Two clubs with very different financial models clash on Sunday as the oil-funded big spenders of Manchester City take on the frugal “socialist” approach of Arsenal.
No club has arguably been more impacted by the injection of wealth into City’s coffers since their takeover in 2008 than Arsenal. Not only has City’s presence pushed Arsenal further away from challenging for the Premier League title, but they have also had to accept several of their first-team players leaving for the riches on offer at Eastlands.
Yet, ironically, while the wages that City are prepared to pay players has doubtless frustrated Arsenal fans, the buildup to Sunday’s meeting has been dominated by City supporters’ outrage at the ticket prices charged at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
Nearly a third of the visitors’ ticket allocation has been returned due to fans’ refusal to pay the princely sum of £62.
As for matters on the pitch, Arsenal fans look likely to avoid losing another player to riches elsewhere with reports suggesting that Theo Walcott is set to sign a new contract.
After a disappointing 1-1 draw with Southampton last time out in the league, manager Arsene Wenger will need Walcott and the rest of his side to show the form that saw them win their previous four league encounters. With a match against City on Sunday and Chelsea the week after, Wenger is aware that his side are embarking on a much tougher run of fixtures.
“We know this a vital period for us,” he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “We are on a positive run. We still lack a bit of confidence in some situations and I feel our team will be very dangerous if we have full confidence.
“We are not far from it but we need another positive result in a big game to be completely confident and believe in our ability to come back.”
With Yaya Toure away on African Cup of Nations duty, it also promises to be a vital period for City as they look to keep Manchester United’s in their sights at the top of the Premier League. Already seven points behind, a further slip up could be potentially fatal to their hopes of retaining the title.
To make matters worse for City manager Roberto Mancini, Sergio Aguero will also miss the clash with Arsenal through injury. Absent too will be former Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri.
Arsenal will await a late fitness test on Olivier Giroud, while Abou Diaby and Andre Santos remain sidelined.
D: Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs
M: Wilshere, Arteta
Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski
Manchester City (probable)
D: Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy
M: Garcia, Barry
Milner, Tevez, Silva
Prediction: Arsenal have been one of this season’s most unpredictable teams as epitomized by their thrilling 7-3 victory over Newcastle being closely followed by a listless draw with Southampton.
The Gunners still struggle to break down strong defenses and with City missing their star striker, Aguero, goal-mouth action may be at a premium at the Emirates. Without Yaya Toure in the midfield, there doesn’t look to be too much between these sides and a repeat of the draw at the Etihad earlier in the season could well be on the cards.
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter will kick-off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.