Mind the gap – MAN CITY v ARSENAL

Today’s the day Manchester City fans find out if Manuel Pellegrini’s grasp of English is any better than his knowledge of basic maths.

Having overseen one of the most memorable nights in the club’s history and beaten the reigning European champions in their own backyard, Pellegrini proceeded to receive ‘pelters’ for not knowing one more goal would have put City on top of Group D, ahead of Bayern Munich.

From Bayern bashers to Arsenal assassins City need to win today Courtesy @MCFC

From Bayern bashers to Arsenal assassins City need to win today Courtesy @MCFC

Such a schoolboy error should never have happened and it took some of the glitz off the glorious 3-2 comeback victory in the Allianz Arena.

By mid-afternoon today, the cultured Chilean, always measured and sage-like in his comments, will know if he has managed to drill home the ‘C’ word – or rather words in this case – to his overwhelmingly non-English team.

No, Pellegrini isn’t into profanities, but a win over Premier League leaders Arsenal will signal to him that his team has mastered the art of consistency and continuity – the two imperatives he craves as his foundation for City success.

The Engineer may innocently and somewhat naively been awry with his Champions League calculations in Germany, but that will be completely forgotten if a much-changed City First XI prove capable of shooting the Gunners down at the Etihad.

It’s a basic case of ‘put up’ or ‘shut up as the bookies’ favourites are given the chance to narrow Arsenal’s points advantage to just three, and maintain their impressive 100% PL home record.

Welcome return - Magical Merlin David Silva is in top form.Pic courtesy @MCFC

Welcome return – Magical Merlin David Silva is in top form.
Pic courtesy @MCFC

Fortress Etihad needs to remain just that if City are to launch an assault to top the table by the turn of the year.

The miracle of Munich needs to be put to one side as City’s big-hitters – Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero – the vital vertebrae of the team, return for the priorities of the Premier League.

Manuel’s mantra, since assuming command from Roberto Mancini, is to establish a style of play that can be maintained, irrespective of the player personnel at his disposal.

Wednesday night’s bout of Bavarian bashing is an encouraging indication that Pellegrini is well progressed in his quest.

Sensational Samir - Nasri is hitting peak form Courtesy @MCFC

Sensational Samir – Nasri is hitting peak form Courtesy @MCFC

The irony is that Man of the Match in Munich, the magnificent James Milner, may well be a selection casualty today, with ex-Gooner, Sami Nasri set to return alongside David Silva, himself only restored to the side in Germany after a long lay-off.

Spanish Dave, Merlin – call him what you will – Silva was sublime against Bayern, and with Nasri now regularly reproducing the form that tempted City to pay £24m to Arsenal, Pellegrini has an array of attacking riches from which to choose.

Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo will once again combine to spearhead the City attack that has so far plundered 29 goals in their opening seven home games – equalling the record set by Arsenal’s North London rivals, Spurs, set way back in 1962-63.

If the Sky Blues score today, it will be the 58th consecutive PL fixture that the Etihad faithful will have celebrated at least one home strike, in a run stretching back to a benign 0-0 stalemate with Birmingham City in November 2010.

Now is NOT the time for Manuel’s marauders to run dry, but Wenger’s Boys are hardly out to keep things nice and moist for the Mancunians.

Vital vertebrae - Yaya & Sergio provide part of City's spine Courtesy @MCFC

Vital vertebrae – Yaya & Sergio provide part of City’s spine Courtesy @MCFC

Arsenal have the best away record in the division having garnered 16 points from their travels so far – double City’s paltry haul of just eight points away from the Etihad.

Add to the mix that the rear gunners – the Arsenal defence – is presently the best, having leaked just 11 goals in 15 fixtures, is going up against City sizzling sharpshooters who, with a net showing of 41, is the best in the PL, and the juices of anticipation go into salivation overload.

It wasn’t so long ago that another seemingly resolute ‘rock solid’ defence rolled up to the Etihad having conceded just six goals in over 1,000 minutes of Premier League play. City went on to stick another half-a-dozen past Spurs in the space of just 90 minutes.

Even with 50% off, City would be more than happy with a similar outcome today.

Much has been made of the fact that Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat in Naples came 24 hours after City’s win in Munich – allowing Pellegrini’s side extra time to recuperate. Even with the so-called ‘mind games’ that go on among the Premier League’s elite band of managers, this has to be a complete red herring.

Carry on Pants - Costel is likely to get the nod ahead of Joe Hart today Courtesy @MCFC

Carry on Pants – Costel is likely to get the nod ahead of Joe Hart today Courtesy @MCFC

Half of the expected City line-up today were rested on Tuesday night, so it’s broadly irrelevant. One wonders if Arsenal are a tad premature with any excuses in the event of City putting in a ‘mint’ performance ‘after eight’ consecutive home wins.

Appalling puns aside, Arsenal – a team that Pellegrini describes as ‘the best in the league’ – will undoubtedly prove to be City’s sternest test to date.

Having confounded their critics who keep waiting for the early season ‘bubble’ to pop, the Gunners will be well and truly in the driving seat if they can inflict City’s first home defeat. Even a draw will sustain Arsenal’s momentum and confirm them as the real deal.

An away win at the fearsome Borussia Dortmund has already shown Arsenal to be a team of supreme quality. The question marks will only arise if they are hit by injuries and resources stretched.

Selection headache - James Milner could be on the subs bench today Courtesy @MCFC

Selection headache – James Milner could be on the subs bench today Courtesy @MCFC

Mesmerising Mesut Ozil has been the catalyst of change, whereas Aaron Ramsey has emerged as a revelation this season. City will need to win the battle for the creative midfield honours today. It’s an intriguing proposition.

Recent history favours City with Arsenal having won only one of their last six league and cup encounters. Indeed it has been City’s backline that has proved Scrooge-like, keeping Arsenal at bay in six of the last nine head-to heads.

For neutrals it promises a feast of festive entertainment, traditionally a match that doesn’t lack for glamour, spectacle or colour – often the colour red – with half a dozen players sent-off in the last six PL games.

At the final whistle Pellegrini will be hoping to have broadened his vocabulary to include another ‘C’ word, and that congratulations are in vogue for City.





By David Walker








  1. December 14, 2013  8:42 am by Susan Richardson Reply

    You've recovered yeh! RBNR back just in time now looking forward to today. Wish Joe was back though I just don't feel as comfortable with Pants. The points issue is not just down to MP I suspect some harsh words will have been had!

    • December 14, 2013  10:16 am by David Walker Reply

      I was just thrilled to beat Bayern! A win today & it will be MAHUSSIVE trust in MP! Yes, I am a brave little soldier!

  2. December 14, 2013  8:54 am by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    No doubt not knowing what was need in Munich was a shambles but we move on. Arsenal today is as tough as it gets so far for city. There playing well & have surprised me by not falling away. Is Joe back or not conflicting reports appearing but does Pants deserve to be dropped its a tough one. I think we will just have to much for Arsenal so its a city win forr me.

    • December 14, 2013  10:18 am by David Walker Reply

      Hope you're right Doug. I'd have Joe back in now. Pants exemplary but Joe is better!

  3. December 14, 2013  9:06 am by Anthony Catterson Reply

    The trepidation about today's game comes across clearly in that piece David - and rightly so, as they have been flying this season and we are City after all..
    However, anyone looking at the game from a (sort of) neutral view will see the best home record in any of the top European leagues (inc Spain and Germany) over the last 3 seasons, the key players (kompany, yaya, Nasri, aguero, negredo) all rested and coming off the back of the best European result by a British team in years.
    Early goal will be key, and their only shot at victory lies in attacking on the break at pace, so zabba, kompany and cliche better beware.
    Chance for us to position ourselves perfectly for the Xmas run and then the run in.
    3-1 (aguero, negredo and a sweet as pineapple game finisher from Sami )

    • December 14, 2013  10:19 am by David Walker Reply

      I like your thinking AC #topman!

  4. December 14, 2013  10:08 am by carol Reply

    dear me Davy, talk about blown up out of all proportion, who gives a monkeys if we didnt come top? I hate the press and refuse to listen to any more of the jibberish they talk about us! SO THERE! However I shall once again be following the game from behind the sofa today....well from under my desk at work anyway! I have a horrible feeling we're due one at home...or is that just my typical City mentality? Hope so

    • December 14, 2013  10:22 am by David Walker Reply

      Mouthwash for you missus this Christmas. After Eights as a consolation tonight - City 2-0!

  5. December 14, 2013  10:16 am by Graham Ward Reply

    Good preview, as always, David. I tend to join Carol in her view of Tuesday night's magnificent performance and result, but not quite her anxiety about today's game. It will be tough and close, but 2-0 for City is my thought.

    • December 14, 2013  10:23 am by David Walker Reply

      Great minds think alike or fools never differ? The former & 2-0 please!

  6. December 15, 2013  6:57 am by Frank Reply

    Well that went quite well didn't it!?!

    • December 15, 2013  8:32 am by David Walker Reply

      Didn't it just!

  7. December 21, 2013  8:48 am by Mole Rocks Reply

    Playing catch up. The game turned out to be a spectacular advert for the Engineers footballing philosophy.

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