Manchester City v Arsenal, Premier League, September 12, 2009
This fixture has taken on even greater importance this season as big-spending Manchester City look to buy their way into the Big Four, and many pundits have predicted that Arsenal would be the team to drop out of the Champions League spots.
On the evidence of the 2009/2010 Premier League season so far, Mark Hughesâ€™ side are well capable of finishing in one of the top four positions and whilst Arsenal look good enough to challenge for the title (Gunners are 11/2 to win the Premier League), they cannot afford a second consecutive defeat in Manchester.
Much of the focus ahead of this encounter will surely be trained in on Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor (5/1 to score first). Both players returned to Manchester in midweek as the Ivory Coast and Togo had just one World Cup qualifier and should be buoyed by recent events. Toure was named as the Manchester City captain in midweek whilst Adebayor has so far scored in every Premier League game.
This match will be a major test for Cityâ€™s rearguard which is yet to concede a goal this season (City are 23/10 to shut out Arsenal). Shay Given has been in fine fettle in the opening matches of the campaign and could well be one of the best signings bought with the money from Dubai. A back four of Richards, Bridge, Lescott and Toure looks great on paper, how it fares against the free flowing Gunners attack will be an indicator for the rest of the season.
So far City have faced some pretty impotent attacks and Mark Hughes may well start with two enforcers in midfield, likely to be Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong. With Carlos Tevez definitely out, Robinho (if fit from a thigh complaint) will be hoping to replicate his form from this fixture last season when he scored in a 3-0 win in probably Arsenalâ€™s worst performance of the campaign. (Robinho is 9/4 to score.)
Arsene Wenger has captain and talisman Cesc Fabregas (7/2 to score) back, the Spaniard missed the frustrating defeat at Old Trafford but returned for his national team and scored against Estonia on Wednesday night. The events at the end of defeat to United involving Arsene Wenger took up a lot of column inches but ultimately the Gunners played well and should have beaten United. Individual mistakes from Manuel Almunia and Abou Diaby were costly and need to be cut out if Arsenal are to beat the very best.
Alexandre Song (12/1 to score) has been one of the most impressive Arsenal performers this season, the nephew of Rigobert Song looks capable of filling the role filled by the likes of Patrick Vieira, Gilberto Silva and Mathieu Flamini in recent years. Along with Denilson, another improving youngster at the Emirates, the runs from deep by Stephen Ireland (7/2 to score) will have to be closely watched. Ireland did not have the worry of international fixtures in recent days and he also scored against Arsenal in the 3-0 win last season.
Arsenal fans will most likely be most worried about Emmanuel Adebayor. Whilst Kolo Toure was part of the â€œInvinciblesâ€ and was stagnating at the Emirates, the Togo hitman became too big for his boots after just one season and his antics on Football Focus and kissing his shirt last season became tiring for many.
So far this season, all of Emmanuel Adebayorâ€™s goals have come early on in the match, within the opening half hour. A similar outcome would not be a surprise here but expect Arsenal to keep the natural order of things by dominating the latter part of the match when their superior passing and teamwork kicks in.
101gg predicts: Manchester City 1 â€“ Arsenal 2 (8/1)
Full match odds here.