Man City preview: here we go

Thankfully there’s a welcome distraction from introspective, shoe-gazing analysis as we have a game of something called ‘foot … ball’ this afternoon. It’s the start of an extremely hectic and difficult schedule and today is certainly going to be a tough encounter.

The champions, Man City, come to town, and by kick off they could find themselves 10 points behind great rivals United. Unless Luis Suarez dives so high he returns to earth like a javelin, pinning Robin van Persie straight through the heart like the church steeple and the priest in The Omen. Before biting him repeatedly just to make sure. Racistly biting him. Seems unlikely though.

From our point of view it’s a good chance to show our mettle. Meetings between the two teams in recent seasons have ranged from the ridiculous(ly boring) – the 0-0 at the Emirates in 2010 (I think) remains one of the worst games I’ve ever seen – to the sublime(ly ridiculous), last season’s 1-0 was an enthralling encounter with Arteta’s late goal winning it for Arsenal and Balotelli’s madcap antics the centre-piece. So much so that Andre Santos came on as a sub and went all enforcer. Brilliant stuff.

Today, we wait to see if Olivier Giroud’s gashed knee will keep him out of the team. If so, I suspect it’ll be Theo Walcott down the centre and as I mentioned during the week this would be a real measure of his ability to play there. City haven’t been as strong defensively as they were last season but Kompany and co will still provide a much tougher challenge than anything he’s faced thus far.

That means the manager has a decision to make as to who plays on the right hand side. Will it be Oxlade-Chamberlain or Aaron Ramsey? Or, might it even be Tomas Rosicky? It strikes me that this is exactly the kind of game in which the manager might use him to set the tempo for Arsenal when we don’t have the ball. I don’t think he’s got 90 minutes in him, and it might even be a risk playing him without a couple of recent substitute appearances to get some sharpness, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him today.

Sp*rs dropping points yesterday at QPR gives us a chance to close the gap a bit, and remember we do have two games in hand on them as it stands. Arsene Wenger is targetting all three points too:

It would help to improve the confidence of the team – that is very important. You can see that it is important for every team. We beat West Brom, and Newcastle in a convincing way, so it is important to continue that.

Although City don’t have Yaya Toure (African Cup of Nations), Sergio Aguero (hamstring) or $amir Na$ti (coward), they still have plenty of players who can cause us problems. It’s a game in which we’ll need to be defensively switched on, the kind of lapses we made against Swansea will be punished today, so cutting out those is important. Going forward we need to be quick and decisive, to move the ball swiftly and take some risks. There are goals in this team, no doubt. Walcott, Podolski and Cazorla (making the assumption that Giroud is absent, or on the bench), can all provide that threat, but it would be nice to see others get in on the act.

And after a week in which the focus has been on off the field stuff, it’d be great to see the team respond and react. A win against a team as good as City would certainly be a boost, and at a time when we’ve got a game every three days for the next few weeks it’s important to keep the momentum going as much as possible. I think it’s going to be difficult, but we know that when this Arsenal team click they’re more than capable of winning a game against pretty much any opposition. Fingers crossed we see that Arsenal today and we’re smiling come 6pm.

Come on you reds.

In other news, well, there isn’t much. I’m ignoring all talk of Theo Walcott’s contract and even the Sunday papers have given up the ghost when inventing transfer stories involving us, so there’s little else to touch on.

Remember, we’ll have live blog coverage of the game later on this evening. You can keep up to date if you can’t see the game, or follow along as you are watching it, and coverage will start with team news shortly after 3pm. Check back later for a post with all the details or you can simply bookmark the default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Right then, time for some breakfast, a couple of quick intercessions regarding Suarez becoming track and field equipment, and then football. Until later.

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