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The Super Sunday encounter between Arsenal and Manchester City can rightly be called a battle of ideologies. Cash rich Manchester City have not been shy of spending money. They have made a completely new team over the last year or two spending lavishly. Arsenal, on the other hand, with Arsene Wenger at helm have been the least spending Premier League side. They have persisted with project youth in the past few years with not more than a couple of additions each year. Tomorrow we may well find out how right Wenger is when he says “You can’t buy success.”
We usually don’t term games this early in the season as must-win. But its getting the 3 points especially in big matches like the one tomorrow that help to keep those must win games to a minimum in the final stages of the season.
The trip to City of Manchester Stadium used to be an easy ride for Arsenal till 2006. But since the influx of virtually unlimited money at City, Arsenal have managed to avoid defeat just once in the last 5 trips to Eastlands. Not to forget last season’s 4-2 defeat – a result that was overshadowed by Emmanuel Adebayor’s infamous stamp on former teammate Robin van Persie. Neither of the two might feature tomorrow though. Van Persie, as usual, is out injured and Adebayor has fallen out of favor with manager Roberto Mancini.
What’s more worrying for Arsenal is that they have a horrible away form. They have not kept a clean sheet in their last 15 away games and have won only one of their last eight Premier League away games. It really makes one wonder whether Arsenal can manage to get the 3 points tomorrow. Looks doubtful, honestly speaking.
As for the team news, City have an extremely short injury list. Balotelli, Jo and Toure are the only big names doubtful for tomorrow. Balotelli and Jo will surely not be missed with the form that Carlos Tevez is in. 28 goals in his last 31 Premier League appearances, including 7 already this season, says it all. It is this remarkable form that has forced Adebayor to the bench. But the lanky forward did get a hattrick in the Europa Cup in midweek so he will surely be contesting for a start against the club where it all started for him. New boy David Silva is also starting to fulfill his potential and could pose a serious threat to the weak Arsenal defence.
Arsenal’s absentee list is a lot longer than that of City. Almunia, Frimpong, Ramsey, Van Persie, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Wilshere (suspended) will all be missing. The list has shrunk a lot in the last week or two. Sagna is back, so are Walcott, Bendtner and Fabregas. The captain’s return is a timely one considering the little man running the show from midfield this season, Jack Wilshere, is suspended. The probable line-up will be:
Sagna Squillaci Djourou Clichy
Nasri Song Fabregas
Walcott Chamakh Arshavin
Fabianski is turning out to be a reliable goalkeeper. You don’t have mini heart attacks anymore whenever he’s called into action, and instead you really fancy him to pull out a save or make a good punch. Sagna is back fit and I would prefer him over Eboue because he’s better defender defensively. The back two pick themselves since they’re the only options we have unless Koscielny makes a surprising recovery from his back injury. At left back I wouldn’t mind either of Clichy or Gibbs but Wenger will probably go for Clichy’s experience. Nasri has been Arsenal’s best player this season so he’s an automatic selection. Song is the only holding midfield option we have. Fabregas picks himself. As for Walcott, I think we really will need his pace and direct approach in a big match like this because as Wenger said the first goal decides the game in most big matches so better to start him than bring him on as a super sub. Of course you can’t drop Chamakh. He’s been The Man so far. Involved in nearly everything – tracking back, good link play, assists, winning penalties, scoring goals. And we all know Wenger wont drop Arshavin so lets not argue about that!
League position: 2nd
Goals scored: 12
Goals conceded: 5
League position: 5th
Goals scored: 18
Goals conceded: 10
Lets hope Arsenal can turn their away misfortunes around and turn up with a performance we’ve all come to expect from them at home. With Chelsea getting a win today, not dropping points is all the more important now.
What a match! 15 minutes before the match the starting line-up made me really excited. We had been waiting for so long to see so many first team players in one side and today was the day. The line-up promised an exciting game and it lived up to its expectations.
Walcott on the right, Arshavin on the left, Denilson, Song and Fabregas in the centre. If Nasri didn’t have flu this would have the perfect midfield. Anyway Adebayor was back alongwith Fabregas. He was the lone forward as van Persie and Eduardo didn’t feature due to groin injuries suffered during the international break.
The first chance of the match fell to Manchester City as Denilson’s attempted clearance fell to De Jong who tested Almunia but the Spaniard had no problem making the save.
But Arsenal looked bright from the start. Fluent passing which Man City had no answer to and they were soon rewarded for the good start. Robinho brought Sagna down near the touchline and the returning captain stepped up to take the free kick, sent in a delightful delivery into the box which Adebayor powered home with a standing header. Poor defending by City and they paid the price for it. What made the first goal look better was that it was Fabregas assisting Adebayor, both of whom are returning from long lay-offs.
But the goal sparked a surge of attacks from the visitors. Richards was sent through by Wright-Phillips but the shot expertly saved by Almunia and the Fernandes found himself right in front of the goal with the keeer at his mercy. But the holding midfielfer isn’t the best of finishers around and it showed. Lashed at the shot and it hit the outside of the post. Surely Bellamy or Robinho would have put that away. Arsenal needed to defend better to avoid giving away such chances.
Surprisingly it was Toure who had the next Arsenal chance. Made a piercing run but in the end the angle was too tight to beat Given. He still had his shot saved by Given. Chances also came Arshavin’s and Song’s way but it remained 1-0 at the break.
The second half started with Arsenal’s dominance continuing and they got what they got at the start of the first. A goal! Fabregas’s inch perfect chipped pass over Dunne found Adebayor. The Togolese forward rounded off Given and made no mistake with the finish.
Man City were down and out after this goal. Song headed wide, Denilson shot wide and Walcott had a fair few attempts but most went wide and one punched away by Given. Eboue came on and looked full of energy and nearly made it three but he is never going to learn to finish is he! He lashed at the shot and as expected it went hopelessly wide. Bendtner also had a decent chance but he couldn’t conrol his final shot. Ramsey had a go too but none could make it 3.
We saw today just how much Denilson and Song lack on the attacking front. Fabregas was truly amazing today and showed how much we missed him. Adebayor before getting injured couldn’t get goals but I had said at that time he is nothing without Fabregas and you saw it today! It was a near perfect performance today and hopefully we can continue the momentum to Spain so that we can go into the 2nd leg of the Champions League quarter final with a lead.
To end a good day for Gooners Fabregas yet again assured Arsenal fans of his future at Arsenal saying:
“I am very happy at Arsenal and have said it many times – but I cannot control what the media say.
“When they speak for me, I cannot understand it because only my friends, family and the boss know what I think.
“It is just a story which will go on and on – even if I was to say that I would retire here.
“I am proud to be captain of this club and see my future at Arsenal.”
They say all is well that ends well and it looks like this season, after a far from decent start, might end just the way we wanted it to!