Preview by Numbers: Manchester City v. Arsenal

Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sunday, January 18
11:00 a.m. EST, 16:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Dean
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and John Brooks
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 2 Manchester City
  • This Match, Last Year: Manchester City 6 - 3 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 94 Arsenal wins, 49 Manchester City wins, 43 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-W-L-W
  • Manchester City's League Form: W-W-W-D-W-D
When Arsenal conceded Martin Skrtel's 96th minute equalizer at Anfield a month ago, conversation at the pub turned expectedly sour. It was yet another big road game that Arsenal failed to win. So, it begged the question: when was the last time Arsenal won a big road game?

As you might come to expect from conversation in an Arsenal pub, evidence of results at White Hart Lane were summarily thrown away (though Arsenal have won once at the Lane in the league in the last seven years, last March.)

The table I've attached here shows Arsenal results against the other clubs finishing in the top six places in each of the last four seasons, plus the current standings of this year. There are three wins in the list: 1-0 at White Hart Lane last season, the 5-3 at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea were floundering under AVB, and the 3-0 win at Manchester City that saw City reduced to ten men on just five minutes. That's it.

Arsenal sit fifth in the table right now, just three points out of third, but they're going to have to start claiming some big road victories at some point if they want to start fighting for anything better than the Fourth Place Trophy.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Debuchy (shoulder,) Welbeck (thigh,) Arteta (calf,) Wilshere (ankle,) Diaby (calf,) Gnabry (knee)
Doubts: Gibbs (ankle)

Still not sure how this shove ended up being legal.
This week's bad news centers on Mikel Arteta, who has had a setback that requires surgery and is expected to miss three more months. That would put his return to training in mid-April, which means by the time he's ready to return to first team football, there will likely be about three weeks remaining in the season. LANS?

Speaking of bad news, there's more of it. Mathieu Debuchy needs surgery on his dislocated shoulder. That means three months for him as well, which puts him on the same timetable as Arteta. Astonishing that we might go through this entire season seeing a back four of Debuchy, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and Kieran Gibbs only once.

Danny Welbeck likely remains out; he's been out since just before New Year's with a thigh injury he suffered at West Ham. Kieran Gibbs could be back in training today, but remains a doubt with inflammation in his ankle.

Between the sticks, Arsene Wenger's history, most recently when Wojciech Szczesny was dropped in 2013, suggests that he'll stick with David Ospina until the Colombian shows a reason to drop him.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Giroud.

Manchester City Squad News

Out: Toure, Bony (international duty)

Here's Bony when he signed for Swansea.
I'm only including this because I own a similar looking blazer.
Earlier this week, Manchester City completed the signing of Wilfried Bony from Swansea to further bolster a front line that had been hit by injuries in the month of December. Of course, there are two caveats: 1) the front line is healthy again and 2) Bony is away on international duty.

Bony and Yaya Toure are both away for the month with the Ivorian national team at the Africa Cup of Nations, but both are City's only absences. The club have no injured players, though they do have three playres who are just on their way back from long layoffs and might lack match fitness. Sergio Aguero had been out since December 6 with a hamstring injury; he came off the bench last weekend. Edin Dzeko has been out since December 10; he did not make the club's 18-man squad last week. Vincent Kompany did make the bench last week but did not play; he's been out since December 13.

Predicted XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Nasri, Navas, Silva, Aguero.

Current Form

Everton came from behind to take a point from City last week.
It's still hard to make heads or tails of Arsenal's form right now. The bitter taste of the draw at Anfield and the New Year's Day loss at Southampton still lingers. On the other hand, Arsenal have lost once in their last eight across all competitions and twice in their last 12. They've kept two straight clean sheets for the first time since the beginning of December. Away from home, however, Arsenal have won just four out of 10 league matches, losing four and drawing three. No real statement victories in the mix, aside from maybe the win at in-form West Ham. If that's the best we can do in terms of road victories, it's a little worrying in the grand scheme of things.

