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Manchester City vs. Arsenal: match preview

Kickoff: Sunday, October 24, 11 AM EDT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel
Opposition Coverage: Bitter and Blue

Arsenal travel to Eastlands tomorrow for their tenth Premier League match of the year against Manchester City.  City currently sit on 16 points 17 points,  two above Arsenal in the table and five behind Chelsea, who won today against Wolves.



Last season, the corresponding fixture did not turn out particularly well for the Gunners.  A 4-2 loss was accompanied by Emmanuel Adebayor stamping on Robin van Persie's face and winding up Arsenal supporters, some of whom responded in shameful fashion, throwing chairs and other detritus onto the pitch.

It was a bad day, but enough about the past.

The City team that Arsenal will come up against tomorrow is probably slightly improved over last year.  They will be without Mario Balotelli and possibly Kolo Toure, but other than that, their nominal starting XI is more or less intact.  City have been playing with three defensive midfielders for much of the year, from Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure, Patrick Vieira or Nigel de Jong.  In front of those three, City generally play David Silva and James Milner or Adam Johnson on the wings and Carlos Tevez through the middle.  Adebayor offers them a slightly different type of target up front, should they choose it, although Tevez has been in great form and works very hard at dropping deep to link play from the midfield.

Arsenal's choices are slightly more limited for tomorrow.  Lukasz Fabianski will start in goal, as Manuel Almunia's elbow is still acting up.  Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny are both out, so it will fall to Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou to contain Tevez.  Bacary Sagna has returned at right back, and Gael Clichy will probably play at left back.  Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas are sure to start in midfield, leaving a choice of Abou Diaby, Denilson, Tomas Rosicky, or Samir Nasri to join them.  Given the general size-ness of the City midfield trio, Diaby seems to be the most logical choice.

Up front, Chamakh should start at center forward, with Andrei Arshavin most likely to start on the left.  Theo Walcott should start on the right, but he  could have an impact against a fatiguing City side as a sub as well.  Depending on how the game is going, Tomas Rosicky's willingness to crack one and his incisive passing could become valuable off the bench, and Samir Nasri may have to feature in some capacity given his niftiness in the attack this year.

Either way, a draw would be a solid result away.  But a win, of course, would put Arsenal in second, four points behind Chelsea still.  Given the ambition that Wenger discussed at the Annual General Meeting this week, one would expect Arsenal to really come out attacking.  Given the pace Chelsea have set, aiming for draws seems futile in a way, and of course, this is Arsenal.


Sagna             Squillaci              Djourou           Clichy


Fabregas           Diaby

Nasri/Theo               Chamakh               Arshavin