What to Watch This Weekend: Man City v Arsenal

October 23, 2010 — by Suman

Man City v Arsenal - probable starting lineups (via the Guardian)

The CultFootball team went over the list of this weekend’s televised matches, and frankly not a whole lot jumped out at us–except of course the big Premier League match of the weekend: Arsenal at Manchester City.  The match kicks off Sunday at 4pm GMT–for those of us in the US that translates to 11am ET, televised on FSC.

Why is this the match of the weekend?  Just take a look at the top half of the table:

Team Pld W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Chelsea 9 7 1 1 25 2 23 22
2 Manchester City 8 5 2 1 12 5 7 17
3 Tottenham Hotspur 9 4 3 2 11 8 3 15
4 West Bromwich Albion 9 4 3 2 13 15 -2 15
5 Arsenal 8 4 2 2 18 10 8 14
6 Manchester United 8 3 5 0 18 11 7 14
7 Sunderland 9 2 6 1 8 7 1 12
8 Bolton Wanderers 9 2 6 1 13 13 0 12

(The table is also via the Guardian, specifically their Stats Centre.  Click thru on any individual team in the table to see all sorts of data and stats–and in particular some interesting data visualization under “Current league form” and “League position analysis”).

By our reckoning, Man City and Arsenal are two of four teams giving chase to favorites and early front-runners Chelsea for the Premiership title this season (we like West Brom, but doubt they’ll stick around the Big Five–and we don’t see sides like Sunderland or Bolton climbing up among them).  Hence the importance of this match, as 2nd place Man City will look to win to stay two points behind Chelsea (who won on Saturday), while Arsenal will need a win to keep from falling further behind Man City and Chelsea, and from allowing Spurs and West Brom (and probably Man U) to jump above them in the standings.

The table/title chase is just further motivation for what will hopefully be an entertaining match between two very talented teams. A look at the Guardian’s squad sheet of probable starters above shows that (also useful to have open during the match are the current squad lists of both clubs: here is the page for this match, and the Wikipedia entries for the current squads are here and here).

Fabregas leads the way for Arsenal--including in the stretching circle, apparently

Among the players to watch: for Arsenal, captain Cesc Fabregas returns to Premier League action after nearly a month on the sideline due to injury.  He played most of Arsenal’s Champions League match mid-week against Shaktar Donetsk, and is the creative force that pulls together Arsenal’s talented attack: Andrei Arshavin, and the youngsters Samir Nasri and Maroune Chamakh.  It’s a shame though that 18-year old boy wonder Jack Wilshere will have to sit out this match, as well as Arsenal’s next two, due to the red card he received last Sunday.  In his stead in the midfield the Guardian seems to think we’ll likely see Brazilian Denilson–although Abou Diaby and Tomáš Rosický have both played a lot more in the Arsenal midfield this season than Denilson has.  In fact, Arsenal’s squad stats seem to indicate that Denilson is the odd man out in Arsenal’s crowded midfield so far this season, despite how ever much Wenger loves him and his passing ratio.

(An extended aside on Jack Wilshere, even though we won’t be seeing him in action today: Wilshere has been increasingly impressive through the beginning of this season, but especially Arsenal’s two matches last week in, resulting in much praise and press (e.g, “Wilshere has the talent to define his generation“; presumably meaning the “next generation” that will take over from the ultimately disappointing “golden generation” of English football (Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry).  In fact, there are rumblings of an entire coterie of talented English youngsters on Arsenal’s reserve squad, such that some are saying that Arsene Wenger is grooming England’s next golden generation.  More on that in a later post, perhaps.)

For Man City, striker Carlos Tevez is their captain and attacking talisman.  Though it appears he’s starting to get some help in attack, with Emmanuel Adebayor scoring a hat trick last Thursday in Europa League action (albeit against Polish side Lech Poznań), and David Silva seems to be coming into form and getting more comfortable playing in the Premier League, after coming over during the summer from Spanish side Valencia.

Tevez came across town from Manchester United two years ago (and amid all the Wayne Rooney/Man U drama last week was supposedly lobbying for Man City to make an attempt to bring Rooney across too), while Adebayor was lured away from Arsenal, the club that initially brought him into the Premier League in 2003 from France, at age 19.

(That has led to some drama, in particular when Man City played at the Emirates towards the beginning of last season, just after Adebayor had made the switch. Adebayor scored for his new club against his old club on their pitch–and then ran the length of the field in order to slide and celebrate in front of the Arsenal supporters!

It’s not just Tevez, Silva, and Adebayo that Man City have signed away from other big clubs for big money over the past two years. Man City essentially bought the entire squad we’ll see on the pitch today in the time period, using the seemingly infinitely deep pockets of the Abu Dhabi United Group and its owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.  Vincent Kompany was signed in August 2008, with Wayne Bridge and Nigel de Jong signed in January 2009.  During the summer of 2009, Man City spent over £100 million on bringing in Adebayor, Tévez, Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Joleon Lescott, and Kolo Touré (also signed away from Arsenal, which signed him directly from Côte d’Ivoire in 2002, at age 21).  Then this past summer they spent even more on acquiring Silva, Jérôme Boateng, Yaya Touré (Kolo’s younger brother), Aleksandar Kolarov, James Milner, and Mario Balotelli (though the latter has made only one brief appearance for Man City so far, due to injuries).

See below for video highlights from each side’s most recent Premier League match: Arsenal’s victory over Birmingham City, which featured some of that stellar play by Jack Wilshere, in particular in combination with Chamakh, which leads to a fantastic goal for the latter; and Man City’s 3-2 victory over Blackpool, in which Tevez scored twice in his typically scrappy manner (one of them assisted by Silva btw)–but it’s the 3rd late goal by Silva that’s the one to see, a fantastic individual effort.

Arsenal 3 – 1 Birmingham City (16 Oct 2010)

Man City 3 – 2 Blackpool (17 Oct 2010)

Video: PL Highlights: Blackpool/Man City