Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side welcome Premier League champions Manchester City to Emirates Stadium on Sunday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Stuart Brennan for their views.
Manchester City have a dreadful recent record at the Emirates - they haven’t scored away at Arsenal in the league since 2006/07, and have generally played extremely defensive, negative football.
Roberto Mancini has been in charge for the last three of those meetings, and his approach has been particularly tame. The 0-0 draw in 2009/10 was a dreadful game with barely a shot on target from either side, while Arsenal did all the attacking the following season, another goalless draw. Then there was Arsenal’s 1-0 win last season, a day when Mancini’s unadventurous substitutions appeared to have lost City the league title.
It’s difficult to see Mancini being attack-minded given the absence of Yaya Toure, away at the Africa Cup of Nations, and the suspended Samir Nasri. More defensive-minded players, Javi Garcia and James Milner, are the obvious replacements, and Mancini will probably concentrate keeping on a clean sheet.
His defence is certainly reliable, as City concede fewer shots per game than any team in the league - just 9.6. Vincent Kompany is City’s best aerial defender but can be vulnerable when dragged out from the back and forced to turn, while Matija Nastasic is less powerful, but nippier.
At full back, Lukas Podolski must track Pablo Zabaleta, then charge past him on the break, while Arsenal will be familiar with Gael Clichy’s habit of intercepting the ball and launching quick attacks down the left.
Yaya Toure’s absence robs City of his driving midfield runs, and Javi Garcia is a cautious player who generally distributes the ball sideways. Gareth Barry, who has scored two headers from open play in his last four starts, will break into the box more frequently in Toure’s absence.
David Silva is unquestionably City’s most creative talent - he’s manufactured more goalscoring opportunities from open play than any other Premier League player this season, and is likely to drift inside from the left.
He and Milner’s versatility means they can be switched for tactical reasons, although it’s likely Mancini will ask Milner, more reliable defensively, to guard against Kieran Gibbs’ sudden bursts of acceleration.
STUART BRENNAN, MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS
I think it might be a bit more exciting than games between the two sides at the Emirates have been in previous years.
City really need to win this one. A point won’t be enough, especially if Man United beat Liverpool earlier in the day. We could see an attacking game.
Yaya Toure has gone to the Africa Cup of Nations. He always seems like such a vital player for City. Just how much will he be missed against Arsenal?
He went on Nations Cup duty at this time last year, and Roberto Mancini said then that if City were still top when he got back, they’d win the league, which they did in the end.
He’s extremely important but there are other players that could come in. They’ve brought in Javi Garcia, who is beginning to settle at the club now. James Milner will also be keen to play in central midfield and Gareth Barry has been excellent this season. He’s arguably been more influential than Yaya this season and his passing has improved no end over the last year to 18 months.
David Silva has started to show some real form. He’s been playing very well lately, but hasn’t got on the scoresheet for a while. You’d expect the game to be open on Sunday, and that will definitely suit a player like Silva. City will look to get him on the ball and make things happen.
Arsenal have got some real pace up front, something that City lack a bit defensively. Kompany is reasonably quick. Zabaleta isn’t the quickest but is good positionally and has performed well against Arsenal in recent years. I think Arsenal’s speed on the flanks could give City a problem or two.
I can see this being a draw, but a more entertaining one than we’ve seen at the Emirates in years gone by. I’ll go for 2-2.
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