Match preview: A pressing matter at the Grove

‘Dzeko and the moneymen’

Interesting how times have changed: Man City at home would for years have failed to set the pulse racing but with all the money spent there (and you might not approve but there’s not a lot we can do about it, witness the incoming £27m Edin Dzeko), allied to their current league position, there can be no denying it’s a huge test for both clubs.

I wouldn’t say a loss puts either team’s title hopes on life support – that would be over-Skying things – but for Arsenal, a defeat would be our sixth of the season with only half the campaign gone with Utd stretching away at the top.

Last season, the official match report on Arsenal.com used the words ‘mundane’, ‘drab’ and called the City front line ‘utterly anonymous’, all of which rather accurately and neatly describes it. It was a dismal game, with Man City sitting back all match and Arsenal, recently bruised after the now infamous 3-2 loss at Wigan, unable to find a way through. If I remember it correctly, I spent much of the game wistfully daydreaming about going to the dentist and and filling in my tax return.

Of course, since then we have put in one of our best performances of the season at Middle Eastlands, comfortably winning 3-0 albeit against ten men for most of the game.

So it will be interesting how Mancini approaches the game tonight. I’m sure there will be a fair bit of caution, but he can’t possibly be as teeth-grindingly negative as he was last season. With Man Utd winning last night, a point doesn’t help either side much.

The two teams come from opposite ends of the clean sheet spectrum but both are on a decent run of form and this has all the makings of a great game. Whether a great game will be made with those makings – well, who knows.

Wenger will play a side as close as possible to that which handsomely defeated Chelsea and Birmingham, of that we can be sure. There’s no way he will make a huge amount of changes for such a big game, and there’s no need if you ask me – Fabregas, Djourou, van Persie, Walcott and Fabianski have all had plenty of time on the sidelines this season already. Even Samir Nasri, our stand-out performer of the season, has only started 75% of our league games.

Above all, we need to play the quick passing, pressing game of recent games (Wigan, you’ll be glad to hear, has been erased from my mind – I find that’s the best way), as when we put in that kind of shift we look a different team altogether.

We’ve shown we can do it. What we now need is for our momentum to build and for our form to continue to improve. There’s a lot at stake. I really can’t wait.

Come on you rip-roarers.


BBC match preview
Guardian Arsenal stats