Thursday, December 15, 2016

Manchester City Arsenal Preview - Woolwich 1886

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After going 22 matches without a loss (sorry, League Cup), Arsenal’s strong start finally stumbled at Goodison Park. That it was our third match in a week is one asterisk, as is the controversial non-call when Mirallas seemed to upend Alexis in the waning moments. Be those as they may, the sad fact is that we lost an away-match for the first time since March against Barcelona. That’s a pretty fine little streak and one that should still inspire confidence ahead of Sunday’s trip to the Etihad. 
Still not convinced? At a risk of triggering a bit of PTSD, we’ll arrive in Manchester to face a squad much-depleted by suspension and injury. Absent will be Fernandinho and Agüero, each serving bans after their moments of madness against Chelsea. Add to that list Ilkay Gündogan, who came up lame on Wednesday against Watford and is ruled out. The loss of Agüero is of course massive; he’s the lynchpin to their attack. However, the absences of Fernandinho and Gündogan carve out a rather-large opening in their midfield. While Fernando and Touré are still quite good on their day, they’re not nearly as effective as that previous pairing. 
At a risk of sounding overly confident, those missing players are integral to Guardiola’s system, and their absences further discombobulate an-already sputtering start to his tenure. Despite one of the world’s deepest and most talented squads, Guardiola has not yet found that magic touch. Heck—after Agüero, no one in the squad has scored more than four goals (alhough they have found goals from ten players in total). The real issue seems to come, as it did last year, in defense. Without a fit Kompany, among other issues, City’s defense is leaky at best. Consider Exhibit A: Leicester. For the first time this season, the Foxes looked like the title-holders that they are, carving that other City open time and time again. Only a late goal from Nolito salvaged a bit of dignity for the visitors.

Exhibit B, somewhat less compelling, would be the fact that City’s clean sheet against Watford is their first in eight outings. While they are still frightfully capable of scoring goals, what with the likes of de Bruyne, Nolito, and Sterling, Arsenal can and should find chances of their own.

To return to where we started, the loss against Everton might offer a bit of a silver lining. It was arguably our worst performance of the season, and not just for the result. We looked jaded and indifferent—not just tired, as might be suggested by the fixture congestion. We looked like we couldn’t really be bothered to fight against a squad struggling to stay relevant. To get knocked back by them should test our squad’s mettle, and this squad of ours has shown itself more than willing to fight rather than fold.

At a broader level, we’ve done quite well against City in recent sesasons, earning a win and a draw in our last two visits to the Etihad. There’s reason to hope if not believe that we can hold to that if not improve upon it.

Right. We’ve got a match to win. I hope I’ve boosted your confidence after the Everton setback. If you’re feelin’ lucky, consider trying your luck with English Premier League betting odds at William Hill

Man City 2-2 Arsenal (8 May 2016)
Arsenal 2-1 Man City (21 December 2015)
Man City 0-2 Arsenal (18 January 2015)

We’ll be without Welbeck, Cazorla, Mustafi, Debuchy, Ramsey, and Mertesacker.

Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Gabriel, Bellerín; Coquelin, Xhaka;  Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.

Expect a pitched battle but one in which Arsenal seize the upper hand. All eyes on Walcott.
Man City 1-2 Arsenal.

Jon Shay - Woolwich 1886

Jon Shay is a regular contributor to Arsenal Review USA and can be found blogging about Arsenal at Woolwich 1886.

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