MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City

Unai Emery kicked off his tenure at Arsenal with a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League, as goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva gave the title holders the victory at the Emirates Stadium.

Sterling made Man City’s first-half dominance count with an opening goal in the 13th minute, giving Pep Guardiola’s men a 1-0 lead going into half-time.

The story promised to be different in the second-half, with Arsenal growing into the game, but Bernardo Silva’s second-half strike, somewhat against the run of play, complicated matters for the hosts, who’d eventually succumb to a 2-0 defeat.

Sterling didn’t take long to cause chaos, as the England international danced his way into the box before pulling a save out of Petr Čech at his near-post, eight minutes in.

The Arsenal goalkeeper could do little to keep out the ex-Liverpool winger in the 13th minute, however, with Sterling finding the opening goal with a strike from the edge of the box, cutting in from the left.

City pressed on, prompting Čech to a double-save from Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick and Aymeric Laporte’s follow-up, as the Gunners looked to tame the Premier League champions.

A better finish to the half saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flash a shot from range wide in the 44th minute, as Emery’s men entered the break a goal down.

Arsenal picked up where they left off in the second period, with Alexandre Lacazette coming close to making an instant impact from the bench in the 57th minute with a measured volley roaming wide from the edge of the area.

City looked to take advantage of a Guendouzi misjudgment past the half-hour mark, as Sergio Agüero raced through on goal before another important save from Čech kept things at 1-0.

Guardiola’s men wouldn’t be so forgiving a couple of minutes later, however, as Benjamin Mendy picked out Bernardo Silva with a cut-back before the Portuguese playmaker’s left-footed strike doubled the visitors’ lead.

Despite some encouraging signs, with Mesut Özil and Lacazette in the mix, Arsenal would fail to land any blows on City, as the Manchester outfit walked away from the Emirates with a 2-0 victory.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Starting Line-up: Petr Čech (7) – Héctor Bellerín (5), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Sokratis (5), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5) – Granit Xhaka (5), Mattéo Guendouzi (6), Aaron Ramsey (5) – Mesut Özil (5), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (4) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (4)

Subs: Stephan Lichtsteiner (6), Alexandre Lacazette (5), Lucas Torreira (6)

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City

Arsenal were dealt a heavy loss in consecutive games against Manchester City, as the Premier League leaders moved to defeat the Gunners 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

In a repeat of last Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, three first-half goals from Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Leroy Sané seemed to wrap the North Londoners up relatively early, with the hosts unable to offer a reply before half-time.

Arsenal were given the chance to potentially fight their way back into the contest via the spot in the second period, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty miss would crown another disappointing display come full-time.

In hope of a response from his side, Arsène Wenger opted to field Danny Welbeck from the left flank, with Sead Kolasinac also joining in to cover for the injured Nacho Monreal.

Despite a somewhat positive start from Arsenal, their woes resumed in the 15th minute through Bernardo Silva, curling an effort from the edge of the box to put Man City ahead.

That lead was soon doubled in the 28th minute, as neat combinations through the Citizens’ attack gave David Silva the room to finish off his chance inside the area.

Pep Guardiola’s men accelerated further to the undertone of boos ringing around the Emirates Stadium, with Leroy Sané next in line to make it 3-0 with a deflected tap-in.

Arsenal’s reaction came in the second half, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan earned his side the chance to pull a goal back in the 59th minute from the spot, courtesy of a Nicolas Otamendi foul.

The responsibility from the 12-yard-mark fell to Mkhitaryan’s former Borussia Dortmund teammate, Aubameyang, but the striker wouldn’t convert past the second-guessing Ederson between the sticks.

With the score untouched throughout the second period, defeat for 6th-placed Arsenal sees them plunge further behind those chasing a top four spot, trailing Tottenham Hotspur, in 4th, by ten points.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (4) – Héctor Bellerín (4), Shkodran Mustafi (4), Laurent Koscielny (4), Sead Kolasinac (4) – Aaron Ramsey (5), Granit Xhaka (4) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (5), Mesut Özil (4), Danny Welbeck (4) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (4)

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City

Arsenal were left powerless to accept the runners-up tag in the Carabao Cup final, this evening, as a convincing 3-0 win from Manchester City powered the league leaders to silverware.

A first-half goal from Sergio Agüero opened the accounts at Wembley, with Vincent Kompany following suit early in the second half.

