Arsenal vs Manchester City: Premier League preview by SE
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Kickoff: 12:45 PM BST
Matchweek 4 of the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League campaign kicks off with the most engrossing of encounters, which, apart from the supporters of both these elite English clubs, will have most football fanatics around the world glued to their TV sets this Saturday afternoon. Arsenal host Manchester City at the Emirates, in what will be a pivotal clash to both sides from their seasons’ perspective. And, with both sides plagued by injuries to key players, Wenger and Pellegrini will have their thinking caps on, when it comes to picking their strongest possible starting lineups. Anything goes; you wouldn’t want to miss out on this mouthwatering clash between these two Premier League heavyweights.
The North Londoners have had a decent start to their campaign, which has seen them qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the 17th year running, and pick up 5 points from 3 Premier League fixtures. There hasn’t been that silky smooth football, which you normally associate with Wenger’s wizards but, having got a sense of what went wrong for them in August, Arsenal should come out all guns blazing when the reigning English champions visit the Emirates this Saturday afternoon.
The month of September doesn’t get any easier for Arsenal, who, following Manchester City’s clash, face an away fixture against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday. This hectic September period also sees them face another home clash against their North London rivals, Spurs, right at the end of the month. Consequently, this Saturday’s clash against Man City becomes all the more important.
The likes of Cazorla, Sanchez and Monreal have had ‘good’ starts to the season, from their personal point of view, and would want to carry that form into Saturday’s game.
The reigning English champions, albeit a point ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League standings, endured a rather ignominious home defeat at the hands of Stoke City before the international break. Until then, the Cityzens had got off to a 100% start, with wins over Newcastle and Liverpool suggesting that they, like Chelsea, would be irrepressible during the early months of the campaign.
Also, the game on Saturday kick starts a period of grueling 8 days, during which they play Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premier League, with a trip to Bavaria – to face Bayern Munich – sandwiched in between those two tough domestic assignments.
Jovetic had a good home game against Liverpool, against whom he scored a brace; Aguero, in the two substitute appearances, had bagged a couple of goals for himself but, against Stoke City, he couldn’t do another ‘Aguerooooo’ moment to save the blushes for the sky blues. Dzeko, albeit impressive, hasn’t got on the score sheet, yet.
Team News – Arsenal
The Gunners are fretting over a possible ankle injury to their talismanic Welshman, Aaron Ramsey, who is an integral part of this Arsenal machine and, going by the latest reports, the 22-year old is likely to miss to Saturday’s home fixture against Man City.
Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta – who suffered hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively, during the 1st week of the campaign – are reported to be getting back to full fitness, but it remains to be seen whether they are 100% to take the field against Manchester City. Theo Walcott continues his rehabilitation, and this game comes too quick for the Englishman’s return.
Manchester City – Team News
While there were sickening fears over Kompany’s fitness before Belgium’s friendly match against Australia, it does look like the Belgian will be ready to lead the Champions for this all important clash. Jovetic didn’t feature for Montenegro, having picked up a hamstring injury ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifier against Moldova, and there’s every chance that he may have to sit out his side’s clash against Arsenal this Saturday. Fernando’s availability, going by reports on Thursday evening suggests that he still hasn’t recovered from the groin pull he suffered against Stoke in Manchester City’s last league fixture.
Arsenal’s probable starting XI – Formation 4-3-3: Wojciech Szczesny (GK), Per Mertesacker (C), Mathieu Debuchy, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck.
Manchester City’s probable starting XI – Formation 4-2-3-1: Joe Hart (GK), Vincent Kompany (C), Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Gael Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas and Sergio Aguero.
Where the game could be won and lost?
Manchester City, with their physical presence in the midfield, will be a serious force to contend with for Arsenal. And, injury to Jovetic means that Pellegrini would deploy 4-2-3-1 – instead of 4-4-2 – to make sure they control the game in the middle of the park, unlike the shambolic midfield display in the FA Community Shield.
Arsenal, being the home side, have their own share of ammunition; Welbeck is expected to make his debut, which is a mouthwatering prospect for Arsenal, as he will be key to posing problems for the Manchester City backline. Sanchez’s significance needs no mentioning, as he will be the fulcrum to Arsenal taking three points from Man City. I expect Wenger to stick to 4-3-3, but Ozil playing on the wings is not going to prove effective for the North Londoners.
In the end, it could come down to Arsenal’s defending, which, in recent seasons, has hemorrhaged early goals in marquee games such as this one. Arsenal need to keep it tight early on, and play on Manchester City’s patience.
I expect this to be a tight game, with Arsenal being the home side and Manchester City having too many resources to call upon, depending on the situation.
Putting my money on the North Londoners, however, to nick a 2-1 win and get their season up and running.