On December 21st, Arsenal welcome Manchester City to the Emirates in a match that could help shape the title race. These teams are the two favorites for the title and only one point currently separates them. Despite an injury crisis, Arsenal have won two league matches in a row. The Gunners are back up to second in the table and will look at this home match as a chance to widen the gap between themselves and City. City have also had an injury crisis and won three of their last six in the league. They’ll be getting some of their players back for this one and will look at this as a big chance to go above Arsenal and look to stay there.
City only have five injuries, but they are to important players in their team. They’ll once again be without captain Vincent Kompany as this games comes a week too early for both the Belgian and right-back Pablo Zabaleta. They’ll also be without Fernando, who will be out until the new year, and ex-Arsenal player Samir Nasri, who will be out until April. It does look like Sergio Aguero will come back as he returned to full training on Monday.
Arsenal are, as they always seem to be, dealing with an injury crisis. The Gunners will be without Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck, and Thomas Rosicky through long term injuries. Jack Wilshere is still out until the new year with yet another injury. Both Mikel Arteta and Alexis Sanchez will face late fitness tests to see if they play, but it looks unlikely for both.
- Since the 6-3 basketball-esque game between these two at the Etihad, Manchester City are winless in their last three (four including the Community Shield) matches against the Gunners.
- The last two times these two played at the Emirates the games ended in draws with Manchester City scoring first and Arsenal coming from behind.
- While they’ve won seven pf their nine home games, Manchester City have only won three of their seven away games this season, scoring only seven goals in those seven games.
- Arsenal have not lost at home since the opening day, but have not beat City at home since April 2012.
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
Prior to this season, Mesut Ozil had taken a lot of criticism from the English press, some fairly, some unfairly. This season, there’s been absolutely nothing to criticise. The German has been sensational and has carried the Gunners to multiple results. His 13 assists are four more than anyone else in the top five European leagues this season. Arsenal are missing some key players, namely Alexis Sanchez, but as long as they have Ozil, they have a chance. The £42.5m man has proved that he can win games on his own for Arsenal now, and if he can do it against their biggest title rivals, he’ll be even more adored than he already is.
Manchester City: Raheem Sterling
It’s always tough to pick a key man for a team like Manchester City that is so loaded with superstars. Raheem Sterling is one of many jewels in City’s crown, but he should have a huge effect because of Arsenal’s injuries. With the injuries the Gunners have had, they have had to shift around their team. Their midfield of Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini is something for City to exploit, but Theo Walcott starting could be something for Raheem Sterling to exploit. For all the Englishman’s qualities going forward, he isn’t the most diligent in defense. He could allow City to create overloads on the left hand side and goad Hector Bellerin, who himself has looked a bit shaky since his groin injury. Sterling has the quality to maker the difference for City and he could be given the opportunity because of some of the deficiencies in the opposition.
This one seems destined for a draw. Arsenal are not at full strength and will be hard pressed to get a win with their weak midfield. On the flipside, City have struggled without captain Vincent Kompany. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the two sides both don’t want to lose and just end up cancelling each other out.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw