Arsenal vs Manchester City Live Premier League 18 Dec 2011
16:10 +00:00, December 18, 2011
Referee: Philip Dowd
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Arsenal vs Man City EPL 2011 Preview:
Man City facing a test of their mettle
What a difference a few weeks can make. The protracted transfer of Samir Nasri to Eastlands appeared a killer blow for an Arsenal side who had lost their captain to Barcelona, their best young talent to injury and – after the Carling Cup defeat to Birmingham at the end of February – their ability to win games on a regular basis.
• However, confidence lost has slowly been regained, the almighty lows of Old Trafford and Ewood Park seemingly banished from the psyche as the arduous climb back to the top four continues. They now sit fifth after winning seven of their last eight league matches, and having qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League as group winners.Manchester City, meanwhile, remain top of the table, but that may not be the case by the time they kick-off against the Gunners. Their first defeat of the season that arrived at Chelsea on Monday has cut back their advantage and, coming so soon after the Champions League exit, there is no mistaking the fact that their mettle is facing a serious test.”Monday has made us feel more hungry,” captain Vincent Kompany said this week. “We want Sunday to come as quickly as possible and to play football again. That is the kind of team we are. Arsenal are a great team, but we can beat great teams. On Sunday, we are looking to do what they have done. They have picked themselves up after a difficult month. The way they have done that is absolutely incredible.”They should at least avoid the additional complication of a defensive crisis. Gael Clichy will not face his former club after his dismissal at Stamford Bridge and Aleksandar Kolarov is absent through injury, but the expected recovery of Micah Richards will enable Roberto Mancini to field an established back-four.Arsenal’s own back four is likely to be made up of four centre-backs, as it was at Everton, and – though Thomas Vermaelen has shown himself to be comfortable at left back – it will only make life more difficult against a side boasting the most prolific attack in the country. Even so, Wojciech Szczesny remains confident. “It is probably the toughest game of the season but people were saying that last year and we won 3-0,” he told Arsenal Player. “We hope to repeat the performance and hopefully the result as well.”Manchester City player to watch: Yaya Toure. The Ivory Coast international was far from his inspirational best in the defeat at Chelsea and, after his ill-disciplined prods at Juan Mata went unpunished, is fortunate to be available for this game. Even so, he remains one of the first names on Roberto Mancini’s teamsheet for any game of significance and his importance to the club was highlighted this week by the fact his departure to the African Nations Cup next month has been delayed. A former Arsenal trialist, his powerful attacking forays could cause serious problems for the Gunners.
Arsenal player to watch: Alex Song. Like Yaya Toure, Song’s billing as a defensive midfielder is starting to pale in respect of the regularity of his attacking contributions. His assist for Robin van Persie in the Champions League game at home to Borussia Dortmund was stunningly conjured from nothing, and Arsene Wenger was quick to ensure Song received due credit for his part in the Dutchman’s glorious winner against Everton. Questions remain over his ability to maintain positional discipline, but these forward forays have undoubtedly reaped benefits
.Key Battle: Vincent Kompany v Robin van Persie. Against Everton as so often this season, Van Persie made the difference for Arsenal. He will be looking to add to his superb tally of 18 goals in the last 16 away games in the league, and City will be reliant on their captain to marshal his threat.Trivia: Joe Mercer, the last manager to take the league title to Manchester City in 1968, was one of Arsenal’s greatest captains after joining the club in 1946.
Stats: There were three red cards shown in the two Premier League meetings between the sides last season.
Odds: Manchester City (1.70), Arsenal (5.00) and the draw (3.75) are on offer with bet365 while Robin van Persie is available at 6.50 as first goal-scorer.
Prediction: While Arsenal could be considered the form team, the quality of City’s squad and their home advantage make them definite favourites to claim the win.
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