Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Manchester City

Emirates Stadium, London
Monday, December 21
3:00 p.m. EST, 20:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: John Brooks and Mick McDonough
    • 4th Official: Craig Pawson
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 2 Manchester City
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 95 Arsenal wins, 49 Manchester City wins, 43 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-L-D-W-W
  • Manchester City's League Form: W-D-L-W-L-W
Presented without comment.
Let's all just take a moment to once more reflect upon yesterday's sacking of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.


Okay. Bigger issues ahead, namely, a top of the table six-pointer between Arsenal and Manchester City on Monday night. It's a little early to be talking about title implications; there will be 21 matches left in the season for both clubs after all is said and done on Monday. However, with Manchester City struggling at the moment and Arsenal searching for fitness and consistency, the psychological ramifications feel much larger than the three points in the table.

It's a big test for Arsenal, no doubt about that. It's a test of their title winning credentials. Even though these three points count the same in the table as any others, this is the kind of win that can buoy the club to bigger and better things down the line.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Cazorla (knee,) Coquelin (knee,) Arteta (calf,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Alexis (hamstring)

All of Arsenal's injury talk right now surrounds
Alexis's hamstring.
Also, Welbeck. And Santi. How's Jack doing?
Remember Rosicky? And, for that matter, when's
Coquelin back? Okay,
all was the wrong
word to use.
With Manchester City's announcement that Sergio Aguero was back in training this week, all eyes moved to Alexis Sanchez, who remains a doubt with the hamstring injury he suffered against Norwich on November 29. There's a sense that if Aguero is back, well, Arsenal will need Alexis back too, like it's some sort of arms race (or, in the case of their respective injuries, more of a legs race.)

Listen, obviously it would be great if Arsenal were at full strength for this top-of-the-table clash, but a less than 100% fit Alexis Sanchez can be a hindrance to Arsenal's offensive flow, especially if his ball control is sub-par by his standards. Arsene Wenger has stated that Alexis has a "very slight chance" of featuring on Monday, which means Alexis is probably writing his name onto the team sheet in indelible ink as we speak.

Elsewhere in the squad, Arsenal will have the same players available that were involved in last week's win over Aston Villa; no new injuries and no further returning players. Mikel Arteta should be the next player back after Alexis; he presumably will be available again during the holiday fixture period.

As for the long term, Danny Welbeck has had a setback in his injury recovery because of course he has. Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky are now hovering in the early and late January range, respectively, which is really putting their LANS status in doubt during the January window. It's probably late February at best for Francis Coquelin's return and we'll have to keep our fingers crossed on Santi Cazorla's recovery from surgery.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Campbell, Walcott, Ozil, Giroud.

Manchester City Squad News

Out: Fernando (hamstring,) Nasri (hamstring)
Doubts: Kompany (calf,) Zabaleta (knee,) Aguero (heel)

"He's back!" says every article you will read about City
between now and kickoff on Monday.
I've already touched on Sergio Aguero's return from the heel injury that has kept him out since November 28; as is my standard operating procedure, I list any player on their way back from an absence in the "doubts" category, regardless of the size of that doubt. It's almost certain that Aguero will start up top for City; given his injury history, I wouldn't be surprised to see him limp off after a quarter of an hour, either.

Pablo Zabaleta has been out since October with a knee injury and is close to a return. I suspect he'll be short for this one, which would hand Bacary Sagna a start against his former club. Sagna has not looked like the same player since leaving the Emirates, though that might because he cut his braids and literally requires me to do a double-take to recognize him. Captain Vincent Kompany is on the less-likely-to-feature side of doubtful with a calf injury.

Fernando, whose kit still says FERNANDO.R like he's a Transformer or something, is likely to miss out with a hamstring injury, while former Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri is out with a hamstring injury of his own for a much longer period.

Predicted XI: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva, Aguero.

Current Form

I hope you can click this to expand the graph because
November got really complicated.
On the last day of October, Arsenal won at Swansea and Manchester City scored a late winner at home against Norwich. Both clubs were tied at the top of the table on 25 points, with City ahead by four on goal difference. Leicester City was third, three points back.

A week later, Manchester City were held to a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa. Arsenal had a prime opportunity to take go clear at the top of the table, but had to come from behind to get a draw at home against Spurs. Leicester had beaten Watford the day prior, making the league table 26-26-25 going into the November international break.

