City aim to keep it clean – ARSENAL v MAN CITY

When Manchester City stuck six past the then table-topping Gunners in the run up to Christmas, it was all about goals, goals and more goals as the Sky Blues homed in on the quickest 100 scored in the Premier League era.

It’s been a season festooned with 133 so far, 79 in the league and a further 54 in cup competitions.

Final score - what a wonderful sight when the Gooners were gunned down at the Etihad. Courtesy @MCFC

Final score – what a wonderful sight when the Gooners were gunned down at the Etihad. Courtesy @MCFC

With nine games still to play, albeit with some very tough trips to Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton, there’s every chance the sharpshooting City slickers will surpass the 150 mark.

Goals obviously win games but, there’s a football adage that title success is forged on steely resistance – strong and consistent defending.

Yes, it’s a romantic notion to go out and be proclaimed champions on the basis of a ‘We’ll score more than you, even if we concede three…’ philosophy, but ultimately it flounders.

To the untrained eye, Manuel Pellegrini might appear to subscribe to the latter, but closer scrutiny reveals the ‘Engineer’ fully embraces the merits of solid defensive foundations.

Director of Football - Pellegrini directs City to victory over the ever whinging Wenger last time out. Courtesy @MCFC

Director of Football – Pellegrini directs City to victory over the ever whinging Wenger last time out. Courtesy @MCFC

The number ‘6’ could, once again, have a major bearing on this fixture – and not just because Pellegrini regards the match up as a proverbial ‘six pointer’, just as it was last December.

If City manage a ‘shutout’ at The Emirates, it will be their sixth consecutive Premier League clean sheet – a new club record – and one that contradicts the early season leaks at the likes of Cardiff and Villa.

Having conceded 27 times, City have the second best defence in the PL (only Chelsea (23) have held a tighter backline) and it’s no coincidence that the miserly approach has seen City reinstated as title favourites.

Back to his outstanding best, Joe Hart has faced – and overcome – genuine adversity for the first time in his City career, while the much maligned Martin Demichelis is suddenly being appreciated as a hugely experienced and, increasingly competent, partner to Vincent Kompany.

Clean sheets - Joe and City's defence want to stay away from the launderette. Courtesy @MCFC

Clean sheets – Joe and City’s defence want to stay away from the launderette. Courtesy @MCFC

Etihad terrace humour had ‘MDM’ labelled as Martin ‘Demichaos’ not so long ago, but the veteran Argentine is transforming himself into something of a cult hero at present.

He remains dangerously and heart-stoppingly unpredictable, but he is now ticking the boxes and showing why Pellegrini has persevered in selecting him ahead of Joleon Lescott.

That’s not to say he should be first choice next season – he shouldn’t – as City splash the cash in the summer transfer window, but no-one will begrudge him if he has a PL champion’s medal around his neck come May 11.

As for City’s Captain Fantastic Kompany, he is undoubtedly the biggest single influence on the team and probably the best central defender in the world.

Zero to hero - Martin Demichelis is in fine form for City. Courtesy @MCFC

Zero to hero – Martin Demichelis is in fine form for City. Courtesy @MCFC

He, along with the legend that is Pablo Zabaleta, form the cornerstone of a defence that has ‘synched’ at a crucial time with the title within City’s grasp.

The left back berth tends to get shared between a much improved Aleksander Kolarov and ex-Gooner Gael Clichy, with the PL appearances just about even stevens.

Lescott – a definite departure from the Etihad in the summer – has played his part in recent weeks. He’s highly unlikely to make England’s World Cup squad, but if you’re leaving you may as well go out in style and Joleon coverts a CV that features two PL winner’s medals.

City’s defensive unit hasn’t exactly been overworked this past week.

Carry on defending - Lescott wants a second PL medal before leaving City this summer. Courtesy @MCFC

Carry on defending – Lescott wants a second PL medal before leaving City this summer. Courtesy @MCFC

Bottom of the table Fulham posed virtually no attacking threat, whereas the only offensive element Manchester Dis-united could conjure up came in the shape of the vile, spittle-producing microphone head, Marouane Fellaini.

