Sunday 18th December 2016 – 16.00 – Sky Sports 1
The 4 o’clock kick off has the potential to be game of the weekend, as 3rd placed Arsenal are hosted by 4th placed Man City. The last 6 Premier League meetings between these two sides have produced 24 goals, an average of 4 per game so we could be in for a treat.
Man City have had a bit of a slippery patch of late, especially compared to the start of the season. They have lost 2 league games in the last 3, included a disconcerting defeat at the hands of the erratic champions Leicester City. In fact they have actually only won 4 of the last 10 league games, losing 3 in that period. Pep Guardiola’s side have already conceded more goals after 16 league games this season then his Bayern Munich side did all of last season a true sign to how competitive the Premier League is.
A problem City are having at the moment is their defensive frailties, the young John Stones having a poor couple of games recently. Man City are the 5th highest in the league for defensive errors this season. This is something Arsenal will be keen to exploit.
The mid-week victory against Watford was much needed for City who were in danger of a Christmas melt down with Tottenham hot and their heels. This set things up nicely for the clash with Arsenal who themselves lost to Everton mid-week, that might start to cause a little bit of self-doubt in the North London club.
With Sergio Aguero suspended, City will look to Kevin De Bruyne to make them tick and offer that attacking threat. He has created the most chances of any City player so far this season resulting in 8 assists.
Arsenal have been in great form this season yet still with every little slip up, groans of discontent ring around social media by a fan base who get the feeling they’ve seen it all before, and seem as if they are waiting for the season to fall apart. Prior to the mid-week defeat at Everton, Arsenal hadn’t lost in the league since the opening day of the season, yet only 4 wins from the last 8 matches has moved them to 3rd place in the league, 6 points behind Chelsea.
But for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, this game is massive. To lose 2 league games in a row at the busiest time of the season could create a knock on effect that impacts into the New Year.
Good news for Arsenal however is the fact they haven’t lost consecutive Premier League away games since April 2014. Arsenal are also unbeaten in their last 6 games with Manchester City in all competitions.
Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez will be the forefront of Arsenals’ threat who has taken on much of the burden of expectation this season. He is has been in great form, and is Arsenals top goal scorer this season, as well as the top assister. Sanchez has scored 41 goals in 81 Premier League appearances for Arsenal. The only players to reach 41 goals quicker for the club in the Premier League were Thierry Henry and Ian Wright a truly remarkable stat for a player who has only been thrust up front this season.
Both teams will go into this game knowing that a win is a must as they look to keep pace with leaders Chelsea. But they also need to look down as Tottenham take on Burnley at home, you’d expect 3 points from Spurs that would put them above City if they were to lose and only 1 behind Arsenal if City take all 3 points.
This is always a game fans look to when the fixtures are announced, both teams play fast attractive football and have some great intelligent skilful players in their respective squads. The competitiveness of the league this season add extra spice to this encounter, City knowing that a trip to Anfield is also on the horizon, it’s all coming together for the type of drama the Premier League is famous for.
By Michael Thatcher