With the North Londoners left shell-shocked, David Silva set City on their way for their first trophy of the season with a third, subsequently extending Arsenal’s wait for a first League Cup since 1993.

The big surprise at Wembley Stadium for Arsenal saw Aaron Ramsey return to full fitness, with Calum Chambers joining the Welshman in the XI.

Despite early dominance from Man City, it was Arsène Wenger’s men who claimed the first opportunity of the game in the 7th minute, with Mesut Özil squaring a pass over to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before Kyle Walker’s timely intervention.

It took an uncharacteristic bit of play by City’s standards, however, to undo the deadlock, as Claudio Bravo’s long punt upfield set Agüero through on goal before lifting the ball over David Ospina for 1-0.

With the score being maintained through to half-time, it was City that once again started the half positively, nearing a second through Kompany’s deflected half-volley in the 47th minute.

It was through City’s captain that Pep Guardiola’s men eventually doubled their lead in the 58th minute, as Ilkay Gündogan’s shot found its way through a sea of bodies and into the back of the net via Kompany’s touch away from Ospina.

David Silva looked to put the game beyond any doubt, turning Chambers inside box before firing in the third with a shot across goal, as City stormed to a 3-0 lead with 25 minutes to go.

The Manchester outfit would require no more goals on their way to cup glory, with the League Cup evading Wenger’s grasp for a third time in his decorated Arsenal career.

By Patrick Ribeiro

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Player Ratings: David Ospina (4) – Héctor Bellerín (5), Calum Chambers (6), Shkodran Mustafi (4), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (5) – Mesut Özil (5), Aaron Ramsey (5), Granit Xhaka (4), Jack Wilshere (6) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (5), Alex Iwobi (5)

Should Arsenal Have Sold Alexis In The Summer?

10th July 2014, a day that the Arsenal fans were absolutely elated. Arsenal had signed Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez to come and play at the Emirates Stadium. The potential partnership with Mesut Ozil was the stuff of dreams after the Gunners faithful had to suffer through years of Denilson and Chamakh expected to lead us to glory. But after two FA Cups and a Community Shield together, it seems the partnership is coming to an end as speculation has increased that Sanchez is on his way to Manchester City. After a long summer transfer saga where Arsenal failed to cut bait with the Chilean, should they have let him leave rather than hanging on to futile hope that he would sign a contract?

Over the course of the summer transfer window, Manchester City aggressively went after Alexis Sanchez offering Arsenal £60M in the process. Wenger remained dogged in his approach maintaining that Alexis will be at Arsenal come the end of his contract. After having suffered through years of seeing his best players sold after entering the final two years of their contract, it’s criminal to think that Wenger would allow it to happen again. Yet here he was, grovelling at the feet of players, attempting to accommodate them into the team thereby stroking their egos and inflating their thoughts on how important they were.

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Jack Wilshere was reported to have had a bust-up with Sanchez over his attitude

It was clear for everyone to see that from the middle of last season up until now, Sanchez’s frustrations have been clear to see. He has upstaged his teammates on numerous occasions when he doesn’t get the ball, throwing multiple temper tantrums and grinding the gears of not only the fans, but reportedly the players aswell. Reports had surfaced that some of the players had grown tired of his antics on the pitch and were bothered by his poor attitude on the pitch. What we have discovered over the years is Wenger is very hesitant to change things unless blatantly obvious and this was another one of those occasions. Sanchez should have been moved to the bench and forced to show an attitude that was conducive to the success of the team but alas, it never happened.

However, to put my Wenger agenda aside and be somewhat sympathetic to the position that he was in, I highly doubt he saw these kinds of performances coming from Sanchez. After acquiring Alexandre Lacazette, the opportunity to partner him with Ozil and Sanchez was too great to resist and the hope that the trio could park some chemistry that could sway Sanchez to stay might have been the dream. But it’s clear that the Chilean has decided that Arsenal aren’t in his long-term plans and he seems determined to reignite his relationship with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

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Sanchez has been a shell of the performer he was last season

Now, should Wenger have sold Sanchez in the summer based on his performances from this season, yes. But do I blame for holding on to Sanchez due to not having found a clear successor, no. I strongly believe that if the offer had come in earlier in the window, the Gunners would have been forced to sell and would have had ample time to find someone to come in. But due to the timing of the bid from City, the scramble was on and the Arsenal board couldn’t get it done.

