Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Saturday November 22 2008
City of Manchester Stadium
After a week full of turmoil, a nice distraction for the Arsenal faithful arrives on Saturday versus a new look Manchester City. With a reported nine first team members out of Arsenals squad for a wide variety of reasons, Arsenal will literally be down to the squads skin and bones for this fixture. City have failed to deliver the expected promise that preceded them since the transfer deadline, and Mark Hughes' side will potentially see this as the perfect opportunity to right their ship, as Arsenal are nowhere near their best.
Arsene addressed the need to get back on track asap. "I want us to come back to winning ways as quickly as possible and then get our level back slowly," he said. "To speak about titles at the moment is a little bit premature. Let's win the next game and then the next one and if we do that until January then maybe we can talk about the title.
"Let's just face reality, get our sleeves rolled up, show commitment and show that we can compete.
"In two weeks we have had nearly everything - the super high and the super low. From this we know we have the potential but as well that we have not had the consistency.
"I think our season will now be linked with how well we can deal with that kind of mental problem.
'I am not worried, I am focused on the next game. I know you cannot swim against what is statistically right [in the table]. But it puts us in the situation where of course we have to win games, and we have to beat the big teams, we know that.
Also an under fire Mark Hughes, received a generous backing from Wenger pre-match. 'Money is a very important ingredient and it looks like they have unlimited resources. That is why they will be a threat,' said the Frenchman.
'You cannot have unlimited resources and not be under any pressure of success, but I think he (Hughes) is capable to achieve that and I am confident he is the right man to do it.
'It is always a question of quantity. A little bit more money will certainly not move the players to Manchester City. But much more can decide some clubs to sell important players.'
Two key members in the City defense, Richard Dunne and Gelson Fernades, are back from suspension though the Swiss international faces a late fitness test. Starting keeper Joe Hart is out for the Citizens, but Danny Sturridge has recovered from an ankle problem and might play a part.
Was there really anyone else I could possibly of picked? This typical selection for player to watch has been intensified in the past day because reports in the Arsenal blogosphere say that Gavin Hoyte will be the player to step in for injured pair, Eboue and Sagna. It will be baptism by fire for the young defender but with his speed he can stand his own with the tricky Robinho.
Obviously the big news is that Gallas has not traveled and will be stripped of his captaincy. I expect Almunia to wear the armband, only because a certain Spaniard is suspended.
Here is Arsenals missing in action list: Kolo Toure (calf), Cesc Fabregas (suspension), Theo Walcott (shoulder), Emmanuel Eboue (knee), Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) and Eduardo (ankle). Carlos Vela and Emmanuel Adebayor will be rested.
Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Hoyte, Djourou, Silvestre, Clichy, Diaby, Song, Denilson, Nasri, van Persie, Bendtner
This is an extremely conservative line up at its best, because I would like to see Ramsey and Wilshere come in for Song and Diaby respectively.
For all the reasons outlined in City's player to watch, is why you should keep an eye on the Young Gun. He is faster, more physically dominant, and a better defender than his brother, and he will hardly ever get a better chance to show his quality than today versus a world renowned superstar in Robinho.
This will be Almunia's 100th appearance for Arsenal.
Home and away
League (inc PL): Man City 41 wins, Arsenal 82, Draws 37
Prem: Man City 1 win, Arsenal 18, Draws 3
at Man City only
League (inc PL): Man City 28 wins, Arsenal 32, Draws 20
Prem: Man City 1 win, Arsenal 9, Draws 1
The official for the match will be Alan Wiley. Wiley has officiated nine Barclays Premier League matches handing out 1 red and 24 yellows, which gives him a reasonable 2.78 card per game average.
Who knows what Arsenal will show up today. I'm going to have to say a 2-2 draw.
25/11 (Tue)- Dynamo Kyiv (H)- Champions League
30/11 (Sun)- Chelsea (A)- Premier League
2/12 (Tue)- Burnley (A)- Carling Cup
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Date:Saturday November 22 2008
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