A massive game today. As I mentioned on the Arsecast this is a huge game with no great history of importance, City have never been title contenders in my lifetime but things change in football.
As long as they’ve got the billions, and as long as we stay competitive, they’re going to be rivals and these games will take on more significance. Not only that, there’s a natural progression from rivalry to hatred. There’s still a touch of goodwill around City simply because for so long they’ve just not been United. Instead, the poorer, crapper Manchester relation. The little Joey who always got picked last. The poorer bit has certainly gone by the wayside and while it’ll take them years to ever get close to the success United have had, it’s hard to look at the two squads side by side and not think City have caught up.
Their money might be hard to stomach but there’s really not much anyone can do about. We’ve been the beneficiary in some ways, selling two players for prices way above what we’ve had got anywhere else, but ask United or Chelsea what they think, having seen two players use City’s billions to get better deals for themselves and they might not be too keen. The irony of two of England’s richest clubs being on the receiving end of the kind of behaviour they’ve been guilty of is not lost either.
Anyway, today’s game takes on even more importance in the wake of Chelsea’s win yesterday. We picked up two points last weekend when they drew with Villa so anything less than a win today means we’ll hand them right back. On paper you can say that a draw against City wouldn’t be a bad result but the reality is that the points dropped against Sunderland and West Brom mean this is a game we really have to win.
In terms of the team I reckon we’ll see: Fabianski – Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy – Song – Diaby – Cesc – Nasri – Arshavin – Chamakh
City’s midfield is usually packed with strength and power so Song and Diaby will have to work very hard to ensure that Cesc has the licence to get forward more and provide that creative spark in the final third. It kind of goes against Diaby’s natural game and in recent weeks Song seems to have decided that he’d like to get forward at every opportunity but hopefully there’ll be more discipline on display today. If an 18 year old Jack Wilshere can curb his natural instincts for the good of the team then it’s certainly not too much to ask of Diaby and Song.
We talked about Arshavin yesterday, I hope to see a lively, involved Russian today and not one who, when he decides he doesn’t fancy it, marks the fullback out of the game. Up top we know Chamakh will work hard but five of his six goals this season have come at home. Impressive as his short Arsenal career has been thus far, and it has been, doing it away from home would be another step up. With Nasri and Cesc capable of goals and the likes of Rosicky, Walcott and Bendtner on the bench there’s no shortage of attacking options today.
Arsene spoke during the week about how often the team who scores first in a big games goes on to win it so I don’t think we’ll be sitting back. That’s not our game anyway, we just can’t play like that, but we have to ensure that we remain solid at the back. The leadership of Squillaci, bigged up by the manager during the week, will be important. Djourou is still very raw in real terms and facing Tevez, the Premier League’s most in-form striker will be a real test for the defence. When City can add Silva, Adebayor, Milner and even a fit again Balotelli there’s plenty of threat there.
This is a big, big test, no doubt about it. Our record in these top of the table clashes has not been great in recent times and I believe we need to put a marker down and show we’re a team that’s capable of going away from home and getting a win. They’re unbeaten at home so far this season but I think we’ve got enough about us to go there and take three points. There should be no shortage of confidence and belief going into this one. Arsene addressed this in midweek, saying:
There is a good spirit in the side, we have seen already at Chelsea that we are close to winning these big games and that is what we want to do.
It means we have to take our chances when they come, I think with City’s set-up they’ll be few and far between, and stay solid defensively. It’s one thing beating Birmingham, and a lacklustre Shaktar were not the test we thought they’d be, today is a real challenge.
Three points would be be mighty. Come on you reds.