Arsenal square up to Manchester City in a crucial match next week Saturday in a game that promises to be pivotal in both sides quest for qualification to next season’s Champions League campaign.
The match is particularly more important for Arsenal as the club are currently sixth, albeit with two games in hand, but the manner in which the Gunners have collapsed in recent weeks doesn’t make room for pleasant reading. The international break would have been perfect for Arsene Wenger, giving him a chance to recharge his batteries amid all the pressure getting to him by the Arsenal fans, who have been divided in their belief that the legendary Frenchman should stay or go. It’s difficult to know how Arsene is thinking at present, I certainly would not be pilling on my NetBet chips in any direction at the moment. His future may well depend on games like this one so it will have to be a case of waiting and seeing. Wenger’s current deal runs out in the summer and there have been no talks over a new deal. In Manchester, Pep Guardiola still looks somewhat surprised by the scale of the rebuilding job he needs to do. An ageing squad with players ill-suited to his tactical prowess means this first season won’t be as successful as his previous campaigns, but that should motivate him for greater success in years to come. Arsenal Team News Pete Cech has been ruled out for a month after suffering a calf strain in the 3-1 loss at the Hawthorns last week. Mohameed Elneny is back after recovering from an ankle strain. The Egyptian had been largely impressive this season and could be thrust into the starting eleven against City, given that the likes of Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka have not covered themselves in glory. One notable long term absentee is Santi Cazorla, who has been missing since October due to injury; one that Arsene Wenger has confirmed would require surgery. Manchester City News The duo of Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus were recently spotted watching New York City’s games in the MLS, and are the notable players that are currently injured for the Guardiola-tutored side. Gundogan was an ever present in the first team before his knee injury and is not set for a return until next season while 19 year old Brazilian sensation, Gabriel Jesus got injured in January after setting the division alights with three goals in his first four games. He is expected to return next month and help his club in the gruelling end-of-season run-in they may likely face. Form The Gunners have been particularly poor in recent weeks, losing four of their last six games in the league, and were disgustingly shambolic in the 3-1 away loss at West Brom last time out. They have also lost six of the last nine games, leading to increased pressure from the fans and lovers of the club alike and has been beset by rumours of a fallout between Wenger and star man, Alexis Sanchez. Manchester City have seen slightly impressive, winning 8 of their last 13, losing just twice in that period. However, the manner in which they lost away at Monaco in the Champions League does not augur well. The Citizens were expected to progress past Leonardo Jardim’s men, but capitulated at the Stade Louis II, losing 3-1 on the night, despite a 5-3 advantage from the first leg. Head to Head Manchester City came from behind to beat Arsenal when both sides clashed in December. Theo Walcott had given the North Londoners the lead in the 5th minute, but a Raheem Sterling equalizer in the 47th minute brought panic to Arsenal’s back line, and Leroy Sense prodded in the winner in the 71st minute, sending Guardiola and the Etihad crowd into wild scenes of jubilation. The last 10 matches however, favors Arsenal who have won five, drawn three and lost two, meaning they head into the clash with confidence. However, the fragile confidence of Arsenal means City can win at the Emirates, and put the final nail into Arsenal’s coffin for the Champions League places. Both teams also face off in the FA Cup semifinal next month at Wembley.