Preview by Numbers: Manchester City v. Arsenal

Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sunday, May 8
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Anthony Taylor
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Stuart Burt
    • 4th Official: Mike Jones
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 1 Manchester City
  • This Match, Last Year: Manchester City 0 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 96 Arsenal wins, 49 Manchester City wins, 43 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-D-W-D-W
  • Manchester City's League Form: W-W-W-D-W-L
Of course, congratulations are in order for Leicester City for winning the Premier League this season. The Goonerfreude was running high on Monday as Tottenham imploded, blowing a 2-0 halftime lead to draw 2-2 at Chelsea, while picking up nine yellow cards to boot. It was weird to root for Chelsea, but I have to admit, I let out an audible yelp when Eden Hazard curled the equalizer into the top corner.

It was a good weekend for Arsenal, as Spurs, Manchester City, and Manchester United all dropped points. Arsenal are three back of Tottenham for second and three ahead of City for fourth. If Arsenal can make a statement and get a win at the Etihad against a City team that played Wednesday in Madrid, they'll have at least third place locked up.

Anyway, this is going to be a bit of a weird match preview because I've been on vacation this week. I'm doing the American version of road support, having traveled down to Florida for tonight's New York Red Bulls game in Orlando. Not many road matches get to include a week's vacation at Disney.

The vacation meant that I wrote this preview on Monday, well before Manchester City's match in Madrid on Wednesday. I haven't really even edited it. Typos likely abound; reader beware!

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mertesacker (hamstring)

There's very little to say about Arsenal's injury situation, which is good since I'm writing this on Monday after all. Per Mertesacker left Arsenal's 1-0 win over Norwich during the second half with a hamstring injury. Usually, you could at least three weeks for a hamstring injury, which means... one, two, three... his season is certainly over.

Elsewhere, everyone appears to be in full training. Santi Cazorla made the bench at the weekend, but remained there as the circumstances didn't really call for him making a cameo: Gabriel came on because of Mertesacker's injury, Danny Welbeck came on and paid instant dividends as Arsenal needed a goal, and Francis Coquelin came on to defend that one-goal lead.

By now, we'd all like for Welbeck to be starting up top in place of Olivier Giroud; at the pub on Saturday, we postulated that perhaps Arsene Wenger is managing Welbeck's playing time since he spent so long out injured.

With so much time between now and match day (now being "when I'm writing this,") I'm not going to predict an XI. Personally, I'd switch in Welbeck and make no other changes, aside from the one necessitated by Mertesacker's injury.

Manchester City Squad News

Out: Silva (hamstring)
Doubts: I don't know, it's "Monday"...

Pffft, I don't even know why I'm writing this section. What I do know is that David Silva is out with a hamstring injury he suffered in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid. As of the time I'm writing this, City are sweating over the health of Yaya Toure, who might play at the Bernabeu. By the time you're reading this, though, you know what happened. Hello, from the past!

Current Form

There was a sense of incredulousness from those I spoke to on Saturday who had read my preview of the Norwich match about the fact that Arsenal are unbeaten since losing at Camp Nou to Barcelona. That streak is now seven unbeaten, all Premier League fixtures. If you focus only on the league fixture list, Arsenal are unbeaten in eight, since losing to Swansea on March 2.

Problem is, of course, that Arsenal have drawn three of their last five in the league, dropping six points in total to West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Sunderland. Arsenal could have 73 points instead of 67, just from points they've dropped in the last month. They'd still be behind Leicester, since the Foxes haven't actually lost since Danny Welbeck's winner at the Emirates, but they'd at least be safely in Europe next year instead of talking about fourth yet again.

After a win over Sunderland in early February, Manchester City were second in the table, just three points back of Leicester City. They then went over a month without winning a domestic match in regulation. They suffered league losses to Leicester, Tottenham, and Liverpool, while crashing out of the FA Cup by a heavy scoreline to Chelsea. They did beat Liverpool to win the League Cup, but that required penalties. They finally got a domestic win again over Aston Villa on March 5. By that point, they were 10 points behind Leicester.

From that point on, City have been better, but not perfect. They've drawn the likes of Norwich and Newcastle. They lost to Manchester United and last weekend shipped four to Southampton (where have I heard that before? If you've forgotten, I'll refer back to it later...) Thus, the trajectory of City's season has followed Arsenal's somewhat, though with better results in other competitions.

Match Facts

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five 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.

Last year, Arsenal came from behind to lead against City at the Emirates, but conceded late and settled for a 2-2 draw. In this fixture last season, 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.

In the reverse of this fixture, Arsenal picked up a 2-1 win over City just before Christmas. Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud scored in the 33rd minute and first minute of first half stoppage time, respectively, as the Gunners established themselves as title contenders. Yaya Toure pulled a goal back on 82 minutes to make things nervy, but Arsenal truly looked like potential champions at that time. A few weeks later, they were top of the table as well, but the 4-0 loss to Southampton that followed this win certainly introduced questions, questions which were certainly answered as the rest of the winter played out.

The Referee

The referee announcements were made on Tuesday, since Monday was a Bank Holiday. As you know, I wrote this preview on Monday, which means the information I'm providing below was typed on my cellphone:

The referee is Cheshire-based Anthony Taylor.

Around the League

All of the "games in hand" forced by FA Cup progression will be made up this coming midweek, so those matches are included in this list as well:
  • Saturday (early): Norwich City v. Manchester United; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Newcastle United; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. West Bromwich Albion; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Stoke City; Selhurt Park, London
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Chelsea; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Swansea City; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Leicester City v. Everton; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Southampton; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Watford; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Tuesday (night): West Ham United v. Manchester United; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Wednesday (night): Sunderland v. Everton; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Wednesday (night): Norwich City v. Watford; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Wednesday (night): Liverpool v. Chelsea; Anfield, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is running out of clever. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to buy him some.