Arsenal make the trip to Manchester today to face the richest club in World football but it's not the red team from that City but the blue team that hold that title. The title of richest club is only bestowed on them because their owners have more money than the owners of any other club and in fact if it was based on turnover or profit they would be also rans compared to clubs like Arsenal who are run on a sound financial basis as well as having the very best footballing principles.
If City are to become a big club they will have to find themselves a much bigger support base. I watched them beat Lech Poznan 3-1 on Thursday night in the Europa League and the stadium was half empty. The only atmosphere came from thousands of Polish fans supporting Lech and I couldn't help but wonder how many fans Arsenal would get for a similar fixture. In our home Carling Cup games Arsenal more or less fill the ground although the prices are reduced and the Youth team have been known to get very big crowds in the later stages of the FA Youth Cup when they play against "Manure's" or Liverpool's youths.
As the league table stands City are in second place and Arsenal are fifth but they both have today's game in hand on the teams above them. A win for Arsenal would put them ahead of City on goal difference as Arsenal have managed to score six goals more than City so far and only concede five more than them. That tells you that City are a team that don't score or concede too many goals and that isn't particularly surprising considering the fact that their manager is fond of playing with three defensive midfielders. He has a reputation of being a manager who plays conservatively in big games and I expect more of the same today.
When City managed to beat Chelsea it was a very tight and boring game which always looked like it would be decided by the first goal. That turned out to be the case and I expect City to try to play in a similar fashion today. They will be quite happy to end up on even terms as their first priority is not to lose. Arsenal will of course also play in their usual fashion which means that they will be determined to win the game and they will go for that victory from the very first minute.
In team news it would appear that Bakari Sagna is the only player that will be added to the squad as he returns from injury a little sooner than expected. It leaves the boss with an awkward choice as Emmanuel Eboue has performed admirably in Sagna's absence and he might rightly feel a little aggrieved if he doesn't play from the start. Personally I think the boss might just opt for Eboue as Sagna has just recovered from his injury and might not be up to speed yet.
Besides that decision I can't see the boss having to think too much about the rest of his defence as Lukasz Fabianski, Johann Djourou, Sebastien Squillaci and Gael Clichy are all more or less certain to start. There is a case for playing Kirean Gibbs but with a Carling Cup trip to Newcastle on Wednesday night, I think he will get his game then. It's not our strongest defence but they have performed pretty well in recent games and City have their own injury problems in defence too.
In midfield Alex Song will anchor things with Cesc Fabregas in front of him and I would imagine that Abu Diaby will get the nod as the third midfielder. The boss will probably see his height as a key factor when it comes to defending corners and set pieces and the fact that Jack Wilshere is suspended makes his decision a heck of a lot easier. I'm sure both Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky would love to play in that position too but I don't think they will.
Our attacking trio should be led by Marouane Chamakh and the choices on either side of him are where the boss has real difficulty in my opinion. Nasri is a certainty to start but whether that's on the left or right is anybody's guess. Theo Walcott would really enjoy running at Man City's left back on what is a very big pitch but he hasn't started a game since he came back from his latest injury and he might just have to be happy with a late cameo from the bench. That leaves a straight choice between Andrei Arshavin and Rosicky and I think that the little Russian will get the nod as he is a lot more likely to score although Rosicky certainly gives more to the team effort in my opinion.
That team is more than good enough to take on City and beat them on their own ground but we cannot afford the slack defending that led to our 4-2 defeat up there last season. Clichy in particular had a stinker that day and he was responsible for three of the goals but hopefully today he will be a lot less pensive when in possession and won't get caught out.
There are a few very good players in the City team but they don't have anybody of the sheer class of Cesc and with their three defensive midfielders I would imagine that he will certainly be a target for the likes of Nigel de Jong who is very fond of kicking Spanish players. We need the referee to have a firm hold on the game and let the likes of him know very early on that his tactics won't be tolerated. With strong refereeing Cesc will have the time to play his game and hopefully cut the City defence open for our other players to score.
I really feel that he will make all the difference in this game because he is just head and shoulders above anybody else in the midfield. Of course we will need to watch Carlos Tevez and David Silva and if Adebayor plays he can pose a real threat when he decides to play. By now the City fans realise that we have sold them a player who is a dud nine times out of 10 and it's only the fact that we are the opponents today that would make him play well.
We all know what happened when we played them last season between his goal celebration and his personal vendetta against any player in an Arsenal shirt. We were very lucky he didn't seriously injury either Cesc or Robin Van Persie that day and the crowd trouble sparked by his pitch long sprint to celebrate in front of our fans just showed him up as the idiot that he is. Hopefully we'll have none of his stupidity today but I wouldn't count on it.
I'm going to leave it there but of course I will make my usual prediction about the result. I see Arsenal winning 2-1 or maybe even 2-0 with Cesc scoring and being the star of the show. That is of course dependant on Arsenal playing at their very best from the first minute to the last and playing with the tempo that we know other teams just cannot match. We need to move the ball at a speed that will leave City chasing shadows and the fact that quite a few of their players played on Thurssday night as opposed to ours who played on Tuesday could make a difference at some stage. Finally don't forget - "We've got Cesc Fabregas".