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Manchester City v Arsenal: A Preview

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Manchester City vs. Arsenal
Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Where It's Grey
Sunday 18 December 2011, 11:10a EST
TV: Fox Soccer
SB Nation Manchester City typings: Bitter and Blue

Arsenal face their toughest test of the season when they go away to Premier League leaders Manchester City. City have blown most of their Premier League opponents away, including an incredible 6-1 result, but have floundered in recent results against top teams, drawing 1-1 away against Liverpool and losing 2-1 away to Chelsea, and losing against Napoli in the Champions League, which ultimately lead to their failure to qualify for the next round (teehee).

All of those matches, though, have been away. On Sunday, City are at home, where they are perfect in the league; in fact, the only time they have failed to win at home is when Napoli went to the Etihad Stadium on Matchday 1 and got a very credible 1-1 draw. With the addition of Sergio Aguero, and the continual blossoming of David Silva has seen Manchester City largely abandon the more defensive style of play for a passing, attacking style, though they still build from the back and defend well, and in numbers (leading to Jens Lehmann to label them ‘boring').

Against Chelsea, City were a combination of both sides. In the first 20 minutes, City were at their attacking best, with David Silva pulling the strings from the middle, and City playing extremely fluidly. However, after 20 minutes, Chelsea dropped deeper, and City stopped pressing. They dominated possession, but for the next 40 minutes, were outshot by Chelsea by 6 shots to 1. It'll be interesting to see if Arsene Wenger adopts similar tactics to Chelsea's; Chelsea, Liverpool and Napoli have showed that the way to stop City scoring (and they have 49 goals in 15 games) is to do what so many teams have done to Arsenal over the year: deny them space, defend deep and narrow and use the wide areas to counter. City have Micah Richards back, so Pablo Zabaletta will play left, but if both leave space in behind, Arsenal could profit, if Gervinho and Theo Walcott can get in behind and create chances for Robin van Persie.

There is of course, the fairly good chance that Arsenal try and take the game to Manchester City, like they did against Chelsea. However, the key factor against Chelsea was the way Arsenal dropped deep to defend, denying Chelsea space. Chelsea weren't particularly quick on the break, and, aside from Sergio Aguero and Adam Johnson (who isn't playing tomorrow in all likelihood), neither are Manchester City. Thus, expect a similar set up against City as there was against Chelsea, with Arsenal sitting deeper when defending and then breaking forward, but attacking through the middle areas as well as wide areas. This set up not only denies City space in behind, but also means that Mertesacker's lack of pace won't be as big of a factor against Sergio Aguero as it might have been.

Predicted lineup: Szczesny, Djoruou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Song, Arteta, Ramsey; Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
Subs: Almunia, Miquel, Frimpong, Rosicky, Benayoun, Arshavin, Chamakh

Maybe some AOC thrown in instead of the recently dire Arshavin.

Prediction: The author spends the 90 minutes biting his nails, hardly being able to watch. I'm not sure what Mssrs Harwood, Wachtel and pdb will do during the 90 minutes, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's something similar.