Man City-Arsenal: Five key matchups
Projected selections, formations for Arsenal’s Sunday match at Premier League-leading Manchester City.
We think of Manchester City’s ascendancy as a new phenomenon, though from Arsenal’s point of view, the Citizens’ class as been evident for some time. The Gunners have won only two of their last eight meetings with City, with the Citizens keep six clean sheets.
This season Manchester City is giving a goal a game, hardly a generous rate, but with injury and suspension bringing a third choice in at one spot in defense, Arsenal may see an avenue to goal that the rest of the league has yet to find.
Among the factors that will determine whether Arsenal can take advantage: the player-versus-player matchups. Here are our five.
2. Theo Walcott vs. Pablo Zabaleta
Manchester City’s top two choices at left back are out for Sunday’s match, so they’ll just have to settle for an Argentine international. Talk about the riches of the one percent! You could do a lot worse than have Pablo Zabaleta to call on when Gael Clichy’s suspended and Aleksandr Kolarov’s injured.
Zabaleta’s going to have his hands full with Walcott, one of the league’s fastest players, a man who has already racked up five assists on the season. If Walcott can beat Zabaleta and force Joleon Lescott to help from his left-center half’s position, van Persie will need only beat Kompany in the space opened up in the right side of the penalty area. If deep-sitting midfielder Gareth Barry has to help, then partner Yaya Touré will more left in isolation to protect Lescott and Kompany against Ramsey and Arteta.
If Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini sees Walcott beating Zabaleta wide as a likely scenario, he may start James Milner on the left (as opposed to the right) side of midfield again, as he did at the beginning of Monday’s match at Stamford Bridge. If Milner isn’t there to help, Zabaletta will have to handle it himself and keep Walcott from creating opportunities for van Persie in the middle.
4. David Silva vs. Alexander Song
If Arsenal can pull Barry and Toure from their preferred positions, defensive midfielder Alexander Song could prove dangerous jumping into attack; however, Song leaving space behind him would be a double-edged sword for Arsenal, probably one they want to avoid. Where David Silva coming in from wide will be crucial to City’s ability to link to their attack, Song is the key to Arsenal’s ability to break that up. Arguably the league’s best defensive midfielder this season, Song will have to be on constant lookout for Silva, arguably the league’s best playmaker.
If Song can disrupt how City’s used Silva, it will force Sergio Aguero to come deeper and Yaya Toure to be more influential in a higher area of the field. City’s capable of pulling off any of those adjustments; however, they’re much more potent when Silva’s involved.