How quickly fortunes change!
When Wenger readied his team for the trip to the Etihad for an early Saturday kick-off in December of 2013, the mission was to open up an eight point gap on second place Chelsea in what was an exciting Premier League title challenge in which many Gooners fancied the chances of a first crown in a decade. After 90 and 7 stoppage time minutes, only three points separated third placed City from the top spot; six months later, they won the League.
It’s a different face of the coin this time with City pushing Chelsea at the top while Arsenal pursue Southampton from fifth place but the Gunners recent patch of form would suggest this will not be a game where the form book would have much of a bearing. Of a truth, it would be Wenger who would not want to look into the recent history of this fixture especially if he has to remember that the player who last scored a winning goal for him when facing City will be among those facing him on Sunday.
The City Armoury
Nasri will only be one of a set of a dangerous attacking challenge to be posed by Manuel Pellegrini’s men. A fit again Sergio Aguero will be threatening to bark the Arsenal defence into the regular cowardice that seems to shroud them when the bullish Argentine runs at them, with two goals in the last three meetings, both being the opening goals of the game on each occasion (betting odds?). The ever mercurial David Silva will demand attention from the Coquelins and Flaminis while Jesus Navas will look to combine with Paulo Zabaleta to terrorize the Arsenal left, and going by the turnout of the last meetings, they will have their hands clasped in supplication for Wenger to choose Monrean over Gibbs.
What Can Arsenal Offer
There are not many positives Arsene would have taken from that 6 – 3 demolition last season but the fact that he can presently call on Theo Walcott would be a refreshing taste and with a better defensive performance, a repeat of his delicious brace could be enough to seal the deal. The two men who provided both of Theo’s goals that day are also making fresh returns to the team and it will give the manager some sort of headache to make out his starting XI.
Does he drop a vivacious and hardworking Rosicky with an equally hardworking and goal-threatening Aaron Ramsey? Will this be the right game to reintroduce Mesut Ozil in a starting role to finally start fulfilling his price tag or should the rejuvenated Santi Cazorla continue along the line of his rediscovered confidence in the central role?
Alexis v Aguero
Wenger may eventually settle for the Spaniard to reward his form but there cannot be any question about the form player of the moment and it will be he whom Arsenal fans will hope will turn out in his Sunday best. More than Aguero or Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez has had more influence in the Premier League goals of any particular team this season and making good use of his irrepressible abilities could be the key to landing a first win against last season’s top seven finishers in this campaign.
It might be the game that goes a long way in giving Cesc Fabregas a first Premier League title and it’s not certain most Arsenal fans want that. But then, it could also be the first step towards making the real push that cements another safe top four landing come May.
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