But the bigger problem here is the fact that Wenger and the staff on the board allow numerous first-team players to enter the last year of their contracts before they start negotiating new deals. It screams of arrogance and negligence and puts the long-term success of the club at serious fault. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is madness and yet, this is the state of Arsenal Football Club at this particular moment.

MATCH REPORT: MAN CITY 3-1 ARSENAL

Arsenal succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, as the North Londoners slipped back down to sixth in the league table, behind Liverpool.

With the thus far undefeated Man City side coming into this game as favourites, goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Agüero pushed Pep Guardiola’s men into a 2-0 lead before Alexandre Lacazette’s strike promised to set up a grand-stand finish.

Gabriel Jesus would deny such a thing from happening, however, as he sealed Arsenal’s fate with a close range finish late in the second half to conclude a 3-1 scoreline.

In hope of pulling off an upset in the blue half of Manchester, Arsène Wenger called on Francis Coquelin, in his first Premier League start of the season, to protect the Gunners defence, with Alex Iwobi also featuring in the face of Alexandre Lacazette’s surprise exclusion from the XI.

City neared the opener in the 10th minute, with Leroy Sané exposing the space in behind to cut a pass across the goal for Sterling before the latter failed to make any sort of contact with the ball.

De Bruyne then offered the Arsenal backline a warning with a fierce snap-shot from the edge of the box, saved by Čech, but the Belgian would leave the former Chelsea goalkeeper beaten soon after.

In the 18th minute, the playmaker made good use of Fernandinho’s presence to work a give-and-go before breaking the deadlock with a left-footed strike across goal.

Arsenal were caught yet again in the 35th minute and could well have been two goals down had it not been for Sterling’s wildly over-hit pass into Sané from a two-on-one scenario, meanwhile a combined intervention by Laurent Koscielny and Čech was required to deny Agüero inside the box moments later.

The Gunners would have to wait until the last minute of the first half for their best moment, as a hopeful long ball up from Iwobi found Sanchez before his lay-off to Aaron Ramsey, who would force a save out of Ederson with a strike at the Brazilian goalkeeper’s near post.

Into the second period, Arsenal couldn’t have asked for a worse entrance into the game, as Fernandinho’s well-timed pass into Sterling provoked a match-up between the winger and Nacho Monreal on their way to Čech’s goal, with Michael Oliver deeming that the Spaniard had brought the City forward down for an early penalty.

The Citizens’ all-time top goalscorer, Agüero, was elected for the spot-kick and would finish via the inside of the post to give the hosts a 2-0 lead in the 50th minute.

An otherwise immaculate Ederson survived a potentially disastrous moment between the sticks in the 55th minute, as he failed to hold on to a powerful strike before regathering his composure, as well as the ball, on his way back to goal, with a Ramsey barge pending.

Second-half substitute Lacazette would claw a goal back for Arsenal after being slipped through by Iwobi on the right, with the North Londoners’ record signing making no mistake from an emphatic shot under Ederson in the 65th minute.

More danger at the Etihad Stadium was then diverted back to Čech’s goal, as the Arsenal shot-stopper shifted across his goal quickly to deny Gabriel Jesus from point-blank range.

City would soon restore their lead, however, with David Silva seemingly coming into play from an offside position prior to pegging a pass back for Jesus to score a third, as the Gunners backline awaited the linesman’s flag.

With the score rounded off at 3-1, Arsenal collect their first defeat since the trip to Vicarage Road versus Watford in mid-October.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Starting XI:

Petr Čech (6) – Héctor Bellerín (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Francis Coquelin (4), Nacho Monreal (5), Sead Kolasinac (5) – Aaron Ramsey (5), Granit Xhaka (3) – Mesut Özil (4), Alex Iwobi (6) – Alexis Sanchez (5)

Subs: Alexandre Lacazette (6), Jack Wilshere (-), Oliver Giroud (-)

ARSENAL’S ‘EASY RUN’ OF UPCOMING FIXTURES

After a rocky start to the Premier League season, Arsenal have found a little patch of form and have moved towards the right end of the table. After an exhilarating home opener with Leicester, Arsenal suffered defeats to Stoke and Liverpool. The performances were dire and the players looked completely disinterested. The #WengerOut brigade was in full voice, calling for Wenger to leave the club and let someone with a fresh outlook on management assume the reins at the Emirates.