A mis-firing Arsenal know they have to beat City to have any chance of maintaining their spluttering title aspirations. Bedevilled by injuries, Arsene Wenger cannot call upon Walcott, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshire, Monreal or Koscielny.

Giroud, Cazole, Oxlade Chamberlain-Gibbs (!), Podolski, Arteta and the emerging Sanogo still pose a threat, so Pellegrini is absolutely correct in saying City will have to play at their best to take maximum points.

It’s a big ask for Wenger’s team who have endured a demoralising week, losing 6-0 at Chelsea and dropping points at home to Swansea. Historically Arsenal away has been a very tough trip for City, with a 2-0 win in January 2013, as their only league victory in 37 years.

Dazzling Dave - Silva's ankles would benefit from a preservation order. Courtesy @MCFC

Dazzling Dave – Silva’s ankles would benefit from a preservation order. Courtesy @MCFC

The present day reality is that it would be a major disappointment if City were not to repeat last season’s win. A draw wouldn’t be a disaster, but anything less than a win would immediately take City’s destiny out of their own hands if Chelsea continue winning.

Fears over the fitness of City’s creative magician, David Silva, seem to have been quelled, although it might be an idea to get a preservation order slapped on the Spanish maestro’s much punished ankles.

Sergio Aguero is still absent as he recovers from a hamstring injury, while the medics are still baffled by long-term casualty Matija Nastasic’s knee problem. Micah Richards and Dedryk Boyata are not in the squad as they work on fitness issues at Carrington.

Edin Dzeko will surely make his 100th Premier League appearance after his two-goal heroics at The Swamp on Tuesday night. Arguably his best ever showing in City’s colours, the Bosnian has hit 40 PL goals in 99 appearances, 26 of them (65%) coming away from the Etihad.

Century maker -  Edin is earmarked for his 100th league appearance for City. Courtesy @MCFC

Century maker – Edin is earmarked for his 100th league appearance for City. Courtesy @MCFC

If only Edin could apply himself, week in and week out, in the way he did at Old Trafford he would be a huge success. His goals-to-games ratio is impressive, but his goals-to-chances ratio is far less.

He remains an enigma and, like Lescott, could be leaving City in the summer with interest mooted from Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund.

It’s amazing that Yaya Toure has emerged as City’s leading PL scorer with 17 so far, 11 of them coming in the last 14 games. He’s scored 21 in all competitions and Arsene Wenger still rues the day Yaya opted to play in the Ukraine rather than Arsenal, in the earlier part of his career.

Lead man - Yaya has hit 21 goals from midfield this season. Courtesy @MCFC

Lead man – Yaya has hit 21 goals from midfield this season. Courtesy @MCFC

One player who did play for the Gooners is expecting a barrage of hate this evening from the home fans. Samir Nasri was vilified by Arsenal fans who claimed the French playmaker was a mercenary when he joined City three seasons ago.

Finally producing the form that persuaded Roberto Mancini to spend £24m on him, the opinionated Frenchman has one PL medal with which to answer his critics. A second in sky blue colours, would render the ‘money-grabber’ label firmly redundant.

City’s rivalry with Arsenal has been stoked up in recent years by a steady stream of recruitment from London to Manchester. Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Nasri all migrated to the North West.

Love to hate - Arsenal fans have never forgiven Nasri for leaving. Courtesy @MCFC

Love to hate – Arsenal fans have never forgiven Nasri for leaving. Courtesy @MCFC

Transfer speculation continues to link defenders Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen with moves to the Etihad in the summer, so no thawing in the Emirates-Etihad relationship anytime soon.

Another element comes in the shape of six red cards in the last seven encounters. Tonight’s referee, Mike Dean, sent off City skipper Kompany in a dubious balancing act, having earlier dismissed Laurent Koscielny in the corresponding game last year. Kompany’s red card was later rescinded.

