I’m not sure how I’m feeling about this game. Before some games I’m a big anxious, before others there is complete confidence, but right now I just don’t know. Perhaps, a better way of putting it would be to say that I’m shuffling between various states.
I guess it’s down to the fact that there won’t be many surprises in this game. We know how it will be played out. City will be compact, defensively strong, and looking for counter attacking opportunities. Arsenal will play the possession game as usual. The only point I’m not certain of is whether the hosts will be happy to absorb pressure in their final third or will they come out in the central third.
If this goes like the way the game progressed at Stamford Bridge, and it should considering the fact that big clubs have been successful against us with that tactic, we can expect an early battle in the middle of the park. Once again the first goal will be very important because it will determine how much space we get. I don’t expect City to concede easily or early against us. That would mean we also have to keep things tight at the back.
Interestingly, out of the eight games both sides have played, Arsenal have kept one clean sheet and City only failed on two occasions. That those two occasions were their last two games can be considered as a good sign for us but let’s not kid ourselves, scoring at the City of Manchester stadium will not be easy by any stretch. After all, Chelsea with all their quick attacking, physical presence, crossing, heading, set-piece talents, shots from distance, and goal-machine Drogba couldn’t score a single goal and barely troubled Hart.
I’ve a feeling we will need a clean sheet if we are to win this game because I don’t see us scoring two or more unless Cesc, Theo and Arshavin are in peak form.
Needless to say, mistakes at the back will be extremely costly against the likes of Tevez. We also have to do keep the likes of Adam Johnson and Silva in control. The hosts haven’t really dominated any of their games so far but have been doing enough to get results. Part of that is down to the fact that guys like Tevez never give up and are always ready for even a half-chance. That means we will need unwavering focus and all-round awareness from kick-off till the final whistle.
It will be interesting to see the starting eleven that Arsene picks. Amongst the back five there isn’t much choice. If Sagna is fully fit he will surely start. I suspect he’ll start even at 70-80 percent fitness. On the other side some would like to see Gibbs but I can’t see Clichy being rested for such a game. To be honest, I’m hoping Fabianski is really tested on a couple of occasions and comes up with good saves. He’s been doing well in the last few games but nothing affects the mood and confidence as much as a performance that has a big impact on the result.
Will Arsene pick an attacking front six or a balanced bunch? Frankly, I’ve no clue. My best guess is that Diaby will drop into a deeper role alongside Song and Cesc will be in his usual attacking position. This will give us some physical presence against the likes of De Jong and Toure.
Arshavin will probably get his place back with Chamakh central and Nasri on the right. A lot will depend on whether Theo is ready to start or not. If he is, I would prefer Theo on the right and Arshavin/Nasri on the left, difficult to pick between the two. One gives us more of an attacking edge while the other provides more balance.
I’d like to see the following starting line-up,
Fabianski – Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Diaby – Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin.
Keep it tight till the final twenty minutes and then bring on Theo.
A win tomorrow will be a massive result and should not be taken as par for the course. A draw, while not good in terms of the gap at the top, will not be a bad result. A loss, especially one with mistakes at the back in a game that we dominate, will once again raise some serious questions about what this team can achieve. I have a feeling this will be a 1-1 draw or a 2-1 win for the side that takes its chances.