Welcome to Talking Heads. Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal take on Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday and our Talking Heads for this game are former Gunner Adrian Clarke and Tim Stillman from Vital Arsenal.
ADRIAN CLARKE, CO-COMMENTATOR
What a hugely important match this is for both clubs, and what a boost it would give Arsenal should they reproduce the performance and result achieved on Manchester City’s last visit to the Emirates. It’s a good time to play the champions. They’re without two of their best players in Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, and you get the feeling it isn’t the happiest of camps right now. If the Gunners are to win, they must try to dominate possession and territory.
I would fancy the likes of Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla and Chamberlain to trouble City’s back four, and that’s why the match needs to be played in that half of the pitch for as long as possible. If Arsène Wenger’s side drop off and allow the champions to get a foothold, I fear they have the creative ability to score two or three goals themselves. I can’t wait for kick-off. It’s set to be a fascinating game.
TIM STILLMAN, VITAL ARSENAL
With the squad of players they have, playing Manchester City at any time is an enormous test. Recently, playing City, especially at home, has suited us to some degree. Contrary to popular press opinion, Arsenal possess very good defensive players and are capable of good defending. But we can still be prone to lapses in concentration. I think playing City has, in the past, focused the minds of the players somewhat. It will be interesting to see how Arsenal approach this game. This season, they appear to have disposed with the high-octane pressing game of seasons past, where we would close down opponents high up the pitch, in favour of sitting off and taking a solid shape off the ball, ensuring there are numbers behind it when we lose possession.
But essentially, Arsenal have long been fighting a battle against balance. We look offensively more threatening when we play on the front foot and close opponents down - as we did in the second half against Swansea last week - but that consequently seems to make us more porous at the back. That partially explains why we’ve had a curious mix of 'helter skelter' encounters - we’ve had two 6-1's, a 7-5, a 7-3 and two 5-2’s this season - alongside some rather more pedestrian matches. But Arsenal have found some joy in actioning the pressing game against City. Mikel Arteta’s winning goal last season was a direct result of hassling City in their own half. If Giroud is not fit and Arsenal are to play Walcott through the centre, I think it’s really the only way we can approach the game because Theo will need quick service in behind Kompany which will require us to use quick transitions of play. City of course come to us without Nasri and Yaya Toure, but such is their squad they can offer a threat from anywhere. For instance, Pablo Zabaleta has been a source of goals this season. Even if you stifle them for 60 minutes, they have the sort of bench that can and frequently does win games. Concentration is the watchword for Arsenal, it will need to be at its utmost for 90-plus minutes.
* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband Ltd
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