Arsenal are set to play Manchester City twice in the space of a month, with both games having just about equal amount of importance. Before the FA Cup semi final later in April though, Sunday’s League fixture at the Emirates will be at full boil for the Gunners. Having lost 4 out of their last 5, the last thing fans need is another no-show at home. Here are the three main battles Arsenal’s men will be looking to come out on top, if they are to have any hope to get 3 points this time around:
Leroy Sané vs Hector Bellerin
It’s high time someone said it: Bellerin is having a bad season. His pace and ability to go forward aside, the defensive aspect of a right sided ‘defender’ has been anything but up to the standards he set in his first two years. In stark contrast, Sané has been a joy to watch, and his rise to the top of many FPL teams began against Arsenal in the reverse League fixture. His goal started things off for City in that game and he will be looking to do the same on Sunday, unless the young Spaniard gets his mojo back. Arsenal have previously gone up against City with a counter-attacking mindset which worked for a half in December as well, but the directness of Sané against a half-willing to defend Bellerin was barely match up. His meteoric rise at such a young age may be special, but it cannot save him from long due criticism of his consistent poor defensive performances. This weekend is as good a time as any for Bellerin to get his act together and put in a good, much better shift than he has till now.
Mesut Özil vs David Silva
With Kevin De Bruyne set to miss the fixture due to a groin strain, all of the midfield creativity is bound to come from City’s Mr. Reliable-David Silva. It is with a heavy heart I say this, but how Arsenal fans wish they could say the same about the returning Mesut Özil. The German midfielder featured in the international break and is set to make a full appearance after nearly a month of absence. Having recently given an interview stating he felt “singled out” every time the team lost, his confidence is rather questionable for a game of this magnitude. Both creative maestros will be looking to up-end the other as it will come down to their eye-of-the-needle passes deciding which way the tide turns. The Spaniard’s work rate is way higher than his German counterpart, but a fresh Özil may just be what Arsenal have been lacking all this time.
Alexis vs Stones/Otamendi
Even a 7000 km trip cannot keep out the Chilean when he is in this sort of a form and Arsène Wenger would be foolish to repeat the mistake of not starting him in a crucial game. The only bright and shining light at Arsenal this season is all set to lead the line again this weekend, which is sure to give the likes of Stones and Otamendi something to worry about. Olivier Giroud maybe scoring for fun for France, but he would be a much more welcome guest for the City duo to deal with than Sanchez. The man in the news for all the transfer talk currently has 22 goals and 14 assists in all competitions this season and that is precisely why the likes of Chelsea cannot wait to get their hands on him. Wenger’s bold claim that he is not worried about Alexis is barely calming down the fan base but he will be hoping for a strong performance from his star man at the Emirates. Not for nothing, a man of the match performance in front of the home crowd from the Chilean forward may just give the Frenchman some breathing space after the events of the last month.