Manchester City will be looking to put their midweek blues behind them as they host an impressive looking Arsenal side at the Etihad Stadium (4pm, Sunday, Sept 23).
Man City weren’t given a chance by many of getting a result against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. But they were 2-1 up with just 10 minutes to go and Mancini would have been gutted to leave with nothing.
In truth City were completely dominated by Madrid and were it not for Joe Hart making a host of great saves, it could have been all over by half-time. City set up far more defensively than normal. It looked like they were trying to play like Chelsea did in the Champions League last year with such success.
Despite not having a sniff on goal in the first half, City counter attacked with aplomb in the second. Edin Dzeko and Alexander Kolarov gave them a shock 2-1 lead. If City thought they had a strong squad, then Real Madrid are something else, and after bringing on Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Mesut Ozil, they found two late goals to break Man City’s hearts.
As defending Premier League champions, City have not had the most fluid start the season, and yet they find themselves in third position. However much pundits say that “winning ugly” is the sign of great team, Mancini will know that his side must improve.
Their two wins so far in the league have come against Southampton and QPR, and in that victory over newly-promoted Southampton, City were 2-1 down with 20 minutes left to play before Toure and Nasri rescued the points.
In their last Premier League outing, City drew 1-1 at Stoke and, after falling behind to a debatable Peter Crouch goal, new signing Javi Garcia scored on debut. City also gave debuts to new signings Maicon and Scott Sinclair but without Sergio Aguerro they lacked creativity. Currently Yaya Toure is the only City player who seems able to create anything of note and if Arsenal can close him down they will go along way to denying City victory.
Arsenal seem to have finally hit their straps. After recruiting a new-look attacking trio it is no surprise that they have taken a couple of weeks to gel. In fact it is amazing that after just three weeks they have such a good understanding of each other’s styles of play.
While Arsenal were going through their goal drought at the start of the season, their defence kept them in the games and it wasn’t until last weekend that they conceded their first goal. After two goalless draws, Arsenal have beaten Liverpool and Southampton in emphatic fashion. The win over Southampton was particularly impressive, as their movement and passing was as good as any Arsenal team in recent years.
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With the likes of Carzola, Giroud, Podolski and Gervinho in attack, Arsenal look far more dangerous that Man City, especially in the absence of Sergio Aguerro and Mario Balotelli.
One shouldn’t get carried away with Arsenal after just four matches, but with Jack Wilshere’s return not far away, the Londoners may finally be able to challenge the Manchester clubs this year.