As Christmas approaches, these two giants of modern English football prepare to go head to head. Arsenal and Manchester City, sitting just below league leaders Leicester, have managed to be the most consistent among the traditional big teams this year with Chelsea in crisis and Manchester United suffering a string of bad results. While Leicester are the dark horses, it is widely the belief that Arsenal and City are the major contenders for the title this year.
Arsenal struggled for results in November after a perfect October, atleast in the league, but they have managed to regain their form and confidence as the festive period came closer, notching wins against Sunderland and Aston Villa. Olivier Giroud has been their top scorer, with 14 goals to his name so far.
Manchester City enjoyed a blistering start to the season, but have found a wobbly patch of form off late. A home defeat to Liverpool and the defeat to Stoke are some recent examples, and they almost dropped points against Swansea, with a late lucky winner coming to their rescue. Injuries to key players have marred their progress, although the likes of De Bruyne and Sterling have shone brightly for the Citizens.
Arsenal will be without the midfield partnership that played such a crucial role in their win at the Etihad last February, as Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin are both out with injuries, although Arsene Wenger will be happy about the fact that Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have returned. Alexis Sanchez has been out with a hamstring, but Arsenal are hopeful that the Chilean will pass the fitness test before the match.
On the other hand, Manchester City themselves are embroiled in an injury problem, with Pablo Zabaleta, Samir Nasri, Fernando and Vincent Kompany all set to miss out this crucial tie. A major boost for Pellegrini is Sergio Aguero being fit for the match as City need his firepower up front.
Manchester City have only won one of their last five encounters with the Gunners, with Arsenal winning two and the other two resulting in draws. The last time the two teams met was at the Etihad, where Arsenal put up a resilient front, and won with a two goal margin with goals from Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. Manchester City have been one of the big teams that Arsenal have a better record against and the Gunners will be hoping to keep up their impressive record.
Mesut Ozil has been Arsenal’s best player so far, with 13 assists already this season. The German has been in terrific form and has finally found his feet in England. Ozil leads the charts in Europe for assists and chances created and with Walcott back and Giroud firing all cylinders, the Manchester City midfield will need to work hard to keep the German quiet.
City’s danger man in this match is another midfield maestro, the Belgian brought in from Wolfsburg. Kevin De Bruyne has been in superb form for Manchester City, with 9 goals and 8 assists from 21 appearances. With Francis Coquelin out, the Arsenal defence need to be extra careful in dealing with the former Chelsea playmaker.