Sunday, 18 January 2015

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Manchester City Previewed

Arsenal have really struggled away to the better teams in the Premier League in the last few seasons and they face a trip to the current champions this afternoon. Arsenal scored three goals away to City last season but they conceded six in what can only be described as a naive performance. They need to find an awful lot more defensively today if they are going to take something from the game.

As usual Arsenal have had an awful season with injuries and the good news of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey returning has been countered by the news concerning Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy. Both players have had to undergo surgery on their respective injuries and will be missing from action for the next three months it seems. If there are any further setbacks for either player their season will be as good as over.

For me those two injuries only impress further the need for Arsenal to dig deep into their pockets and strengthen the squad in the January transfer window. As well as Francis Coquelin has done since his recall from his loan spell at Charlton he's still not the player Arsenal need in front of their back four and neither is Mathieu Flamini. Arteta is reaching a stage in his career where his contributions in the first team will decrease and Arsenal need to replace him with a player who is better than him in my opinion. It's not easy to find the right player in January, but the team's chances of finishing the season on a high could depend on the right player coming in or not.

Arsenal started the season short of two central defenders and both Debuchy and Nacho Monreal have been asked to move in there from their full back roles at different times this season. With Debuchy out for three months I think Arsene Wenger has to do all he can to bring in some central defensive cover or he is tempting fate. We all know how cruel the injury gods have been to Arsenal and not signing a central defender would be tantamount to mocking them.

In team news for today both Ozil and Ramsey are still available after being on the bench last week (with Ozil coming on) while Kieran Gibbs should be available too. It means the boss will have plenty of options when it comes to picking the team and the choices he makes will be a large factor in how the game goes for Arsenal. If he chooses an overly offensive team it could lead to another afternoon to forget for Arsenal and he has to get the balance right.

In recent away games Arsenal have tried to defend in depth and hit their opponents on the break and have had some success with that tactic. If they play that way they have to be a lot more careful outside their own area where they have been turned over far too much this season for my liking. A lack of concentration in that area has led to far too many chances for opponents in my opinion and it has to be clamped down on. I think Coquelin is more likely to keep his concentration in that area than Flamini and that might just give him the advantage when it comes to team selection. 

 Of course there is a chance both Coquelin and Flamini will play as a double defensive axis and that might not be a bad idea. It would still leave four offensive players in front of them and maybe free those four players from some of their defensive duties at times. City are vulnerable to the counter attack and the pace of players like Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might just be a deciding factor for Arsenal.

City have a few of their own players missing such as Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri while Sergio Aguero only got a few minutes off the bench last week on his return from injury. Vincent Kompany hasn't played in their last six games either but it looks like he will okay today and he's a very important player for them. He makes their defence an awful lot stronger when he plays, but he can be vulnerable to pace too and has his moments where he looks decidedly average.

I would be surprised if Olivier Giroud didn't play from the start with his aerial ability being very important at both ends of the pitch while both Alexis and Santi Cazorla have to be certain to play. Looking at the attacking options Arsenal have the boss has some very tough decisions to make and those decisions could make all the difference. The team cannot accommodate Tomas Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott and Chamberlain along with the players who look certain to start. 

After seeing United, Southampton and Spurs winning their games yesterday it's vital for Arsenal to get something from this game. A win would be a huge boost to confidence, but a draw would be quite acceptable too considering the opposition and the importance of the game. I always think Arsenal are capable of beating any team they play and today is no different, but I can only hope the players have that belief too.

It could be another high scoring end to end thriller like last season, but if it goes that way you have to think City will make their home advantage count. Arsenal have to keep things as tight as possible and take what chances come their way and only then will have a chance of getting something out of it. I would love to see myself writing about a famous victory tomorrow, but as I said I would be very happy to be writing about a hard fought draw too. What cannot be allowed to happen is what has happened away from home to good teams in recent seasons far too often which is for Arsenal simply not to turn up. It's always a possibility with this team and we have to hope we see their best side today and they put in a performance they are capable of and which makes us fans feel there is real hope for the rest of the season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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