Arsenal Hosting Hobbled City at the Perfect Time

Yaya and Aguero

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This weekend provides Premier League fans with a clash of title contenders as Arsenal host Manchester City Monday night. The Gunners currently sit one spot ahead of City in the league table, but only lead them by a single point. Victory for either side will surely have major title implications as we start to edge towards the second half of the season. Last season, these two clubs met three times and Man City failed to secure a victory in any of those fixtures. Will we see a continuation of this trend Monday, or will Manuel Pellegrini’s side leapfrog their hosts up the table?

I feel like whenever I write a preview for Manchester City games, Sergio Aguero is on the brink of returning from injury. The 27-year-old is, without a doubt, one of the deadliest strikers in the world when he’s healthy, but as of late that fitness has been hard to come by. This year, Aguero has appeared in just ten of City’s 16 league games and hasn’t made an appearance since November 28th. Even when he does come on to the field, the Argentine hasn’t played a full 90 minutes for the Sky Blues since their Champions League match against Borussia Mochengladbach way back at the end of September. Despite these absences, Aguero has still managed to score a team-high seven goals in the Premier League which speaks volumes about the skill that he brings to the squad. It will be interesting to see whether or not Pellegrini will give Aguero the start, but even if he comes on for the last 30 minutes he has the potential to find the back of the net.

Last week against Swansea City, it was Yaya Touré that saved the victory for the Cityzens. Perhaps one of the most dominating central midfielders in the league the past few seasons, this year there’s been a noticeable dip in form for the 32-year-old. At times, it looks like he just doesn’t want to be on the pitch, and tracking back to defend feels like a chore. On his day, Touré can completely take over a match, but as of late we’re seeing less and less of that. Going up against the talented midfield that Arsenal has, the Ivorian will have his hands full from start to finish. The major question is whether or not we’ll see a revitalized Yaya, or the sluggish one that looks on the twilight of his career.

I feel like whenever people are ready to write off Olivier Giroud, the big Frenchman goes on a ridiculous goal-scoring run. In his last three games, Giroud had found the back of the net five times including a heroic hat trick against Olympiakos in the Champions League. On the year, the 29-year-old leads the Gunners in scoring with 15 goals in all competitions. The Frenchman provides Arsenal with a prototypical target man leading the line. His strength on the ball allows the Gunners to set up attacks, and his dominance in the air makes him a constant threat on set pieces. Stoke City showed just how easily City’s defense can be exploited, and I would expect Arsenal to try and emulate that approach. Look for Giroud to be the focal point of the Gunners’ attack.

In their last ten league games, only two teams have managed to score more than one goal against Arsenal. Also during that run, the Gunners backline has managed to keep four clean sheets. This great defensive form can be partially attributed to the dominating partnership between Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, but I think the biggest factor has to be the play of Petr Cech. After being demoted the backup role last season at Chelsea, Cech, who was at times considered the most talented goalie in the Premier League, moved on to the starting job at the Emirates. After a somewhat shaky start to his Arsenal career, the 33-year-old has once again emerged as one of the best in England. While David Ospina did a commendable job in net last season, I feel like Cech’s presence provides the Gunners’ defenders with a bit more confidence to get stuck into challenges knowing that he’s more than capable to cover for any mistakes. City’s potent attacking force will provide the former Chelsea man with perhaps his most difficult test of the season, but he’s no stranger to pressure.

The Emirates has been very kind to Arsenal this year, as Wenger’s side have lost just one match in seven fixtures at the stadium. When City traveled to London last year, they managed to hold on for a 2-2 draw, but I don’t think they’ll be so lucky this time around. In my opinion, Arsenal are the team in better form at the moment and their great form at home should see them take all three points Monday night. Final score: Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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