By Giuseppe Muro
Manchester City have established themselves as serious contenders for the Premier League title this season.
However, they visit Emirates Stadium having never won at Arsenal since the formation of the Premier League. But can they change that record tonight?
We spoke to Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News to get a Manchester City perspective on the game.
THE STORY SO FAR
I think they are very close to their best form but you still get the feeling there is more to come from them. Against Blackpool, they won the game but it turned into a bit of a struggle and they were hanging on a bit at the end. Carlos Tevez had an off day and missed a few chances, including a penalty. The football wasn’t quite flowing the way you would want to see it flow. I think that is the one thing that has been missing slightly, goals.
There was a lot said earlier in the season about them being defensive and negative and I’m not sure that was quite accurate. They set out in games to make sure they didn’t concede first but I think that was a sensible move considering they had a lot of new players. As the season has unfolded they have started to express themselves a little bit more. We’ve seen David Silva come into his own and Yaya Toure come into his own as an attacking midfielder. They’ve got attacking players like Adam Johnson, Tevez and Mario Balotelli has shown a lot of promise. Mancini’s priority was to make sure his team stopped leaking goals and then to build on that and become a more attacking team – and I think he has done that. They scored four at Fulham, three at Newcastle and three at West Ham. This isn’t a team that’s going out and scraping 1-0 wins all the time, though they are capable of doing that if they need to.
[Silva and Balotelli being ruled out of the game] is a huge blow. We’ve become used to Tevez being the main man at City but in the last two months Silva has become more and more central. Even to the point where he has become the main man. I think he is the first name on the team sheet and the one who pulls the strings. He is a beautiful player to watch. If Arsène Wenger had his pick of the City players I think Silva would be the one he would pick out because he would be perfect for Arsenal. He has got lovely touch, lovely vision, a great range of passing and he links up play beautifully. I think he will be a huge loss. You have sort of got used to Balotelli not being there really because he has been out with injury and suspension.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
I think people are waking up to the fact that it is a serious challenge now. People have been a bit reluctant to look beyond the usual suspects of Chelsea, United and Arsenal but I think City and Spurs have got strong squads. I think City and Spurs were the only two who won all three games over the Christmas period and maybe that is a reflection of the relative strength of their squads. I think City fans are reluctant to believe because they have had so many years of being knocked back every time they believe something may be about to happen. I wouldn’t make them favourites by a long stretch but, with a little bit of luck and one or two other factors, they have got a definite chance.
I think Edin Dzeko is what they have been lacking. They have only scored one headed goal this season and they have brought in someone who is good in the air. From what we hear he is a bit like Dimitar Berbatov. He is very good on the deck, he takes the ball and holds it up, he’s got tremendous technique, scores goals with both feet and is quite strong. I think he is something City have sorely missed.
You’ve got to pick the game for Vieira. Mancini has been very shrewd in when he has put him in. I remember against Blackpool where City were leaking goals and scoring them at the other end – Patrick came on and put his foot on the ball. He calmed things down, brought a calm head to the situation and he is brilliant at doing that. He is brilliant with the young lads and has brought a fantastic winning mentality to the dressing room. That’s precisely the reason Mancini brought him in. If he plays 90 minutes he tends to struggle towards the end of games, but Mancini doesn’t use him that way. He has still got loads of ability and a fantastic temperament.