Manchester City and Arsenal face each other Monday, and a cloud of questions loom over the blue half of Manchester as managerial changes seem to be inevitable, injuries take their toll, and the arrival of upstart Leicester City all stand in the way of a third title in five years for the Citizens.
Arsenal have given City plenty of trouble under Manuel Pellegrini, and Arsene Wenger has seemingly gotten the best of the Chilean manager. The last time these two sides faced each other was in January at the Etihad, Arsenal were the victor by a score of 0-2 as City were without Yaya Toure to control the midfield. In fact, since City defeated Arsenal 6-3 back in 2013, they have not beaten The Gunners in four attempts from all competitions.
City come off a victory against Swansea that should have seen shared points between the two clubs as a last minute goal by Kelechi Iheanacho (or Yaya Toure, depending on who you ask) secured a win to an otherwise abysmal defensive performance to close out the game. While Arsenal made short work of Aston Villa despite numerous errors, they were very efficient offensively and really had no worries as Aaron Ramsey continued his transformation into a formidable holding midfielder.
Toure's play and positioning will be a key aspect of City's midfield, given that David Silva is near 100%, expect Toure to be the link between the Spaniard and the back four, and his invaluable experience could help stretch the Arsenal midfield that is without Francis Coquelin, who made a name for himself in the January contest between these two clubs. With Aaron Ramsey playing in the hole for Arsenal, a key point will be drawing him out and opening up space for the likes of Silva, Sterling and De Bruyne.
Sergio Aguero makes his return against Arsenal, and while it's expected that he will not play the full ninety minutes, he will provide another attacking option for the club who has seemed to find a decent rhythm without him. However for City, the more valuable player at this point is Captain Vincent Kompany.
Without Kompany, the back line has been nothing short of embarrassing at certain moments as a lack of discipline has been shown by all three center backs who have played during his absence. Eliaquim Mangala has regressed since beginning the season as a tank, and Nico Otamendi and Martin Demichelis have not found the partnership needed to keep opposing players from cutting them open.
This is a particularly concerning aspect of Monday's match, as Mesut Özil will be looking to dissect the Blue defense just as he has done for the greater part of the 2015-16 campaign. Özil leads the league in assists, and has provided a varying amount of service to Olivier Giroud, who has seen a recent tear in form.
The key for City will remain in the back, and the same could be said for their opponents. However it will likely come down to managerial strategy and discipline on the part of the Citizens. There's no doubt that Arsenal will come at them, and there's no doubt that with that fast and expansive pitch in North London that the Gunners will attempt to stretch City into a possession heavy game. City need to capitalize on all chances that they get, and strike with potency, as a victory will still only leave them a full three points in second place behind Leicester, whom they face on 29 December.
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