Captain's craving - Vincent wants that winning feeling when he leaves North London tonight. Courtesy @MCFC

Captain’s craving – Vincent wants that winning feeling when he leaves North London tonight. Courtesy @MCFC

With Chelsea and Liverpool looking good for maximum points against Crystal Palace and Spurs, City need to match them stride for stride.

A City win this evening will be more significant than the stroll at Old Trafford and would make it a three-horse race for the PL finishing post.

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com

@djwskyblu

 

16 Comments

  1. March 29, 2014  6:27 am by Pete Lynch Reply

    Excellent piece David puntuated as always with wiit and humour. Ferdy and Toure hold the key to victory today. Lets dominate the midfield and be ruthless

    • March 29, 2014  6:38 am by David Walker Reply

      It'd be a fitting end to a terrific week - nine out of nine points and hopefully Joe & Co building up a pile of clean sheets higher than a Chinese laundry. Arsenal still pose a threat even when they are severely depleted but with the right mindset this a game City should win. Thanks for your early morning comments, it makes getting up at 4am to write it almost worthwhile ;-)

  2. March 29, 2014  6:56 am by Pete Lynch Reply

    4am??? Respect. Yes, a good time to play the arsenal

    • March 29, 2014  6:59 am by David Walker Reply

      4am? Bloody strange kick-off time ;-)

  3. March 29, 2014  7:04 am by Gil Riley Reply

    Great thought provoking work. Another "cashed cheque" this evening and our challengers may soon begin to feel they're running out of games.

    • March 29, 2014  7:11 am by David Walker Reply

      Now that would be nice and we can have salt and vinegar on our chips at the same time. Thanks for reading and commenting - there's a lot City fans on the move this morning on the trek darn sarf.

  4. March 29, 2014  10:36 am by Mole Rocks Reply

    Considering our long history of disappointment at the hands of Arsenal on our trips to London, I'm surprised City are such hot favourites!

    Perhaps I'm suffering from a reoccurrence of the typical City syndrome?

    If City start in the same way they did against United and get in front, victory is a distinct possibility, I shall continue to trust in MP and see where it takes us.

    Come on City.

    • March 29, 2014  11:03 am by David Walker Reply

      Hopefully Manuel will engineer another memorable win & we move one step closer to the PL title. Thanks for your feedback & support.

  5. March 29, 2014  11:08 am by Josh Cannon Reply

    Thanks David, excellent piece - as always - keep it up!

    We need to win today to give us the 'luxury' of being able to draw at Anfield.
    Now, has anyone got any cotton wool for David's ankles?

    • March 29, 2014  12:55 pm by David Walker Reply

      Two words JC - bubble wrap - but no popping the buggers #SaveOurDavesAnkles #SODA!

  6. March 29, 2014  11:21 am by John Evans7 TT Reply

    Well balanced piece David 10/10.
    IMO the most vital game of the season. Victory & we can draw or lose (perish the though) at Anfield, yet still win the League.

    Kick off will be at the witching hour where I'm currently sitting, so I expect some magic from Merlin!

    • March 29, 2014  1:20 pm by David Walker Reply

      Just hope Merlin is fit enough to do himself & City justice. I hope & believe we can win tonight. Liverpool are obviously playing well but all of sudden we're expected to believe they're world beaters & we should fear them...I don't think so!

  7. March 29, 2014  11:27 am by Graham Ward Reply

    I'm feeling quietly confident about today. Tuesday's destruction has got me thinking we've got our focused, game heads on.
    We've got to treat Arsenal with respect, irrespective of who is in their starting XI. If we do, then I think we will win, but the margin may not be as great as the Old Trafford Obliteration.
    2-1 City.

    • March 29, 2014  1:24 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yep 2-1 would be absolutely fine - can we have it gift-wrapped & sent round?

  8. March 29, 2014  2:08 pm by rikki Reply

    Great writing as usual a win today by any margin to keep the title race in our own hands as Arsenal is never an easy place for City away.

    • March 29, 2014  5:15 pm by David Walker Reply

      Even more important after Maureen was stuffed at the Palace. C'MON CITY!

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