Archive for October 24th, 2010

City Preview: Arsenal must set down a marker

2 comments October 24th, 2010

Let’s start with an ugly fact: lose at Manchester City today, and after nine games we will be behind Emirates-conquering West Brom.

We’d also probably be sixth, and eight points behind leaders Chelsea.  A quarter of the way through the season, the table would not make for pretty reading.

It’s essential that we avoid defeat today.  That’d make it three losses from four in the league.  If, conversely, we can pull a win out of the fire, we’ll jump from fifth in to second, just five points behind the pace-setters.  A tantalising prospect.

Our recent record at the City of Manchester Stadium is poor.  Our recent record in top of the table clashes, as this fixture must now be regarded, is also poor.  Previous excuses, however, are being cleared to one side.  Arsene says:

“I feel we are a much more competitive side now. At 18 or 19 years of age – unless you have exceptions – you do not have the same body build and experience. You can be impressed upon a bit more at 18 than 22 or 23 because you are a man at 23.

So we are not anymore what I could sometimes see – a soft team. That’s finished.”

We’ve heard this before, of course.  I no longer consider Arsenal a particularly physically ‘soft’ side, but I do worry about their mental fragility.  As in all big games, the first goal will be crucial today.  If we score early on, our possession play might allow us to dominate.  Concede, and City, as last season, could have us on the ropes.

This fixture last campaign was, of course, a source of great controversy.  Whilst Arsene has been typically politique ahead of the game, the videos in this post would make for quite the motivational team-talk.  Adebayor may not start the game, but his actions cast a shadow over affairs between the two sides.

It’s interesting to note that the 4-2 last year game marked Almunia’s first real dip in form, and saw him taken out of the team for a prolonged spell.  On this occasion, we travel to Eastlands with Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks and seemingly in favour.  Remarkably, Almunia’s continued absence through “injury” was not even discussed in the Friday press conference.  Fabianski had had some steady performances of late, and he’ll need to be better than the Spaniard was on the same ground last year if we’re to stand any chance of taking three points.

Bacary Sagna returns at right-back, but Koscielny and Vermaelen are both still out, so Djourou and Squillaci will continue at centre-half, with Clichy to their left.  Song, Diaby and Fabregas will make up a strong midfield trio, with Jack Wilshere sitting this one out due to suspension.  Upfront, I expect Marouane Chamakh to be flanked by Samir Nasri and a returning Andrey Arshavin.  What an opportunity this is for him to prove his doubters wrong.

Score the first goal, and anything is possible.  Go behind, and not just the game but our title hopes too will be in jeopardy.

Come On You Reds.

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