Arsenal v Manchester City: Premier League Match Preview
Arsenal host Manchester City in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon (4.00pm kick-off UK time).
The teams will also meet in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday 23rd April
Any respite from the International break has been short-lived for Arsene Wenger.
Wenger spent most of his pre-match press conference on Thursday fending off questions about his future.
A two-year contract extension has been offered to him by the Arsenal board but has so far not been signed.
The futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez at the club are also still to be resolved. Both have 18 months remaining on their existing deals and further negotiations on extending those have been put off to the summer.
On a more poignant note there will also be a minute of applause by fans’ in the 7th minute to remember David (Rocky) Rocastle.
The match today will also see further protests against Wenger extending his reign at the club.
The findings from the Arsenal Supporters Trust members survey published on Friday show that 78% want Arsene Wenger to leave. Only around 500 people participated in the survey, but it it’s another indicator of fan frustration at the manager and more widely at the running of the club.
More significant in the short-term for Wenger is the points gap to the top four places.
The Gunners go into today’s match in 6th place in the Premier League table.
Liverpool’s 3-1 in the Merseyside derby against Everton yesterday at Anfield means they have leap-frogged Manchester City into third place in the table.
Arsenal trail Liverpool by nine points, with three games in hand.
Fourth placed Manchester City are seven points ahead of Arsenal having played a game more.
Fifth placed Manchester United are three points ahead of the Gunners having played a game more.
So there is no room for more dropped points today.
The Gunners have won just one of their last five Premier League games. It is the worst run of form since April 1995.
Their form will need to turn around quickly if they are to continue the record of finishing in the top four in each of Arsene Wenger’s 20 seasons at the club so far.
Arsenal claimed a top-two finish in every season of Wenger’s reign between 1997-98 and 2004-05, but since have often flirted with finishing fifth or worse but have always rallied to claim a top four finish.
This is only the second time in Premier League history that Arsenal have been outside the top five in April. The other was in 2006.
Arsenal will be looking to improve their form against other teams in the top 7 of the Premier League this season. They have taken only five points out of a possible 24 in matches against teams currently in the top seven
It has also been a disappointing first season in charge at the Etihad Stadium for Pep Guardiola.
The Blues were expected to challenge for the Premier League title, but find themselves in a scrap for a top 4 finish.
As with Arsenal they exited the Champions League at the last 16 stage. And the FA Cup is also their only remaining hope of silverware this season.
Manchester City have gone seven consecutive games without defeat in the Premier League (W4 D3 L0), their longest streak in the competition under Pep Guardiola.
The Blues have won their last three away games without conceding – they have only managed four in a row on one occasion, in the old Division Two in 1903.
Manchester City though have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their past 13 games in all competitions against Liverpool, shipping 24 in the process (W2 D5 L6).
An interesting fact shows that the Blues have won just four of their last 15 Premier League matches played on a Sunday (W4, D6, L5).
Looking for positives Arsenal have lost just one of their 19 previous Premier League home matches against Manchester City (W12, D6).
Manchester City are looking to do the double over Arsenal in a league season for the first time since 1975/76.
The last seven Premier League meetings between the two sides have produced 27 goals – 3.86 per game, on average.
Manchester City won the reverse fixture 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium in December 2016. Theo Walcott (5) opened the scoring for Arsenal, but second half-goals from Leroy Sane (47) and Raheem Sterling (71) sealed the three points for the Blues.
Arsenal won the corresponding fixture last season 2-1, with goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. Yaya Toure scored for City.
Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 27 Premier League goals this season (18 goals, nine assists) – more than any other player in the competition. Overall, Sanchez has now been involved in 100 goals for the Gunners in all competitions, scoring 64 and assisting 36.
Kevin De Bruyne has ten assists n the Premier League this season. The Belgian has assisted Sergio Aguero more times than any other player this term (3).
Wenger has won just two of his previous nine competitive meetings with Pep Guardiola (W2 D2 L5), both in the Champions League.
This is what Wenger had to say about the remainder of the season at his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“I think it’s not only the period that matters – it is a decisive period – but also what is at stake for us is how we respond mentally to a disappointing period and how much we can focus and stick together now,” he said.
“We come out of a difficult period and we play at home in a very big game. It’s a good opportunity for us to bounce back. I think it’s two teams who, when you look at the numbers, have the best numbers of the final third in the league.
“That promises to be a very positive, attacking game. Both teams will attack – they go for it, we go for it, so it should be a promising game.
“Our season will now be decided by the next two months, but as well by the ability and the strength we can show together to fight and come back in a very convincing way.
“We had a deficit at West Brom on that front and I think the most important will be that our future will be decided by our mental qualities.”
Guardiola has suffered five league defeats as Manchester City boss this season – he’s never lost six in a single league campaign as a manager.
“Arsene and the Arsenal players are so professional. They want to win every game.
“When you lose a lot it is the most dangerous moment to face them. I would prefer to face Arsenal after a lot of wins.
“Everybody knows them – good quality in the middle, good quality in the sides with Alexis [Sanchez] going inside, runs in behind with [Theo] Walcott, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain. Good quality. Arsenal is a top team.”
Petr Cech (calf) and Lucas Perez (thigh) are out.
Alexis Sanchez is likely to play despite picking up a knock on International duty with Chile
Mesut Ozil is fit to be involved in the match squad after playing 20 minutes of Germany’s World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan..
Raheem Sterling (back), Bacary Sagna (groin), Pablo Zabaleta (knock) and Kevin De Bruyne (groin) are slight doubts.
Referee: A Marriner
Assistants: S Beck, R West
Fourth official: C Pawson
Arsenal to claim the three points with a 2-1 win.