As for Manchester City, they went through a blip at the end of October. They lost at West Ham on the 25th, then crashed out of the League Cup to Newcastle on 29th. That weekend, they steadied enough to beat ten-man United in the Manchester derby, only to then lose to CSKA Moscow in midweek. However, the win against United kick started an unbeaten run that is now at 12 in the league; they've drawn the likes of QPR, Burnley, and Everton in between, but they've done enough to challenge previously unchallengable Chelsea for the top spot. They won in Europe on matchdays five and six to book a date with Barcelona in the Round of 16. Two weeks ago, they left it late but squeezed past Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup to earn a fourth round tie against Middlesbrough.

In the league, Stoke's win at the Etihad in August is City's only home loss dating back to last February, when they lost to Chelsea. You'd have to go back to 2012/13 for the last time City lost more than once at home in the league and that second loss was a meaningless final day fixture against Norwich.

Match Facts

Arsenal were denied a potential statement-making victory
against Manchester City in mid-September.
Arsenal have already played Manchester City twice this season in competitive fixtures, regardless of how competitive you think the Community Shield match actually was. That 3-0 win at Wembley combined with consecutive draws at the Emirates means that Arsenal are currently unbeaten in their last three against City, though they have not played at the Etihad in that span.

In the reverse fixture, Arsenal came out of the gate strong for a change in a big game, but conceded first. The Gunners came from behind to lead 2-1, but Mathieu Debuchy's ankle injury forced a reshuffle in the back line and Arsenal conceded the equalizer from a set piece. City put Arsenal under pressure for a winner, but a potential Samir Nasri goal at the death (wouldn't that have sucked?) was ruled offside.

In this match last year, City led 2-1 at halftime and Laurent Koscielny was lost to injury while conceding the second goal. Fernandinho scored twice in the second half and Arsenal only brought the match as close as 3-2 and 5-3. An injury time penalty finished off the match at 6-3 to the hosts.

Arsenal have not won in Manchester since the hosts found themselves reduced to ten men just five minutes in. Arsenal won 3-0 on October 24, 2010 with goals from a veritable who's who of future Arsenal exits: Nasri, Alex Song, and Nicklas Bendtner. None of Arsenal's starting XI that day remain with the club, though let's be fair, that list includes Sebastien Squillaci, Denilson, Andrei Arshavin, and Marouane Chamakh. That match also remains the last time Arsenal won a road game against a team that would finish the season in the top four.

The Referee

Well, it's not like he has a clear view of this or anything...
The referee is Wirral-based Mike Dean. Arsenal last saw Dean for the 2-1 loss to Manchester United, which snapped a five match Arsenal unbeaten streak with Dean in the middle. It's hard to criticize Dean for the loss, since the Gunners failed to take their chances in that match. Sure, he missed Marouane Fellaini being offside in the build-up to the first goal and the fact that he shoved Kieran Gibbs into Wojciech Szczesny. Sure, he missed the challenge on Jack Wilshere that still sees the young Englishman out of action. He also didn't book Wilshere despite looking straight at his attempt to head-butt Fellaini. So, really, total mess all around.

Manchester City have seen Dean twice this season; both matches were draws. Dean was in the middle of City's 1-1 draw with Chelsea, in which he sent off Pablo Zabaleta for two yellow cards. He was also the referee for the 2-2 draw at Queens Park Rangers in November. City are winless in their last five matches with Dean as the ref; their last win with Dean came in the April 2013 Manchester derby.

Dean was the referee for the meeting between Arsenal and City at the Emirates last season, which ended 1-1.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Liverpool; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Crystal Palace; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Stoke City; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Queens Park Rangers v. Manchester United; Loftus Road, London
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Chelsea; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Sunderland; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday (late): Newcastle United v. Southampton; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Sunday (early): West Ham United v. Hull City; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Monday (night): Everton v. West Bromwich Albion, Goodison Park, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and Academy Award snub. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to commiserate.