Manchester City. Hhmmm.
Once a team that I think many of us had a soft side for, a family club that seemed to have the humour and humility that their big red brothers lack in abundance, now a team we have all come to resent copiously. As if it wasn’t enough that our players were courted continually by Barcelona, Manchester City stepped in to tempt our players with promises of bottomless cash pits to swim in a la Scrooge McDuck Paper. Adebayor, Toure, Na$ri and Gael Clichy were all tempted to move north after being made into the players they were with Arsenal FC. So long, goodbye, see you suckers, bon voyage, toodles etc etc.
The blow of losing players of that quality, no matter how greedy they turn out to be, is softened ever so much when you see the exceptional quality that our team is showing at the moment in many different facets. The speed in our play has hastened, helped by the supreme Mikel Arteta at the bottom of our midfield three. Acting as the link between defence and midfield and keeping the play moving at all times, the long lofted ball up to Van Persie that Song craved has now disappeared and been replaced with sharp and incisive passing. This will be key today.
It will be extremely interesting to see how Arsenal approach this game today. With our new found defensive shape, playing in two very narrow banks of four forcing play out to the wings, we could sit back and play the waiting game as City will surely look to take control of the game and boss proceedings like they normally do at home.
This move matches the approach we took at Liverpool and the second half in Montepellier when facing heavy pressure, and we could look to spring the counter attack that was fruitful for all of our goals in these two games. This is not an approach we could have dreamed about whilst we had Alex ‘World’s Best Attacking Defensive Midfielder’ Song last season, allied with our near abandonment of any defensive shape. It’s a risky stratergy to take but as Arteta has stated, we have to learn how to win ugly and I will take a victory that has hit every branch of the Ugly Tree on its way down.
What would I like to see? I’d like to see us take the game to City as we do have the players capable of keeping possession and bossing territory. You would assume that after having a five day rest after the exhausting Champions League exploits would preclude the inclusion of same midfield and forward starting line up that took to the field in France.
The way we came out in that game was to keep possession, silence the home crowd and gain confidence as the game wore on. Key to this will be not conceeding sloppily, like the hasty nature of Vermaelan’s challenge that ceeded the penalty kick that was dispatched a la Pirlo. From what both teams have shown this season, we should respect City but we have no need to fear them. Arsene Wenger loves to preach the virtues of concentrating purely on your own strenghts no matter who the opposition are, and if we play to ours we can get a result.
It’s all going to be very tense, and I cannot guarantee that my supremely white boxers will be the same colour come the end of the game. But this is what we crave over the Arsenal-less summers. Big games. And they don’t come much bigger than today.
I love Arsenal,
and I love you too.------------
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