slightly ahead of Wayne Rooney, and linked up effectively with winger Antonio Valencia (the second-best combination of the game). More of the same needed at the Emirates.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- 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)
- City 1-1 Arsenal (PL, Sep 12)
Wenger has refused to confirm whether Welbeck will start at the Emirates, but did suggest his new signing will end up as the focal point of his attack in good time. "I cannot tell you if he'll start [against City] but it's a possibility. I have to assess the squad," said the Frenchman. "When you analyse Welbeck's game, he has the qualities to play down the middle. He is quick and is a great finisher."
Pellegrini also had words for a new signing, centre-back Eliaquim Mangala, and admitted the Frenchman's place is not guaranteed.
"We have so many games to play," said the City boss. "At the moment Demichelis and Kompany are playing well, but that doesn't mean Mangala can't play. He will have his time to play, and then it depends on performances."
Facts and figures
- Arsenal won 18 of their first 22 Premier League games against City, but have won 3 of the last 12 (D4 L5).
- The Gunners have won more Premier League games in September than any other Premier League side (48) and also have the best points/game average (2.02).
- Sergio Aguero has scored 8 goals in his last 10 Premier League away appearances.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A score draw on the doors. 1-1, D-Welbz on his debut.