With the season now more than halfway over it's getting to the stage where consistency is the key word in the Premier League."Manure" did what they had to do last night when they beat Stoke RFC despite being unimpressive yet again. If the experts are to be believed they always improve after Christmas, and nobody will now stop their march to yet another league title. I seem to remember that Arsenal have won three Premier League titles under Arsene Wenger, and in each of those seasons they blew "Manure" away in the run in. If Arsenal can show the consistency needed I have no doubt that they can overcome a relatively poor "Manure" team, and claim the title for themselves.
Of all the home games Arsenal have left tonight's game against Man City is going to be one of the very hardest. City have a very good away record, and from what I have seen of them they seem to find it a little easier to play away from home. With six wins in their 10 away games so far they have shown that they are happy to soak up pressure, and hit teams on the break. They will know that Arsenal will come at them tonight, and they will look for opportunities to break quickly and decisively.
With that in mind Arsenal will be happy that David Silva is injured and won't play, but they will still have to look out for both Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure. Tevez has been in excellent goalscoring form for City this season, and Toure has being driving forward from his holding midfield role and causing havoc in opposition defences. Watching him recently has been like watching Patrick Vieira at his prime, and he looks like he would fit perfectly into the current Arsenal team. City have other problems coming into this game as well besides the absence of Silva. Mario Balotelli is also unavailable due to injury, and there is unrest among the City players. There were pictures yesterday of a training ground bust up between Kolo Toure and ever likeable Emmanuel Adebayor. The club have said that the matter has been sorted out, but it's not the first time this season that something like that has happened on their training ground.
Arsenal have had a good festive programme so far, as they have taken seven points out of a possible nine. The only slip up was the draw away from home to Wigan, when Arsene Wenger made eight changes to the side that had dispatched Chelsea with some style only two days earlier. That starting 11 against Chelsea returned on Saturday to record an impressive away win over Birmingham, and with a four day gap to this game my hope is that the boss will retain the exact same team tonight. There are arguments for certain players being included in the team, but I think that team is Arsenal's current strongest 11, and it's needed in tonight's game.
The current form of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri is something that will scare City, and I expect them to target Cesc in particular, as they did in the Arsenal victory away to them earlier in the season. On that day City's tactics were fairly obvious, as Nigel de Jong led the way in kicking Arsenal's captain, but Arsenal just about kept cool to run out 3-0 winners. They were of course helped by the very early sending off of a City defender, but it was a fully deserved red card for a foul on Marouane Chamakh as he was through on goal.
If City push their backline up as far tonight, as they did early in that game I think they could find themselves in a lot of trouble. City have the best defensive record in the Premier League so far this season, but I will be delighted to see Joleon Lescott in their starting team. He was signed with a great reputation from Everton, but I have always thought a defender should be judged on his defensive abilities, and not on his ability to score goals. I always thought that Lescott was overrated, and I only think he has been in the side because Kolo Toure has been suspended. I would be very surprised if Kolo doesn't return to their starting team tonight.
I think it will be a cagey match until the first goal is scored, and after that the team that concedes the goal will have to open up. When City last visited Arsenal it ended in a scoreless draw towards the end of last season with Arsenal devoid of confidence, and City happy to settle for a point. Tonight's worst outcome for the title race would be a draw, as it would leave "Manure" as the winners from the game.
I don't think Arsenal will come out and go at City from the very start, and it will probably be similar to the Chelsea game in my opinion. In that game Arsenal gradually built the pressure, while being wary of getting caught on the break. They did close Chelsea down in their own half whenever possible, and that led to the second and third goals, as Chelsea switched off early in the second half. It's vital that Arsenal remain 100% committed at all times tonight, as City have players that can create a goal from very little.
Arsenal's weakness from set pieces is well documented at this stage, and City will look to capitalise on that from any free kicks or corners. For me that's why the same team must play, as Johan Djourou has that extra bit of height that is needed, besides the fact that Arsenal have won every Premier League game he has started this season. I'm not too fond of the Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci combination at the centre of the defence, as I don't think they are suited to playing together. Until Thomas Vermaelen returns from injury I think Djourou must start in every Premier League game Arsenal play.
The match is live on TV tonight, but I'll be playing football myself which means that I'll only get to see the second half and the last 10 minutes of the first half as well. It's a price I have to pay for trying to play the beautiful game myself, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'll be delighted to arrive at the supporters club with Arsenal a few goals to the good, but if they don't get the winner until the last minute I'll be equally as happy, as long as they win.
I'm predicting a very hard fought game with Arsenal emerging eventual 2-1 winners, and Cesc running the show. He looks to have finally put his hamstring problems behind him, and with Nasri in the team alongside him Arsenal have two of the very best players currently in the Premier League. Robin Van Persie is slowly making his way back from his injury lay off, and I think all he needs to get him back to top form is one of his special 25 or 30 yard left foot goals. Once he scores one of those goals I think that he will regain his confidence in front of goal, and be a real force to be reckoned with, as long as he stays fit.
That's it for today.
See You Tomorrow