Arsenal vs Manchester City: Another early test for both sides

nasri-welbeck

We were on a break! And now, finally, we are not. It’s a sad state of affairs that non-tournament international football has become such a chore but a Premier League hiatus so early in the season is an irritation by anyone’s standards. Thankfully, we’ve an absolute cracker of a game to thrust us back into the swing of things.

Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off sees the champions, Manchester City, travel to the Emirates to take on an Arsenal side who have suffered a stuttering start to the season. Despite a comparatively low-key transfer window, City’s is a squad still brimming with talent and although their early-season momentum was disrupted by a home defeat to Stoke, they remain formidable opponents. Arsenal, however, are yet to click into gear. They’ve collected a win and two draws from their league fixtures, and in none of those games have they looked particularly convincing.

 

Arsenal v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Arsenal win – 37/20

Manchester City win – 13/10

Draw – 12/5

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

But early results can be deceptive; Alexis Sánchez has enjoyed a steady start to his Arsenal career and has already begun to repay his £35 million transfer fee with two important goals. One senses he will only get better and better as the season wears on. Even aside from Sánchez, Arsenal possess an abundance of attacking talent. Although they are yet to hit top form, it is unlikely the likes of Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain will stay silent for long. Add a soon-to-return Theo Walcott to the mix and Arsenal have some of the most potent attacking options in the division. Olivier Giroud is admittedly a big miss for Arsenal, and it is unlikely he will play until the New Year, but Arsène Wenger will hope new signing Danny Welbeck replaces the Frenchman’s goals and provides the Gunners with a suitable line-leader.

Welbeck, fresh from a match winning performance in Basel on Monday, is set to make his debut against the Citizens on Saturday which should provide an interesting sub-plot to the game after his £16 million deadline-day switch from boyhood club Manchester United. While not prolific in his time at Old Trafford, Welbeck is a player who can play in a number of advanced positions and, in Giroud’s absence, is expected to be given the central-striker role he was so often denied at United. His pace in behind makes him a valuable asset in that position and, if he can discover a finishing touch, he could significantly improve his goal-scoring record – especially with such an array of creative talent behind him.

 

However, despite all the potential for fun and games in this Arsenal side, they will have to improve quickly to be able to live with City. Manuel Pellegrini’s squad are looking as invigorated as ever as they set about the task of trying to retain their Premier League crown and, after finally bolstering their occasionally-shaky centre of defence with the capture of Eliaquim Mangala, look in the perfect position to do so. Another new defensive recruit, Bacary Sagna, will expect a frosty reception on his first return to the Emirates since leaving Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer. Those sub-plots just keep on coming don’t they?

It isn’t City’s defence that will have kept them near the top of the league come season’s end though, it is their incredible range of attacking talent, perhaps one that eclipses even Arsenal’s. David Silva, Samir Nasri (human sub-plot) and Jesús Navas are all supreme creators and will provide chances for the returning Sergio Agüero and one of either Edin Džeko or Stevan Jovetić. And then there is the tour de force that is Yaya Touré. It is likely he will never better the sensational form he enjoyed last season, but his superb vision, power and ability to control games mean he is still very much City’s driving force.

 

Touré will be partnered by either Fernandinho or new addition Fernando and whichever central-midfield combination Pellegrini opts for may prove too much for Arsenal. For all their creativity, the London club has failed to strengthen in the only area it desperately needed to. They lack a high-quality holding midfielder who can protect the defence; Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are not the answers. Once again, it appears it is Wenger’s dogged assertion that no problem, however big or small, can be solved with the addition of another attacking midfielder, that could put the kibosh on Arsenal’s ultimate ambitions.

But in all honesty, Saturday’s game is very hard to read. Both teams are yet to hit their stride and while Arsenal could find themselves vulnerable in midfield, they have more than enough to cause City problems of their own. This is a huge test for two sides with title ambitions and could provide an intriguing assessment about how well equipped they both are to achieve that. Whatever happens, I’m just glad I don’t have to watch England again for a little while.

 

Betting Instinct tip – With two formidable attacks and questions remaining over Arsenal’s defensive solidity, more than 3.5 goals can be backed at 7/4 with AllYouBet.ag.

 

 JACK CHATTERTONJack C avatar is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter  or  Google+.

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Man City Favoured to Top the EPL as 2014 Begins

 

Samir Nasri finds the net in a 3-0 City win over Swansea earlier this season.

Samir Nasri finds the net in a 3-0 City win over Swansea earlier this season.

The second half of the Premier League season kicks off this New Year’s Day with the clash of Swansea and Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium with the visitors knowing that they can go top of the league if they avoid defeat in this match. City would prefer to win this game to give themselves a two point gap over Arsenal, who face Cardiff in a 3pm kickoff, and give themselves the best chance at staying top should the Gunners slip up at The Emirates, but will they be able to do so having failed to win either of their two Premier League visits to the Liberty Stadium or even score a goal?

GR88.com certainly believe that the 2011/12 Premier League winners can win this match as they lean towards the away win in the opening match of 2014, but with City missing their injured top scorer Sergio Aguero and suspended David Silva for this game can they live up to their favourites billing and go to the summit of the league table?

Swansea v Man City Odds:

Home Victory – 5.00

Level at Full Time – 3.80

Away Win – 1.61

(Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

Even though they are odds-on favourites to win this match I feel that City offer plenty of value in this Swansea v Man City game as they are in outstanding form both in general and away from home now that they have overcome their away day teething troubles under Manuel Pellegrini. They struggled at the start of the season away from the Etihad Stadium as they defeated only Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League as well as West Ham in the EPL in their first nine away games of the season. Since then though they have turned things around nicely and they have found the net on 14 occasions as they have won four and drawn one of their last five away games, including beating Champions League winners Bayern Munich in German. They only issue that I can see with City’s away form is that they are not tight enough defensively with eight conceded in their last five away trips and just one clean sheet in 11. Will their attacking abilities see them through this Swansea v Man City game though?

Swansea’s recent form does not make happy reading for fans of the Welsh club as they are without a victory in seven matches and at home they have claimed just five wins in 14 games, with three of those coming in the early stages of their Europa League campaign. In the Premier League they have defeated only Sunderland and Newcastle but on the other side of things they have lost just once in their last six Premier League games at the Liberty Stadium. The two wins against the Tyne and Wear derby combatants are joined by draws against West Ham, Stoke and Hull while their last home match saw them edged out by the impressive Everton.

Armed with this reasonable home record of late and two clean sheets in two matches against City in Premier League clashes at the Liberty Stadium can Swansea upset the odds in the first match of this new year and dent Man City’s chances at reclaiming their Premier League title? I am not convinced as this City side does not know how to stop scoring goals with an average of almost three goals a game this season in the league. I:see City outstripping this Swansea side in front of goal and cruising to an easy win as they begin 2014 in the same fashion that they ended 2013.

Back Man City to beat Swansea by at least two goals (Man City -0.75) and return to the top of the Premier League @ 1.77 in the GR88 Sportsbook!

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.