The big matchup of this weekend sees Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City taking on Arsenal at the Etihad. This match was played last season in mid-December 2013 and ended in humiliation for Arsenal Manager Arsène Wenger, as his team were comprehensively outclassed and beaten 6-3 by a rampant City side. Arsenal stayed top of the table, but this win moved City within three points of the leaders, simultaneously sending out an ominous message to their title challengers.
City occasionally dropped points away last season, but they were consistently impressive at home, dismantling teams comprehensively, with this game no exception. Arsenal did put up a gallant effort, but in reality they were destroyed by a rampant City side.
Sergio Agüero’s opening goal just before the quarter hour mark was initially cancelled out by Theo Walcott but Alvaro Negredo sent in another before half time before Fernandinho extended the host’s lead early in the second. Walcott got a second 13 minutes later but the 3-2 deficit lasted just 3 minutes before David Silva again increased City’s lead to two. The dying minutes of the game saw three goals, with Fernandinho again finding the target before Per Mertesacker’s header made it 5-3 in stoppage time. However this was City’s day, with a Yaya Touré penalty giving the Blues another six goal-thriller performance.
Flash-forward 13 months and City are again second and looking every bit as competitive as last year, while Arsenal sit outside the Champions League spots and have endured a stuttering start to this year’s campaign. Arsenal Manager Wenger will be keen to avoid a similar outcome this year, while Manuel Pellegrini will be seeking a win following his side’s draw last saturday to this season’s surprise strugglers Everton.
To see how fans of both Clubs may be thinking about this game, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this fixture last season, to see what players were picked for the lineups last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite Club and pick lineups, bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating the revised version – we’ll keep you posted on when it’s going to re-launch.
Formation: 4-4-2 by far the most popular choice
A full two-thirds (67 per cent) of City fans went for a 4-4-2 formation for this game last season, with a more attacking 4-3-3 much further behind in second place, selected by 17 per cent. Arsenal fans were more divided, but 4-4-2 also won out, selected by 35 per cent, with a 4-2-3-1 double-pivot a close second-favourite, selected by 30 per cent of Gunners.
Goalkeepers: Pellegrini makes a big call
Fans of both Clubs selected their regular number 1s for this fixture although the confidence levels varied between the two sets of fans.
Joe Hart got the vote for the lineup from two-thirds (67 per cent) of Blues fans, but this wasn’t enogh to convince Pellegrini, who instead fielded Costel Pantilimon in goal (33 per cent fan rating), despite Hart playing in the midweek Champions League win away to holders Bayern Munich.
Wojciech Szczęsny had no such concerns, getting the vote from 96 per cent of Gunners fans (making him the jointly club’s most popular player) and also from his Manager, although given the scoreline, it might have been a fixture he’d have prefer to miss.
Defenders: Both teams had three clear fan choices in defence
Both City and Arsenal had three clear fan choices in defence, although both Managers went their own way on the back four.
Joleon Lescott was City’s most popular defender (and 4th-most popular player) on an 85 per cent rating from Blues fans. Pablo Zabaleta earned a very respectable 2nd-place in the lineup with the approval of 78 per cent of fans, with Martín Demichelis (70 per cent) close behind and Vincent Kompany (57 per cent) just squeezing into the back four.
Both Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs were jointly Arsenal’s most popular defenders (and 3rd-most popular players for this match), with identical 91 per cent approval for the lineup. Per Mertesacker was a close third on 89 per cent and rewarded both fans and Manager with a consolation goal just before full-time, while Carl Jenkinson just made it into Arsenal fans’ starting 11, on 39 per cent.
Instead of fan-favourite Lescott, Pellegrini fielded Gaël Clichy (41 per cent fan rating), but went with the fans’ next three picks. Wenger made two changes to the fans’ back four, starting Bacary Sagna (31 per cent fan rating) instead of Gibbs and Nacho Monreal (19 per cent fan rating) instead of Jenkinson.
Midfield: No change between home fans and Manager; not so for the visitors
With a full strength squad available to both fans and Pellegrini, it was no surprise that the starting midfields were identical between the two.
Yaya Touré (98 per cent) was City’s most popular midfielder and jointly-most popular player, with Samir Nasri (96 per cent) a close second with fans. Fernandinho lagged a bit behind Nasri, with 77 per cent, while David Silva took up the 4th midfield spot, on 57 per cent. Three of City’s four midfielders (Touré, Fernandinho and Silva) rewarded fans and Manager with goals, while Nasri tormented Arsenal throughout the game.
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby out, Mesut Özil took the top spot as Arsenal’s most popular midfielder, his 96 per cent fan rating making him jointly (with Szczęsny) the club’s most popular player. Aaron Ramsey (87 per cent) was a little behind Özil, with Santi Cazorla (76 per cent), Mikel Arteta (67 per cent) and Jack Wilshere (52 per cent) fairly equally spread out among fans.
Wenger kept faith with fan picks Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere, but started Theo Walcott (48 per cent fan rating) who didn’t make the cut with fans, but still scored two goals for the Manager. A second switch for Wenger was fielding Mathieu Flamini (13 per cent fan rating) instead of fan-pick Arteta.
Forwards: Fans and Managers in perfect harmony
City’s most-popular forward was Agüero, his 98 per cent score making him jointly (with Szczęsny) the club’s most popular player, while Álvaro Negredo (78 per cent) was the fans’ 2nd-pick. Both players were also started by Pellegrini and turned in devastating performances for both fans and Manager, both scoring and constantly proving a threat for the visitors.
With Yaya Sanogo injured and Özil fielded forward in attack by both fans and Manager, the single remaining spot upfront was handed (by both) to Olivier Giroud, his 89 per cent score making him the Club’s 6th-most popular player for this match.