Arsenal face their toughest challenge in the race for a Champion’s League spot on Sunday when Manchester City arrive at the Emirates. In the past 5 games, Man City have only picked up 5 points from their last 5 games and are falling further and further behind the relentless United. Arsenal experienced what is hopefully a blip in their recent form last week against QPR with complacency kicking in, but as all Gunners fans know Arsenal have the propensity to turn one small blip into successive defeats and what was already going to be a test for the squad has been made into an even bigger hurdle.
In the past, City have parked the most expensive bus in the world at the Emirates, content with a point. This fixture last season was notable for City having no shots on target and Carlos Tevez the only player in the attacking third. This one will be different. A point is no good to either side and both will be going all out to rattle the other. Man City’s last away win against Arsenal came in 1975 so their historical record certainly isn’t the greatest. This season, City haven’t scored more than 1 goal away from home since the start of November (compared to 23 in their irst 6) and Arsenal have won 8 of their last 9 home games, so the signs would certainly fall in Arsenal’s favour. Arsenal have no new injury news with Wenger stating he will be choosing from the same squad as the QPR game, while City welcome back Lescott and Aguero.
Against QPR, Wenger again deployed Ramsey on the left-wing, a tactic that worked wonders against Everton. As successful as it was at Goodison, it was completely ineffective against QPR and now Wenger has the choice of playing either Gervinho or Chamberlain there. I would tend to go for Gervinho after his performance against Villa then we would have the option of deploying Chamberlain in the latter stages of the game. There is also the option of Benayoun but many fans would disappointed at a rather negative tactic at home. Van Persie will hope to return to goalscoring form, however he has looked rather jaded and he is going to find it tough if City are able to deploy their central pairing of Lescott and Kompany. Havin failed to score in 3 games for the first time this season, and coming up against one of the few teams he hasn’t scored against this season, it would be perfect timing for the Dutchman to find his shooting boots again.
Tomas Rosicky should continue in the advanced midfield role and it is interesting to look at the stats of how his form has improved dramatically compared to David Silva’s petering out. Silva was undoubtedly one of he star performers at the start of the season, scoring 5 goals and providing 8 assists, but fatigue appears to have set in and one has to wonder if Mancini has managed him correctly this season.
[table id=61 /]
For a great read on David Silva check out http://www.eplindex.com/13520/the-declining-productivity-of-david-silva-opta-stats.html
One good thing to emerge from the QPR game is that it may have been a wake-up call at just the right time. Vermaelen will have to reign in his impetuousness against the likes of Ageuero, Nasri and Silva because if Zamora and Taarabt were able to manipulate him that well he could be in for another bad game. Song and Arteta won’t be allowed to ball-watch anymore as Yaya Toure’s runs through the midfield will need to be tracked. Mancini may well turn to Pizarro and combining him with Toure could really give Arsenal a challenge. Song will also need to return to his positional covering, especially of the inexperienced Kieran Gibbs who will need to push up at just the right times.
Infostrada have kindly covered some pre-match stats before the game for EPL Index here: http://www.eplindex.com/13471/premier-league-preview-game-town-stats.html/2#afcmcfc
Spurs have dropped points again so it’s a chance for Arsenal with Chelsea and Newcastle 2 points behind. Crucially, United could be 8 points ahead of City who are obviously struggling to deal with the pressure of a title run-in. If Arsenal score early it would certainly rattle the visitors and give the Gunners a great chance of taking all 3 points.