However, all that seems to be in the distant past now as Arsenal have registered three clean sheets on the spin. The Gunners bounced back from their embarrassing defeat against Liverpool with a comfortable 3-0 win against Bournemouth. This was followed up by a morale boosting 0-0 draw against Chelsea where the Arsenal side was reminiscent of the team that went to the Etihad Stadium and picked up the 2-0 victory in 2015. Finally, in the past weekend, Arsenal ran out easy winners against West Brom as Lacazette bagged a brace to secure a 2-0 victory.

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Lacazette scored in his third straight Premier League home game against West Brom

Despite a tumultuous start to the league, Arsenal are only six points behind the brilliant Manchester City. With favourable fixtures on the horizon, it is imperative that Arsenal build and maintain momentum before their back-to-back clashes with Manchester City and Tottenham in November.

What this Arsenal side has exhibited in the past is, once they have momentum on their side, they can quickly establish themselves as an elite team capable of some sumptuous football. With the next four Premier League games reading: Brighton (H), Watford (A), Everton (A) and Swansea (A), this period of the season is paramount for Arsenal to pick up points and move their way up the table to the positions that they need to be in.

With Arsenal facing Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United in the space of one month, the security blanket of picking up points is essential to the success of Arsenal’s season. Failure to do so could result in the teams higher up the table moving so far out of sight that Arsenal are forced to evaluate their season objectives. The juggernauts that are the Manchester clubs will prove where Arsenal are as a squad and club and whether the performance at Stamford Bridge was a fluke. Losses in these games could send the season spiralling as the murmurs of Arsenal having an inferiority complex against bigger teams will arise again.

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Ozil should be in contention to start after missing the Chelsea game through injury.

Arsenal fans are still salivating at the thought of Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette stating together. Due to injuries and the form of other players, the attacking trio haven’t started a game together. The fixtures approaching will prove the perfect platform to test whether this attacking tandem can bare fruitful results and provide the foundation for our attacking unit in the future.

Wenger has done a very good job already this season of utilising the large squad size to keep all the players fresh. With the first team well rested and injury free, Arsenal will be looking to take advantage of their favourable fixtures and pick up maximum points from these coming fixtures and turning their attention to mammoth fixtures they have coming in November and December.

Follow me on Twitter: _TimPD

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-1 MANCHESTER CITY

Arsenal have booked their place in the FA Cup final with a 2-1 win over Manchester City, courtesy of an extra-time strike from Alexis Sanchez.

Nacho Monreal’s equaliser deep into the second half cancelled out Sergio Agüero’s 62nd minute opener, leaving Sanchez to steal the headlines with a goal in the 101st minute to set a date with Chelsea in an all-London final next month.

The Gunners claimed the game’s first chance when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found Olivier Giroud with a cross that was headed straight at Claudio Bravo, but it was Man City who emerged the strongest in the first half, as David Silva pulled a save out of Petr Čech in the 15th minute.

Sergio Agüero looked to pull the trigger in one of his rare openings for City, but couldn’t do much more than hit the side-netting in the 38th minute.

The Citizens will be aggrieved, however, to see an Agüero goal ruled out in the 40th minute, eventually bundled over by Sterling for further confirmation before the linesman judged Leroy Sané’s initial cross to have curved out of play before reaching its destination.

The officials continued to be in the limelight as the game drifted into half-time, dismissing a tug on Alexis Sanchez’s shirt by Jesus Navas inside the City box that would’ve otherwise seen the Chilean earn a penalty.

Granit Xhaka and Raheem Sterling traded blocked efforts from dangerous positions, with Arsenal appearing the strongest of the two sides following the half-time interval, but Agüero would soon shift the mood inside Wembley when racing away from Nacho Monreal on the counter and dinking the ball over a hesitant Čech, breaking the deadlock in the 62nd minute.

The Gunners continued to go toe-to-toe with City, however, and found themselves level no less than ten minutes later, as Monreal finished Chamberlain’s back-post cross expertly on his right foot.

Čech would go on to redeem himself in the 79th minute, getting the faintest of touches to push a Yaya Touré half-volley onto the post.

Arsenal were kept in the contest again by the woodwork in the 82nd minute, this time via Touré’s midfield partner, Fernandinho, with a strong header onto the crossbar from a corner.

Contrarily, second-half substitute Danny Welbeck might well have taken Arsène Wenger’s men over the line with four minutes to spare, but his placed finish could only graze the wrong side of Bravo’s far post before extra time.

Rob Holding claimed the first opportunity in the 6th minute of extra time, jumping in half-a-yard of space to head just over the crossbar.