After the break, Arsenal lost 2-1 at West Brom, but hours later, City lost 4-1 to Liverpool. Leicester won to go top of the table and Manchester United jumped into second; City were third and Arsenal were fourth. City climbed back to the top of the table with a win over Southampton during the last weekend of November, while Leicester, United, and Arsenal all drew. City were back in first on 29 points, Leicester second on 29 points but eight goals back on goal difference. United had 28 and Arsenal had 27.

Manchester City then opened the next weekend with a dreadful loss at Stoke, while Arsenal finally got back to winning ways, 3-1 over Sunderland. United were held to a draw by West Ham, while Leicester smashed Swansea. Suddenly, the Foxes were clear at the top with 32 points, Arsenal were clear in second with 30, while both Manchester clubs sat tied with 29 points.

Last weekend, City left it late to beat Swansea, United lost at Bournemouth, and Arsenal beat Aston Villa to temporarily go top of the league. With Leicester's win over Chelsea on Monday, the Foxes have gone back to the summit with 35 points. Arsenal are second with 33. City are clear of their rivals for third, on 32 points. United sit fourth with 29. Spurs and Crystal Palace are sitting farther back, with 26 points each.

So yeah, it's been an inconsistent month.

Match Facts

Santi Cazorla scores from the penalty spot as Arsenal won
at the Etihad last year. The Gunners took four points from
City last season.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last four competitive fixtures against Manchester City. That run started with a 1-1 draw at the Emirates two seasons ago and includes three meetings from last season. In the 2014/15 curtain raiser, Arsenal defeated City 3-0 for the Community Shield at Wembley. Regardless of what you may think of the Community Shield, it is still considered a competitive fixture.

Arsenal played well in this fixture last year, but could not find a win. The Gunners came out of the gate strong, but conceded first. They came from behind to lead 2-1 through Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez, but a Mathieu Debuchy ankle injury, the first of his two devastating injuries last season, forced a reshuffle in the back line and Arsenal conceded the equalizer from a set piece. Then, 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 January, the Gunners picked up their first win at the Etihad since 2010, winning a statement match 2-0. Santi Cazorla converted from the penalty spot in the first half and assisted through a set piece on an Olivier Giroud header to double the lead on 67 minutes. Arsenal defended well all game; City had nearly 65% of the possession and took 16 corners to Arsenal's three, but managed only four shots on target.

Manchester City have only one win in the red side of North London in their last 30 league games, a 2-0 win in 2013 aided by a 10th minute red card to Laurent Koscielny. Prior to 2013, City's last league win at Emirates/Highbury came on October 4, 1975 by a 3-2 scoreline.

The Referee

The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner. You remember Marriner, right? Stamford Bridge... red card, mistaken identity... yeah, you remember that game.

Arsenal have had Marriner four times since that fateful day in West London and they have won all four: 1-0 over Southampton at the Emirates last December, 2-0 over Everton at home in early March, 1-0 at Newcastle (including a 16th minute red card to Aleksandar Mitrovic and six other yellow cards to Newcastle) in August, and a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane in the League Cup in September.

This is the first time Manchester City will have seen Marriner this year; they had a record of two wins and one loss over three matches last year and all three matches ended 1-0. First, they beat Everton at the Etihad last December, scoring from a Yaya Toure penalty. In March, they lost 1-0 at Turf Moor, as George Boyd's goal on 61 minutes gave Burnley a stunning victory. And, in the penultimate week of last season, City won 1-0 at White Hart Lane, with Sergio Aguero scoring the game's only goal just before the half hour mark.

Marriner showed only two red cards last season, after his mistake at the Bridge the year before. This season, he has shown three: one to Mitrovic as mentioned, one to Southampton's Sadio Mane for a second yellow card, and one to Lazio's Keita Balde Diao in a Europa League match.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Sunderland; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Everton v. Leicester City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Norwich City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Crystal Palace; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Bournemouth; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Newcastle United v. Aston Villa; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Sunday (early): Watford v. Liverpool; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Sunday (late): Swansea City v. West Ham United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a gooner modern the to Writer Contributing. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to zorrocat twitter On him @follow.