Pre-Match Report

Manchester City v Arsenal: Inside Track

Team celebrate v Swansea

By Josh James

THE QUOTE

"We know we can do well against them. What we have done before has worked, so let's do it again." - Arsene Wenger

THE PREVIEW

Arsenal are unbeaten against the rest of the top four so far this season. If they maintain that record on Sunday, they will be on the brink of a 19th consecutive Champions League qualification.

 

A win would guarantee another top-three finish, and the Gunners could yet claim second place - if they better Tottenham's results in each of the last two games.

 

Arsenal can reach 73 points - just two fewer than last season's final tally - and Arsène Wenger is still hopeful it could be enough to overhaul Spurs.

"You never know, mathematically it's certainly possible," he said. "We have to try to give our best to get as close as possible to the top.

"I believe with the results that happened over last weekend we just have to keep going and hope that the results around us go for us as well."

The Gunners' win over Norwich last Sunday made it eight unbeaten in the league, but the manager admitted his side were far from their best against the Canaries.

Team news

Manchester City: Zabaleta (calf), Kompany (hip/thigh), Silva (hamstring)Arsenal: Mertesacker (hamstring), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee)

"We did struggle a little bit to create many chances, but on the other hand we managed to remain in control and be patient," he said. "In the second half we scored a great goal and should have scored one or two more.

"Overall I must say it was a controlled performance, if maybe not the most stylish one. We needed absolutely to get the three points, and in the end we got them."

There was further positive news on Tuesday night when Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Calum Chambers played for the under-21s at Emirates Stadium.

They all came through the game well according to Wenger, but he is still reluctant to change a winning team.

"At the moment the players who have played have an advantage on the fitness front," he explained. "We expect a very intense game again on Sunday, so maybe I will have to look especially at the guys who are used to playing at that level of intensity."

ONE TO WATCH

Two of the Premier League's stand-out goalkeepers will go head-to-head at the Etihad.

Petr Cech and Manchester City's Joe Hart - along with Kasper Schmeichel of champions Leicester - lead the way in the race for the Golden Glove award, with 15 clean sheets each so far this season.

Cech and Hart have dominated that award over the past six seasons (though Wojciech Szczesny shared the honour with Cech in 2013/14) and the former is hoping to become the first keeper to win it for two different clubs.

It would be a fitting way for the 33-year-old to finish an impressive debut season in north London, although it wouldn't surprise the boss.

 

 

Petr Cech and Hector Bellerin

Petr Cech and Hector Bellerin

 

"No, because I had a high level of expectation for him," he said. "I think he has been like the team - overall very good.

"To live in a big club today, you need a special attitude and a special personality - a focused personality. He has that, and when you have the experience and the career he's had, you respect that as well.

"I must say he's a very sociable and very helpful person. He integrated very quickly into the team."

In fact Arsenal have kept 17 Premier League clean sheets in all this season, four more than the whole of the previous campaign.

"The number of clean sheets we've had shows that we had a strong defensive performance," the manager added. "But when we conceded, we really conceded. We went from one extreme to the other.

"So we need a correction there - we either kept a clean sheet or conceded two or three. Many times we were punished like that and that quickly hits the confidence of the team."

THE OPPOSITION

Since conceding six at the Etihad in December 2013, Arsenal have gone five unbeaten against Manchester City, including a memorable 2-1 home win earlier this season.

The circumstances this time are very different compared to that meeting five months ago though, when both sides were still very much in the title race.

Now Champions League qualification is the prize, with City's other route back into the competition cut off by Real Madrid earlier this week. So how will that defeat in the Bernabeu on Tuesday night affect City's confidence?

Team news

Manchester City have lost 23 Premier League games against Arsenal, more than against any other sideCity’s win percentage against Arsenal in the Premier League is 16 per cent, their lowest against any opponent in the history of the competitionTheo Walcott has scored three goals in his last two Premier League appearances against Manchester City

"It's always a huge disappointment to go out of the Champions League," Wenger said. "You look in front of you and instead of going to the final, you go out, and when you were so close it's very difficult to take.

"I believe it's always difficult to recover from that, but we have not to expect any weaknesses from them.

"We just have to focus on ourselves turning up with a fully motivated team and giving absolutely everything to win the game. We know we can do well against them. What we have done before has worked, so let's do it again."

What Arsenal have done against the top four has generally worked too. In contrast to previous seasons, when their record against their fellow challengers has often been their undoing, they have taken 11 points from 15 against the top sides - including doing the double over the eventual champions for the first time since 2006/07.

"That's why I believe the team has suffered a little bit mentally," the boss said. "We know that we've done extremely well against the teams who are in the top four, but we've lost some points which are difficult to explain. So did we not focus enough? Did we think it would be easy?

"Nobody can think today that you ever get an easy game in the Premier League, so I don't believe that, but the reality is there: we have dropped points against teams we should not have dropped points to."

FROM THE ARCHIVES

12:07

Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal, January 18, 2015

 

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