Further joy for the North Londoners in front of goal would eventually come, set by Laurent Koscielny’s header back into the danger zone, as Welbeck miss-kicked his effort before Sanchez followed up to smash Arsenal into the lead.

Momentum remained on Arsenal’s side when Welbeck scuppered a great opportunity make it 3-1 with a header at the back-post, as the two sides entered the final break of the game.

Through Kevin De Bruyne, City charged on in search of the all-important equaliser, but Fabian Delph would go on to fail to find the target from the Belgian’s lay-off in the 110th minute, with Holding playing his part.

De Bruyne himself neared the leveller, flashing a strike across goal that remained untouched on its way out four minutes later.

The Gunners also continued to look threatening on the counter in the meantime, but two goals would be all Arsenal required to make it past City and into the FA Cup final.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (6); Gabriel Paulista (8), Laurent Koscielny (7), Rob Holding (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (8), Granit Xhaka (7), Aaron Ramsey (8), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (6), Olivier Giroud (5), Alexis Sanchez (7)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (6), Héctor Bellerín (6), Francis Coquelin (5)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-2 MANCHESTER CITY

A second-half header from Shkodran Mustafi rescued Arsenal a point versus Manchester City, as the two top four hopefuls played out a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

The Gunners fell behind twice in their first game back from the international break, but goals from Theo Walcott and Mustafi on either side of half-time kept Arsène Wenger’s men within touching distance of those directly ahead of them in the Premier League table.

Danny Welbeck’s pace was favoured over Olivier Giroud’s towering frame in attack and it was a change that almost produced through to the early exchanges, as the ex-Manchester United striker’s pressing saw a block from Gael Clichy’s desperate clearance threaten to betray Willy Caballero on its way wide.

Arsenal’s task versus City would be made tougher by the 5th minute when Leroy Sané made full use of the space vacated by Sergio Agüero to burst through the heart of the defence, round David Ospina and slot in the game’s first goal into an empty net.

Things promised to go from bad to worse just five minutes later through Kevin De Bruyne’s curling effort onto the post, whereas this time Ospina was on hand to deny further joy in front of goal when parrying David Silva’s follow-up.

Alexis Sánchez’s shot from range in the 30th minute headlined a potential comeback from Arsenal’s behalf, as it hovered just wide of City’s goal.

Increased pressure from the North Londoners would soon pay off when Mustafi’s header back into the mixer caught out the Man City backline, leaving Walcott to take advantage of space and draw the game level in the 38th minute.

The equaliser would be short-lived, however, as an unmarked Agüero was given plenty of time to pick his spot with a low drive inside the box and make it 2-1 to the visitors a minute later.

Arsenal responded through Walcott once more, meeting Sánchez’s hopeful cross before volleying over on the brink of half-time.

Without Laurent Koscielny for the second period, the Gunners’ backline continued to look fragile in places, as Jesus Navas set Agüero up for a near-post header that was directed wide in the 52nd minute.

Mustafi would prove to be pivotal once more in Arsenal’s fightback, rising highest from a corner to slam home the equaliser with his head in the 54th minute.

Agüero popped up again inside the box to try and make amends for his earlier miss, but Ospina was on hand to follow the effort all the way into his grasp, as both teams shared the spoils at the final whistle.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Starting XI

David Ospina (6); Héctor Bellerín (5), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (6); Granit Xhaka (5), Francis Coquelin (4); Theo Walcott (6), Mesut Özil (4), Alexis Sánchez (6); Danny Welbeck (4)

Subs: Gabriel Paulista (6), Olivier Giroud (4), Alex Iwobi (6)

MATCH PREVIEW: MANCHESTER CITY VS ARSENAL

It may only be December, but Arsenal’s matchup with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday feels like the Gunners’ biggest game of the season thus far.

After a week that saw 12 goals scored, three wins, two hattricks and a first place finsh in the Champions League group, Arsenal’s brilliant December took a turn for the worst when they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Everton on Tuesday night. To rub salt in the wounds, every other team in the top eight won in Gameweek 16.

This all puts Arsenal in a precarious position in the table ahead of Sunday’s crucial clash with Manchester City. They’re sandwiched between Liverpool and City, below the Reds on goals scored (interestingly, Arsenal and Liverpool have identical records and goal differences) and ahead of the Sky Blues by a point. With the halfway point of the season nearing, the table is beginning to take shape and a win in this match would be a massive statement of intent from either side.

