Fresh from battering Southampton in their last Premier League game—then edging out Montpellier in the Champions League— Arsenal will be full of confidence as they prepare to travel to the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City, on the other hand, have drawn and lost their last two games. Losing to Real Madrid isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but they had their chances to win and failed to capitalise.
City will hope that a victory here can spark their league campaign into action after a series of underwhelming performances.
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
When: Sunday, September 23, 10.30 a.m. EST
TV/Live Stream: Fox Soccer Channel
The Premier League champions will be smarting after their loss to Madrid, especially after conceding two goals in the final five minutes.
Yaya Toure will look to continue his excellent form from that encounter, while Joe Hart will hope for substantially less to do between the sticks. Hart was the only thing keeping City in the game in the first half, making a string of saves to deny Cristiano Ronaldo.
His manager was far from impressed, however. After Hart sought to absolve himself of blame for the late goals, saying that they “won and lost as a team,” Roberto Mancini had other ideas.
“Joe Hart should stay in goal and make saves. If anyone should criticise the team it should be me, not Joe Hart. I am the judge, not Joe Hart.” (Via The Belfast Telegraph).
It was a strange move from Mancini, especially given how well Hart had performed. However, the post-match interview is never the best time to make clear judgements of a manager, especially after a game as tense as this one.
Mancini’s other criticisms of his team were correct, and they would do well to avoid repeating them on Sunday. City defended very deep towards the end of the Madrid game, keeping themselves under constant pressure as the minutes ticked away.
This isn’t a mistake they can make against Arsenal. Robin van Persie may be gone, but the Southampton game showed they still have plenty of players capable of finding the net.
Vincent Kompany will be key for City as they look to get their season moving. If the defence can keep their shape and play up a bit more, City should look to run everything through the midfield, again looking to utilise Toure whenever possible.
Arsenal suffered a similar situation at the end of their European encounter, only they managed to hold on for the win. Montpellier gave them a real test as they sought to re-establish themselves, but the Gunners fought it out to take a vital three points away from home.
Oliver Giroud is yet to find his goalscoring touch, but Aresene Wenger will likely keep faith with him on Sunday. The feeling persists that all he needs is time, and Wenger seems content to give it to him.
The good news is that Mikel Arteta has established himself as the origin of most Arsenal moves.
On the surface, it’s a ridiculous comparison, but he occasionally invites comparison to the way Jan Molby used to play at Liverpool: channeling the ball through the midfield via short passes and good vision while sometimes content to hang back and act as the provider.
Wenger has shown that he is willing to adjust his system according to the opponent, so it may be that a quicker player is introduced alongside Arteta. Francis Coquelin has the pace to fulfil this role, along with the ability to track back and make the necessary tackles.
Pace would seem the sensible way to proceed in the Etihad, and the combination of Arteta and Coquelin would provide a balance capable of disrupting City’s attacking flair.
Arsenal take an early lead, but a resurgence from City in the second half ensures the points go to the men in blue.
Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal.