Saturday, 12 January 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Manchester City Previewed

Arsenal play at home to Premier League champions Manchester City tomorrow. It's a game that both teams badly need to take three points from. Arsenal need to win to close the gap on the teams above them in the race for fourth or even third place and City cannot afford to let United get any further ahead of them.

Arsenal have taken 13 points from their last five league games, but they have some very tough games coming up. Following after the City game they have to travel to Chelsea and play at home to both West Ham and Liverpool. There's the added distraction of an FA Cup third round replay at home to Swansea and a possible trip to Brighton in the fourth round. It should all make for a very interesting month for Arsenal players and fans alike.

In team news it looks as if Olivier Giroud should be fit to play after picking up a knock against Swansea last week. Whether Arsene Wenger chooses to play him or not is another matter entirely. I hope Giroud does play as I just don't see Theo Walcott getting a sniff against the City defence.

I can't see too many changes to the team as Arsenal don't have an awful lot of options open to them. I can't imagine Aaron Ramsey will be chosen on the left hand side of the attacking trio again which should mean Lukas Podolski plays from the start. If Giroud plays that would mean Walcott would play on the right and if not the place should go to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

In defence the boss has to decide whether to go with the central pairing which played last week or bring captain Thomas Vermaelen back into the team. It's a big call for him and I have a feeling Laurent Koscielny will miss out. Despite Arsenal's defence looking dodgy at times this season only City and Chelsea have conceded less goals than them.

When Arsenal drew 1-1 away to City earlier in the season they played very well. They will need to put in a performance of those proportions if they are going to come out with three points in this game. The boost which a win over the reigning champions could give the team cannot be underestimated.

City didn't travel too well last season and they have had their troubles away from home this season too. They have won five, drawn four and lost one in their 10 away games so far. Only Arsenal and Swansea have conceded less away goals than City though and they will be looking to maintain that defensive stability against Arsenal.

Arsenal will be without the services of Gervinho as he is on international duty at the African Cup of Nations. However, City will be without the services of a very important player for the same reason. When City are at their best Yaya Toure can usually be found on fine form, but they will have to do without him for the next few weeks at least.

Arsenal have struggled against massed defences this season, but I can't see City sitting back and defending. They need to take all three points and surely they will have to take the game to Arsenal. That could be just what Arsenal want and hopefully they can work it to their advantage.

Only United have scored more home goals than Arsenal and City haven't always found it easy to score away. An Arsenal team which is given a chance to play can be a challenge for any team. Their chances in this game could well depend on how much room they get in midfield.

I don't think there's going to be an awful lot of goals and I think Arsenal have the players to beat City. A lot will depend on how those players manage to gel on the day and if they can put in a good performance. Dr. Jekyll had better turn up today instead of Mr. Hyde.

I have no doubt that Arsenal need reinforcements in this transfer window, but whether they will get them or not is another matter. We have already been td Abu Diaby's return is like a new signing and I find that statement almost insulting to Arsenal fans. Since his terrible leg break about six years ago he has come back on countless occasions and there is absolutely no reason to believe he is back for good this time.

I genuinely wish and hope for both Diaby and Arsenal that all of his troubles are behind him, but I would be shocked if he lasts past the end of February. Plans have to be made for his exclusion from the squad and they have to be made now. Not to do so is bordering on negligent in my opinion when there is plenty of money available to spend.

Ask yourself this question - how good would Arsenal be if they hadn't sold both Alex Song and Robin van Persie last summer. Maybe they would have the goals they are struggling to get at times as well as the midfield options there are missing all too often. I have no doubt they would be in a much better position than they are now with the players who were bought last summer.

The thing is the money made from their sales is a little less than they have in their transfer kitty and maybe both players should have been made to stay. Arsenal's transfer dealings were done before they both left and their sales were done on a business basis. It made sound financial sense to sell them, but terrible football sense.

The money from their sales has not been reinvested in the squad and the team and fans are suffering as a result. It's about time Arsenal were treated as a football club again and not a business. My opinion may be niave but Arsenal's preparations for "financial fair play" will be of no avail if other clubs can find a way around them.

I have no fount that the owners of City and Chelsea pay their lawyers enough to find a way around anything they want. Money talks and their money pits are bottomless.

Back to the game though and I hope to see the good Arsenal triumph in a very tight match. I'm predicting a 1-0 win for Arsenal and I'm hoping to see Santi Cazorla run the show. David Silva may well be the more highly considered of these two Spanish players, but Cazorla has been the better player this season. Given the chance I'm hoping he can be the man to make the difference.

After this it's Swansea in midweek and then Chelsea and we'll see exactly where the team are after those three crucial games. The optimist in me is hoping for three resounding victories and the team to use them to kick on and find some consistently. Equally it could end with the team adrift of fourth place and with no chance of winning a trophy in the middle of January.

It's a real make or break week and it's impossible to have a clue what way it will go. It will certainly be interesting and very worrying too I have no doubt.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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