Sunday, 2 April 2017

Arsenal v Manchester City Preview

Time is of the essence for me today so I'll try to make this preview as quick as possible. To be honest it's not exactly easy to write about Arsenal at the moment despite the club giving us so much raw material. So much has been said that there's not too much I can add to it without boring everybody to tears.

Our form is at probably it's lowest point under Arsene Wenger and his position is under more pressure than it has ever been in nearly 21 years at the club. We have fallen alarmingly behind the top four with four defeats in five games and we need to arrest that slide immediately or there will be no Champions League football next season. As bad as we have been in the knock out stages of the Champions League it would be a huge blow for the club to miss out on qualification. 

As it stands we are seven points behind City with a game in hand and could close that gap to four points with a victory today. Liverpool are nine points ahead of us and we have three games in hand on them which makes them catchable. I can't see us catching Chelsea or Spurs and it doesn't really matter whether we catch United or not if we don't overhaul either City or Liverpool too.

Chelsea's defeat at home to Palace yesterday has given City a chink of light and they play at home to Chelsea on Wednesday night. They have to beat us today if they are to have any hope of getting back in the title race and that might give Arsenal the opportunity they need to get at City. We find it so hard to break down team's who sit tight and try to hit us on the break or from set pieces, but surely City have to come to play today.

Earlier this season or in seasons gone by that might have been a good thing for Arsenal, but this season we are the ones who have struggled against teams who play an open game against us. It's not too easy to criticise an attack which has scored 96 goals in all competitions, but we have most definitely let in too many goals this season. We have been poor in defence this season and that includes the goalkeepers and the midfield too with the whole team failing to defend properly as a unit.

I have been critical of Petr Cech this season, but he's still a better option than David Ospina and I would probably prefer to see Wojciech Szczesny back at the club next season or a new keeper coming in. Ospina will play today with Cech still injured and it worries me when he plays. He's a good shot stopper, but his distribution can be far too risky, he's poor on corners and he has an annoying habit of standing behind his line.

There aren't too many other players missing though with Santi Cazorla the most notable absentee and Lucas Perez out too. I don't think Perez has got the opportunities his performances have deserved and it would be no surprise to see him leave in the summer. As for today I would hope to see a front three of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott with us trying to use their combined pace to stretch a City defence who have been as bad as our's quite often this season.

The biggest decision for the manager could be what players play in midfield and I think the Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny combination could be the way to go. In front of them I think we just have to play Mesut Ozil despite his current lack of form as he is the man who can unlock the City defence in a split second given the chance. We need to get him some good possession in good positions first though and that's something we haven't done much of recently.

City are in good form at the moment and they have some very good players in their team, but they are vulnerable too. They have won 10 and lost four games on the road and they have scored more away goals than any other team. Their away defeats have come against some of the better teams and that has to give Arsenal some hope today.

Arsenal's problem at home has been their lack of goals and they have actually scored more goals away from home than at home. They will probably need to score two or three goals today if they are going to win as I can't see them keeping a clean sheet. Their chances will ultimately depend on the attitude of the players and that's something which has to improve dramatically.

The manager told us his decision on his future would be known by now, but still we have no word and it's very difficult to believe it's not affecting the team. A great performance today would show those players are behind him no matter what the decision is, but more of what we have seen recently is what us fans fear most. It's a game I'm really not looking forward to and it could easily end up like "car crash TV", but as always I won't be able to drag myself away from it.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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