For the Gunners, Sunday is all about response. Premier League champions are often defined by the way they respond to defeats, and Sunday is a chance for Arsenal to prove that they’re made of sterner stuff than past seasons. The defeat at Goodison Park was only their second in the league this season, the last coming at the hands of Liverpool on the opening day. Arsene Wenger’s side responded phenomenally to that 4-3 loss, going on a 14-game unbeaten run, and a similar response is needed this time around if they’re to keep in touch with high-flying Chelsea at the top of the table.

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Arsenal’s performance against Everton wasn’t terrible. It was far from the free-flowing football we’ve gotten used to watching in the past few weeks, but it was also far from the worst we’ve seen from the Gunners this season. Not to make excuses, but the lack of spark and invention going forward seemed to reflect tiredness after playing three days earlier rather than a deeper underlying issue.

With a full four days to prepare for the game against City, I’m expecting Arsene Wenger to field an unchanged eleven at the Etihad Stadium. In the heart of the defense, Gabriel will continue to fill in for the sidelined Shkodran Mustafi alongside Laurent Koscielny, the captain of the side. Despite showing signs of rust against Everton, Hector Bellerin will make his second start since returning from injury. Expect Nacho Monreal to get the nod ahead of Kieran Gibbs—although the Spaniard’s place in the first team isn’t nearly as secure as it once was—and Petr Cech to start between the sticks.

The midfield pairing of Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin contain the right balance of steel and craft to get a result at the Etihad, with Aaron Ramsey still carrying a hamstring injury and Santi Cazorla out until February of next year. In attacking midfield, Mesut Özil will look to continue his surprisingly prolific season with a big-game performance to prove his critics wrong.

Arsene Wenger’s biggest selection headache will likely come in his decision of who to start on the wings. Neither Theo Walcott nor Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were particularly impressive against Everton, with Walcott attempting just 14 passes—the same amount as Alex Iwobi, who was subbed on in the 70th minute. That said, I see Walcott getting the start due to his tendency to score in big games. The battle between the Ox and Iwobi for the starting position on the left wing is neck-and-neck, but I think the Ox will just edge this one out as his direct running will give the leggy Pablo Zabaleta a handful.

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Up top, Alexis Sanchez gives Wenger his easiest decision in the starting eleven. The Chilean has thrived in his new role as Arsenal’s center forward this season, notching up 14 goals and eight assists in all competitions. If the Gunners are to grab all three points at the Etihad, you can bet Alexis will have something to do with it.

As for Manchester City’s team news, there’s hardly a better time to be playing the Citizens. Pep Guardiola’s side will be without Sergio Agüero and Fernandinho, who are still serving four-match bans for misconduct at the end of City’s 3-1 defeat to Chelsea earlier this month. Vincent Kompany remains injured until 2017, while Ilkay Gündogan is sidelined with a devastating knee injury suffered against Watford in midweek.

With so much at stake for two teams hoping to be top of the table in May, expect a feisty encounter on Sunday.

Predicted XI: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs; Xhaka, Coquelin; Walcott, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sanchez.

All statistics via WhoScored.com.

Follow me on Twitter @Gunner_NYC

ARSENAL STEP UP MUSTAFI CHASE

Arsenal are to follow up their interest in Valencia centre back Shkodran Mustafi, according to BBC Sport journalist David Ornstein.

The Gunners will be without Per Mertesacker for approximately four months in the coming season, whereas the ankle injury sustained by Gabriel Paulista in Arsenal’s 3-2 win versus Manchester City last Sunday is to keep the Brazilian out for up to eight weeks.

The north Londoners will now reportedly step up their chase for German international Mustafi, thought to be valued at £40 million by the Daily Mail.

Valencia, who saw Portugal international André Gomes join Barcelona this summer for £29.3 million plus bonuses, are under pressure to sell due to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

Mustafi may well be next on the list, with the Evening Standard reporting that Manchester City’s Eliaquim Mangala is now being lined up as the German’s replacement.

Mangala’s agent, Jorge Mendes, holds strong ties with the the La Liga club hoping to land the former FC Porto centre back on loan.

City, however, who today completed the signing of Everton’s John Stones for £47.5 million, are rumoured to prefer selling Mangala outright.

Former Valencia defender Raúl Albiol, currently at Napoli, has also been linked with a comeback in days gone by.