Warning: This piece was written with a biased opinion and love for Arsenal.
A wise man once said, “Opportunity does not knock. It presents itself when you beat down the door.” I love this quote because it’s short, simple, and gets straight to the point. What it means is opportunities don’t just come to you; Opportunities only show up when you come looking for it.
This weekend is the perfect opportunity for Arsenal to show the rest of the League that they are serious title contenders as they face a tough test at the Etihad on Sunday. This will certainly be Arsenal’s toughest test so far this season and possibly their most difficult fixture throughout their 2012-13 Premier League campaign.
When I first saw this fixture when the Premier League schedule was released in the summer, I was quite worried about Arsenal’s fixture list for the start the season (especially worried as the traitor, known as Robin van Persie, went to Manchester United to double his account). The fixtures that were included in our start to the season were trips to Stoke City, Liverpool, and Man City within a one month period, followed by a tough home fixture to current European Champions (more like lucky) Chelsea. But as this season has progressed, I’ve never been more confident in our side, especially heading into this weekend against Man City. And I’ll tell you reasons why I’m so confident in Arsenal have a great chance of seizing the opportunity and winning at the Ethihad Stadium on Sunday.
Reason 1: A Bould new look in the defence
After leaking goal after goal, season after season, a change needed to be addressed in the Arsenal defence. And who better to address that change better than new Arsenal assistant manger Steve Bould, who was part of the greatest back four assembled in Arsenal history.
He made massive changes to Arsenal’s back-line, which included the fullbacks to stay more back and only join in the attack when they feel it is the right opportunity. One of Arsenal’s major problems last year was dealing with the counterattack. Bould noticed this and made adjustments such as having the defence more close together dealing with the counter threat and having players like Diaby and Arteta to get back into position to neutralize any attacking threat, which Alex Song lacked doing many times last season.
We’ve also seen a rejuvenated Thomas Vermaelen and a much more improved Per Mertesacker, who has finally adapted to the playing style of the Premier League. Also, a round of applause for Carl Jenkinson, who has been outstanding filling it at RB for the injured Bacary Sagna. For many who thought Arsenal should have dipped into the transfer market and buy a RB, have been silenced by the young Arsenal defender’s performances this season. The feeling of amazement crosses my mind knowing this Arsenal defence will even be much more solid even with the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna return back into the lineup.
Scoring against the Arsenal back four has been a difficult task for the opposition so far as Arsenal have only conceded two goals in 5 games this season, which came from a horrendous error from Wojciech Szczesny and a crafty (but now overused) Panenka penalty kick from Younes Belhanda on Tuesday. This Arsenal defence is prepared for anything Man City throw at them this Sunday.
Reason 2: The Arsenal New Boys
What else can I say about Arsenal’s new signings that haven’t been said already? They have quickly made a big impact in the Arsenal squad and are already becoming a nightmare for every team to deal with.
Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla have proven many that they are indeed the real thing (Suck on that members of the English media). These two players have brought something to this Arsenal squad that I haven’t seen in a while and they have gelled with the rest of the team from the start. Olivier Giroud hasn’t been getting the same plaudits but he has been a huge factor as well. His movement has been tremendous and does the little things that makes the difference, like the run he made to create space for Podolski to score against Liverpool. A lot of pressure will be put off of Giroud if he scores this weekend against City.
If Arsenal want to pull an upset over City on Sunday, this trio will have to be on their “A” game.
Reason 3: City’s Struggling Defence
Last year, Man City had the best back four in the premier league and arguably the best goalkeeper in the league in Joe Hart. But so far this season, they have struggled. They have allowed at least a goal in every game so far this season and Vincent Kompany doesn’t look like the beast he was last season. Man City were lucky in my book to only lose by only one to a Real Madrid side, that was struggling to get a win in La Liga, thats to Joe Hart denying Real Madrid chance after chance.
Also it was odd to see Roberto Mancini try playing 3 at the back the entire preseason but yet once the season began, he goes back to playing four at the back.
Man City will find it tough to silence the likes of Podolski and Cazorla throughout the whole 90 minutes especially if they start Maicon, who looked absolutely awful vs Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Injury Notes and Predicted Lineup
As you all should know by now, Jack Wilshere returned to training this week. Hallelujah! Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna, and Emmanuel Frimpong have also returned to training but neither of the four will take part in this fixture. Szczesny will also be out with an ankle injury leaving ever-improved “Don” Vito Mannone in goal. Everyone else for Arsenal should be fit for this game. One position in question is whether or not Laurent Koscielny will get his first start of the season against City. I think he should. Don’t get me wrong, Per Mertesacker has been tremendous so far this season, but I think Koscielny is well more equipped to deal with strikers with pace like Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, who could feature in this match.
My Predicted Arsenal XI vs Man City: Mannone; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Diaby, Cazorla; Gervinho, Giroud, Podolski.
I would do a predicted starting XI for Man City, but I’m no magician. Sorry guys.
Let’s just get down to it. Arsenal have been superb so far this season and are entering this game with confidence. Man City are entering this game shaking their heads after giving up two leads at the Bernabeau and with a shaky defence. And me being an Arsenal supporter, I feel very confident that Arsenal will get a result and possibly win at the Etihad on Sunday and I have a right to be after the way our team has played so far this season. A draw would be great for us but I’d prefer the win as it would be the ultimate birthday present for me.
It is the hardest fixture we have on our Premier League schedule as Manchester City had the best home record in the Premier League last season and have remained unbeaten at home in the league since December 2010. They are the defending champions and it will be a tall order for Arsenal to come through with a victory.
But, In the last five Premier League meetings between these sides, Arsenal have only conceded one goal against City.
My head says 1-1 or 0-0 draw but my heart says 2-1 win to the Arsenal.
I’m going with my heart. Prediction: 2-1 Arsenal.
Written by Khalid Khan
Follow on twitter @KHALIDKhan91