Today is a tipping point and we’re only in December. Lose to Manchester City and we hand momentum to Pep and Chelsea in a title race that already feels heavily advantageous to the Blues. Win and Wenger will have a proper title challenge on his hands, we can look at the Everton game as a blip and we can start thinking about how many points we can rack up in the remainder of the festive period.
So what do we know about City? ‘All the minutes man’ Fernandinho is not playing because of a suspension he picked up against Cesc, they have no Gundogan to pull strings and they have no Kun Aguerro. That’s a gift right there, it’s not as if they don’t have great players to step in, but the core is interrupted, especially in midfield.
We also know that City have only kept two clean sheets in 15. One against Watford in their last game which was perfect timing for us. John Stones has looked anything but a £50m defender this season and we know he can be rattled by an agressive press, or just being asked to make a simple pass. We also know Claudio Bravo is super suspect. His positioning has been consistently poor this season, he’s poor from crosses and it seems to get worse by the week as he struggles for confidence.
The key for me today is aggressively attacking them where their moves start at the back. Spurs had a great time employing that tactic. I also think we can damage them on the counter, they are such a mess at the moment. This was a great summation of City under Pep from Paul Doyle of The Guardian.
‘City could not cope with Leicester’s energy and directness and at times seemed confused by their own highfalutin scheming, with Pablo Zabaleta’s wandering role a particular puzzle. It is not anti-intellectual to suggest they were trying to recite poetry before showing they had learned their ABC.’
I don’t think City will be confused forever this season, so this is a major opp to do damage while they’re licking their wounded brains. But, as is a familiar pattern, when we’re called upon to fight, we’re always found wanting. This is a pressure game, the sort that will define our season. We already collapsed at Everton, when we should have taken a draw. Can Wenger summon something special, or will we be talking handbrakes and fatigue post game?
Who knows… but it’s going to be exciting whatever happens.
Buckle in and we’ll talk tomorrow!
P.S ok, so I was wrong about Ibrahimovic. But not wrong that we didn’t need him. We have Sanchez and a far more mobile set up because of it.