Friday, 28 March 2014

Arsenal v Man City Preview

With the Premier League title now surely beyond them Arsenal have seven games left to hold on to fourth place. The first two of those games are the toughest with games at home to City this week and away to Everton next week. They're two games the team could do without after recent events, but they're games they have to try to get something from. With Everton on a hot streak and closing in on Arsenal in fourth place that game next week is a huge one for both teams.

For now Arsenal face the task of taking on a City team who are again favourites to win the league after winning their last four games. They have gradually recovered from the home defeat to Chelsea and the away draw at Norwich and their attacking football is flowing again. Besides being so good going forward City have also kept five clean sheets in a row in the league as their momentum has built.

Of course those tasks are always easier with your best players available and City's only real worry has been the absence of Sergio Aguero. He's a player any team would miss, but City have plenty of quality back up as well as midfielders who know how to find the back of the net. In comparison Arsenal have to rely on Olivier Giroud to lead the line and their lack of striking options has been one of the reasons they have again fallen away this season like so many others. 

Midfield players had been stepping up to score the goals which were needed, but the absences of Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere have proved to be too much. It's no coincidence that Arsenal haven't played as well since the turn of the year with Ramsey and Walcott both out for those games and Ozil added to that list now. During January we were happy that Arsenal continued to win games despite not playing their best, but in retrospect the wheels were already coming off at that stage.

The team didn't have the quality it needed to lift them for games like the trips to Southampton and Stoke and Tuesday night's draw with Swansea. Despite Arsene Wenger getting things so badly wrong in the big games at Liverpool and Chelsea Arsenal would still be in the title race if they won those other three games. The lack of squad depth has been cruelly exposed and it was something the management and fans were well aware of at the start of the season.

The money was there last summer to strengthen more than Arsenal did, but it went unspent and with it Arsenal's chances disappeared too. The decision to bring the injured Kim Kallstrom in on loan during the January transfer window was a baffling one and he has only recently been available to play. There was money to spend in January but Kallstrom was the only player to come in and the team are paying the price now. It's not always easy to find players to bring in during the January window but surely there had to be better options than an injured loanee.

For now though the boss has to make do with the players he has and there are no additions to the squad which could only draw at home to Swansea on Tuesday night. At the same time City were showing the reigning champions how far they have slipped this season and at their own ground too. The prospect of Arsenal in their current state facing that City team is not one to look forward to. 

After being destroyed by Chelsea last weekend Arsenal were tense and nervous against Swansea and they couldn't play the flowing football they like to play. How those players are meant to find the self belief to raise their game against City is anybody's guess, but they have to do it. Somehow or other the boss thinks we are still in with a chance of winning the league and he says we have to beat City to keep those chances alive. I know he has to try to build the players up for this game but he would have to search high and low to find an Arsenal fan who thinks the team can still win the league.

If he makes the mistake of picking a team and choosing tactics to have a real go at City it could be an embarrassment for Arsenal. For me they have to keep things as tight as they can and try to get something on the break or from a set piece or a City mistake. It's hardly what we have come to expect from Arsenal, but needs must and City are a very good team.

I'd like to believe Arsenal can go out and take the game to City and win by a few goals, but it's not something I can see happening for one minute. If they're too open City have the quality to hurt them while Arsenal's quality attacking players are mainly on the treatment table. The boss has very few options available to him and the team is bound to be very close to the one which couldn't beat Swansea.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the same starting 11 and I hope he plays both Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta in midfield to protect the defence. If Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plays I hope he can get on the ball wide on the right and take the City defence on. If City have a weakness it's in their defence and Arsenal need to exploit any lapses in that defence. It won't be an easy task but Arsenal aren't as bad as they have looked in recent games. If there are any changes to the team the most likely players to be included are Lukas Podolski and Kallstrom and both of those players offer plenty of experience and quality. 

The midfield battle will be crucial and Arsenal just cannot afford to get caught in possession in their own half. That was how Chelsea dismantled them early on and I have no doubt City will look to turn the ball over in front of the Arsenal defence. That's where Arsenal can be at their most vulnerable and it's something they have to be aware of for every single minute of the game.

I want Arsenal to win, I hope they will win and I will be cheering them on from first minute to last, but I really hope they don't fall apart either. If they end up trying to chase the game it could get ugly and that's something which has to be avoided. I always predict a win for Arsenal and this game is no different but more in blind hope than anything else.

Arsenal have got a very good home record though and they unbeaten at home in the league since the opening day loss against Villa. They have only conceded nine goals in their 15 home league games and no other team has conceded less goals at home. Despite their awful results away to the rest of the top four they did win at home to Liverpool and draw at home to Chelsea. Neither of those teams could muster a goal away to Arsenal and that home form gives them some hope. If Arsenal had a fully fit squad I think they would have a very good chance of beating City, but the players they are missing have proved to be too hard to replace to keep up their title challenge.

The season is far from over with the FA Cup still to play for and Champions League football for next season to be earned too. Finishing fourth is certainly no trophy, but it's an awful lot better than the alternative of playing in the Europa League. I still think this team will finish in the top four and hopefully win the FA Cup too and it won't have been the worst season by a long stretch if they do so. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Wenger shd keep it tight for the first half and then have ago. This doesn't mean having another high hdl to let MC run through. Flood the md like some teams do to frustrate the stronger teams.If not,MC players in particular Silva and Toure will have time and space.It would be interesting to see if these two can be so deadly when they are denied these two ingredients.
    Of course Arsenal can win if they start shooting, instead of passing,from the box.A rebound can fall to a gunner.
    Btw,red face left because he knows he wont be able to dominate as usual because all empires have alife span. That's why he let Moyes carry the can. Even if he were to stay,he will find it hard to carry on with business as usual.

    1. If we're going to have any chance we have to deny those two players space and possession.