18 January 2015

No Touré, No Cry: how Arsenal could escape the Etihad with all three points...

It’s hard to find a more-fitting symbol for our season than City’s recent acquisition of Wilfried Bony, reportedly for a £28m transfer-fee. Already bursting at the seams with scoring options, it hardly seems as if they’d need another scorer. Meanwhile, we continue to inch our way closer and closer to a £2.4m signing of a 17-year old defensive midfielder who may or may not be ready to step into the first team. If there’s any silver lining to this, it’s in the fact that Bony is away at the Africa Cup of Nations and won’t be available on Sunday…

Then again, that might be a good thing. Maybe a destabilising new presence could be just enough to unsettle a squad that hasn’t lost in its last 14 matches across all competitions. However, it’s more than likely that we’ll see a heck of a lot more of Sergio Agüero, who has had just enough time to work off the rust without wearing out his legs. In more-positive news, Yaya Touré will also be away at the Africa Cup of Nations, depriving City of one of its most-domineering players—when he’s in the mood. His absence might mean a great deal on Sunday as it not only carves out a rather large hole in City’s midfield but also ameliorates one of our own most-glaring weaknesses.

With Arteta and Debuchy ruled out for the next few months, we may find ourselves having to send out Francis Coquelin alongside Aaron Ramsey or Mathieu Flamini, each of which presents its own risks. Ramsey would be returning after a long spell on the sideline, and Flamini lacks the pace or mobility we’d need against Fernandinho, Nasri, and Silva, among others.  With Chambers almost certain to start at right-back over the less-experienced Bellerin, our squad’s thinness is alarmingly clear—and no number of 17-year olds signed between today and Sunday will change that.

It’s not that I fear us being overrun as we were the last time we visited the Etihad—and that 6-3 scoreline looks far-worse than it really was—but I doubt that we have the mettle to go in and hold off one of the Prem’s most potent offenses. Then again, we have the firepower to again match them goal-for-goal. With Walcott, Özil, and Alexis on the pitch, anything could happen.

For what it’s worth, we might go in with a bit of confidence, having eviscerated Stoke last weekend, while having come agonisingly close to defeating City back in September (after actually beating them to claim the Community Shield in August). Those results may not quite intimidate our opponents, but they should remind us that we do have the quality in our side to go toe-to-toe with them.

LAST 3:
  • Arsenal 2-2 Man City (13.09.2014)
  • Arsenal 3-1 Man City (10.08.2014)
  • Arsenal 1-1 Man City (29.03.2014)
FACTFILE
  • The two clubs first clashed on 11 November 1893—a 1-0 win for Woolwich Arsenal.
  • There have been 28 goals in the last seven matches between us and Man City.
  • There have been six red cards issued in the last nine matches.
INJURIES
  • Arteta, Wilshere, Gnabry, Diaby, and Debuchy have all been ruled out. Gibbs, Chambers, and Welbeck face late fitness tests but should all be available.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
  • Ospina; Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Chambers; Coquelin, Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud.
Coming away with a draw would be acceptable, but something in this suggests we could steal a win.

AN OVERLY OPTIMISTIC PREDICTION: Man City 1-2 Arsenal

What do you think? Am I crazy, or is there just enough of a glimmer of hope for Arsenal to march into the Etihad and steal all three?