High-flying Arsenal face a difficult task on Sunday December 18 when they travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on league leaders, Manchester City. Kick off 4:10 pm.
It could be argued that Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City have faltered of late given that they crashed out of the Champions League at the expense of Napoli, who defeated City in late November to edge themselves into the knock-out stage. In addition, their defeat to Chelsea last Monday signified their first league defeat of the season. Nevertheless, club captain, Vincent Kompany has stated that defeat to Chelsea has inspired his colleagues to bounce back with victory: “Monday has made us feel more hungry,” said Kompany.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have significantly overturned their fortunes and with admirable consistency, according to manager Arsène Wenger. In addition to qualifying for the final stages of the Champions League, the Gunners have picked up 22 points from a possible 24 and their resurgence sees them occupy fifth place, pressing hard to break into the top four. The marvellously clinical proficiency of captain Robin Van Persie, who may very well break Alan Shearer’s record of 36 Premier League goals in a year, along with the return to full fitness of defensive lynch-pin Thomas Vermaelen have been cited as the catalyst for this remarkable turnaround.
Aside from the very obvious home advantage, it could be said that Manchester City will have the mental edge going into this fixture, having already defeated Arsenal 1-0 in a Carling Cup tie at the Emirates at the end of November. However, that Arsenal fielded what was practically their second string in that game must not be overlooked and Wenger’s men will be keen to build upon their impressive form. Conversely, Manchester City will be eager to extend their lead at the top of the table in order to reassert their status as true title contenders. Roberto Mancini was dismissive of his first league defeat impacting on his team’s form. He said: “After 15 games we are on top, with two more points than United. We are strong enough to start winning again and one result doesn’t change anything.”
Strong full-back Micah Richards should return for City after missing the last two matches but they will be without Aleksandar Kolarov who is sidelined for a month with a groin injury. Gael Clichy will miss the game as he serves a one match ban against his former club after being sent off in City’s defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal may have to deploy their reshuffled defence once more with injuries to their main full backs, so it is possible that Thomas Vermaelen will play at left back with Koscielny and Mertesacker in the centre and Djourou at right back.
Despite dominating their last game against Everton, Arsenal had to rely on a second half wonder-strike from the in-form Van Persie to secure victory on the weekend of the club’s 125th anniversary. Manchester City have not lost in seven home games this season, where they have scored 24 and conceded only 4 and I expect them to take advantage of a reshuffled Arsenal defence and bounce back from their Chelsea defeat with a 2-1 victory (9.6 or 17/2 on Betfair).
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