Arsenal's current poor form, dissent from star players such Alexis Sanchez and rumors surrounding the future of their manager Arsene Wenger's impending departure should make this tie a racing certainty for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City when they visit The Emirates Stadium this weekend.
Concern that Arsenal, who have qualified for the Champions League every season the Frenchman has been in charge, could fail to finish in the top four could inspire the highly talented but inconsistent North London side to bring their A game against a side who are flying at the moment. The fixture will not be easy, Manchester City have recently been knocked out of Europe and will look to make sure that they are in the running for the competition next season by having a strong finish to the campaign.
It is fair to say that Guardiola has found the going tough in his first season in charge of his club. Not only has he found it difficult to be consistent in the league, a devastating knockout defeat to Monaco in the Champions League has made it absolutely vital that the former Barcelona man ensures his side clam one of those highly prized top four spots, making this game one that good be an absolute belter.
(Form check: WLLWLL)
The league campaign for Arsenal has completely gone off the rails since the turn of the year. In a strong position after the Christmas period, despite being behind league leaders Chelsea, they were still within touching distance of the top of the league and their placement within the top four spots wasn't even in question. Defeats to lowly Watford, followed by 3-1 defeats to both Liverpool and Chelsea, and last time out's humiliating 3-1 defeat to WBA has left their final finishing position within doubt and could see them fail to qualify for next year's Champions League adventures.
Alexis Sanchez is allegedly injured and is rumored to have placed a transfer request at the club. Despite the Chilean's involvement with his national side during the international break, the possibility of him being involved for this crucial game looks doubtful which could see Olivier Giroud start up front instead. The Frenchman has had a relatively quiet season for his side, but Wenger will know that he is the club's most consistent striker when it comes to grabbing much needed goals. Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil will need to provide the ammunition for their center forward and expect Arsenal to attack down the flanks as much as possible.
Can Olivier Giroud help ease the pressure on his manager this weekend?
Arsenal's team practically picks itself, with the midfield and striker position being more often than not up for grabs between a few players. The fact that they are no longer in Europe could help Wenger focus his team to ensure that they claim a European place, and against one of the rivals for the spots, the French coach could use this as a chance to silence a few of his harshest critics.
(Form check: WWWDWD)
Another of the league's inconsistent sides; Manchester City have at times lit up the league with their fast paced, clinical and constant attacking play. It has been completely the opposite for the defense, causing many within the game to question whether Pep Guardiola has the tactical nous to be successful in the Premier League.
The blue side of Manchester look like confirming their place in the top four very soon. They have seemingly managed to find a balance between a brilliant attacking style and a haphazard approach to defending.
John Stones, who has been widely criticized within the press over some very dubious performances for the side, mainly in their defeat to Monaco, got some much needed morale boosting support form his manager during the international break and already the side look a lot more solid in the recent performances within the league and the Spaniard will see this opportunity to showcase how far his side have changed, and to come up against the most experienced manager in the league will enable Guardiola to test his tactical ability to the fullest.
Leroy Sane has quickly found his feet in English football. Can the German international help fire his side past The Gunners?
Expect Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane to play a prominent role in this fixture, but the game may come down to how players in City's defence, like Stones perform.
- Arsenal have scored 40 goals from open play which is 71% of their goals. Manchester City have scored 35 from open play, which accounts for 61% of their goals.
- Manchester city have conceded just two goals in their last six league game. Arsenal have conceded 12.
- Despite being on a poor run of form, Arsenal have scored just two less (5) over their last six games than Manchester City (7).
- Both side have relatively similar possession averages for their games this season, Manchester City (61%), Arsenal (57%) and passing success rates Manchester city (85%), Arsenal (84%).
HEAD TO HEAD
Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal
Manchester City 2-2 Arsenal
Manchester City 1-2 Arsenal
Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal
Manchester City 2-2 Arsenal
Manchester City 1-1 Arsenal
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
This is a game Arsenal can ill afford to lose, no just in terms of their league position, but to stop the awful run that they are currently under. Not that they will get much sympathy from their rivals for a top four spot, Pep Guardiola's men are still smarting from their Champions League knockout by Monaco and will look to this weekend's fixture to banish any hangovers from a defeat that must have hurt. The two sides have both been inconsistent this season, however, it looks like Man City have finally found their mojo at the right time though, whilst Arsenal will be anxious to ensure that they do not fall behind in the race to finish in the top four. Expect a close game here and one that looks a tricky one to call, a 2-2 draw here looks likely.
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