Manchester City go to Arsenal on Saturday evening chasing the three points that will keep their title tilt on track. Arsenal meanwhile need the victory to stave off Everton who are breathing down their necks for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
If this fixture had occurred a few weeks back it would have been billed as a battle between two title contenders. However a bad run of league results in March for Arsenal, victory over bitter rivals Spurs notwithstanding, has left them adrift of the top three. Last weekend’s 6-0 hammering by Chelsea was followed by a calamitous midweek draw at home to Swansea. Everton are now just 6 points behind the Gunners with a game in hand and Arsenal still having to visit Goodison Park in April.
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes was quick to put the boot in on Tuesday night, questioning Arsenal’s lack of leaders and heart in big games. Even his own beleaguered former club has taken four points off of Arsenal in the league this season. In games against strong opposition this campaign Arsenal have crumbled. Against Liverpool in February they shipped 5 goals away to Liverpool while in the December’s reverse of Saturday’s fixture Manchester City hit them for six.
As is usually the case with Arsenal, talks of a crisis don’t tell the whole story. They may be out of the Champions League after losing to Bayern Munich and have no chance of lifting the Premier League trophy, but they are still in the FA Cup (felling Liverpool the week after losing 5-1) and haven’t fallen below fifth in the league all season.
Nevertheless February and March have, for the past few seasons, seen the start of a good run of form for the Gunners which would consolidate their place in the top four. That has certainly not been the case this campaign, and if they should capitulate to Manchester City on Saturday then Everton will certainly fancy their chances of overtaking them.
City go into the game having scored 8 goals in their last two outings. Yaya Toure has helped himself to half of that total and Arsenal have to find a way to subdue the big Ivorian, along with the in-form David Silva. Pellegrini’s men had no difficulty in demolishing Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, even with the home side crowding the midfield in an attempt to curb Toure’s influence. If Arsenal’s midfielders don’t harry and hassle City in the middle of the park at every opportunity, they will leave their defence with too much to do.
With City only three points behind league leaders Chelsea, with two games in hand, they know that a victory at the Emirates will give them the upper-hand going into a crucial period of games which includes a trip to Anfield to face second placed Liverpool.
2 thoughts on “3 vital points at stake as Arsenal welcome Manchester City”
I think people (scholes+media) have been too quick (or slow in Scholes’ case) to say Arsenal have lacked heart this season or that they lack leadership. You could argue that in the past, but this is a different season. I think the injuries to key players has taken its toll. Everybody knew Arsenal had a tough fixture list in February and March and this is exactly the time too many of their better players got injured. Last week against Chelsea we started the game without 3 or arguably 4 first team players. Yes, Chelsea and City have bigger and probably better squads, but even they haven’t missed so many key players in important games, Arsenal need to look at why they’ve had so many injuries over the past 4 to 5 years.
Absolutely. Also when arsenal are in a strong position, such as they were in December/January they need to invest and consolidate. Bringing in the likes of Kallstrom (injured!) is just not good enough. The extent of the injury list is of course a massive factor. But Wenger knows that if that he gets injuries he is short on cover. Mourinho and Pellegrini have the strength in depth to not have to dip into the January transfer window. Wenger doesn’t have that luxury. The main concern has to be cutting out the amount of injuries though. Arsenal seem to suffer more than most.