Real football returns in the aftermath of the international break, and it couldn’t be much bigger than Arsenal against Manchester City at the Grove. Throw in a potential debut for the scorer of two England goals in the week and you have a match to anticipate with relish. That’s the build-up, now for the reality of the fixture.
Since City were first financed by the Abu Dhabi United Group the results of our meetings at the Grove have been 2-0, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0, 0-2, 1-1. Seven goals in six fixtures is not the goalfest we have come to expect in the return fixture where our determination to play an open game has seen goals galore in recent seasons, culminating in last season’s see-saw 6-3 hiding in a game we might have won by any margin up to 6-7.
City have tended to play it tight at the Grove, relying on the counter-attack when we over extend. The fact they have only one win in that six match sequence might just provide Pellegrini’s men the motive to be more expansive this time around. That, and the fact that they now have Bacary Sagna, as well as Gael Clichy and the odious Nasri, able to offer an insight into Arsene Wenger’s approach to such fixtures. Not that they could help much to help when the two shadow squads met at Wembley in the Community Shield a month ago and we triumphed 3-0.
It is a fair bet this will be a very different match from that. If Aaron Ramsey is fit to start we will possibly be missing just Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud from the likely starting eleven were everybody available. In front of Wojciech Szczesny we can expect a back four of Mathieu Debuchy, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, and fit-again Kieran Gibbs.
In midfield Mikel Arteta will probably be joined at the base By Rambo, if fit, or Jack Wilshere if not? Personally I would prefer to see Mesut Ozil returned to the advanced playmaking role in which he can pick out the the pace of Alexis Sanchez on the right, debut boy Danny Welbeck in the centre, and the guile of Santi Cazorla on the left. That would represent a change from what Arsene has done thus far, but we haven’t been firing on all cylinders and this may be the approach to get us back in the groove again.
The most realistic options are on the left flank, where the improved Nacho Monreal may get the nod over Gibbs, and either Lukas Podolski or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might be preferred to Santi.
City, obviously title contenders, started the season brightly, beating Newcastle on the road 0-2, then Liverpool at home 3-1, before unexpectedly coming unstuck at home to Stoke City, 0-1, in their last outing. They have lost Jovetic and Fernando to injury, and Negredo as a result of their failure to comply with FFP (according to Pellegrini). Expect Aguero and Dzeko to start up front. Not a bad pairing, in all fairness. Just how ambitous Silva, Nasri, and Yaya Toure are could determine the nature of the contest.
The ‘holic pound is wagered on a float of Friday night stout. I’m drawn to the 2-1 home win on offer at as high as 11/1. That looks generous, with a back-up few coppers on 3-2 at 33′s.
I’m looking forward to seeing a number of you on the day, and for those who cannot make it then I hope you are still able to catch the game with your broadcaster of choice.
Have a good one ‘holics.