21 December 2015

This one's for all the marbles; win on Monday, win the Prem...

This one's for all the marbles, folks, at least those left behind by Leicester. Without disrespecting Ranieri's side, Man City's to the Emirates represents the most-vital clash of the current campaign. In a season in which no one can quiet the skeptics, Arsenal and Man City have emerged as the putative front-runners for winning the Prem. Both sides have been ravaged by injuries, but takes none of the shine off of this clash.
Without Kompany and Agüero, City have looked more than a bit uneven. Agüero is said to be available for Monday's match; whether that pans out and what kind of form he'd be in will go a long way towards revealing the outcome. Much as we'd like to claim that Koscielny will keep the Argentinian in his back-pocket, reality is much slippier than that.  Fortunately, the confirmed absence of Kompany exposes Man City's back-line as alarmingly leaky. With him anchoring the back four, City are undefeated in eight matches, keeping seven clean sheets. Without him, they've won four and lost four, conceding at least one goal in each match (and a total of sixteen).

While we may have to go into the match without Alexis, we'll certainly go in on a fine run of form, having won three on the bounce across all competitons, scoring eight goals along the way while conceding just one. The return of Ramsey to the middle, forced though it may have been by injuries, has coincided if not cause a revitalization of our form. His pairing with Flamini still looks a bit shaky. If we do have to contend with Agüero, Ramsey's ability to get forward might be compromised, but we should still have enough going forward to carve out some chances.

At a risk of overstating things, the entire Man City squad seems a bit diffident, as if glutted on previous Prem successes and the apparent absence of any true rival. Chelsea's collapse and Man U's stuttering form, along with City's possible prioritising of Champions League play, have dulled their hunger for domestic concerns. If we can seize the opportunity to topple them, we'll not only close in on Leicester, but we could take a dramatic step towards reducing the return-fixture (Matchday 37, 7 May, at the Etihad) to irrelevancy.

LAST 3
Man City 0-2 Arsenal (18.01.2015)
Arsenal 2-2 Man City (13.09.2014)
Arsenal 1-1 Man City (29.03.2014)

FACTFILE
The two clubs first clashed 1 August 1893, a 1-0 win for Woolwich Arsenal.
Man City have not scored in their last three matches away from the Etihad.
Arsenal have scored at least two goals in five of their last six matches against Man City.

INJURIES
Wilshere, Welbeck, Cazorla, Coquelin, and Rosický have all been ruled out, and Alexis is doubtful.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Flamini, Ramsey; Campbell, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.

This could be a cagey affair with City playing unevenly overall and poorly on the road, and Arsenal surely feels the need to prove its credentials.

PREDICTION Arsenal 2-1 Man City