Arsenal travel to the Manchester where they’ll face Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday.
The Gunners are coming off their first loss in the Premier League since the opening game of the season. City are coming off their first win since losing twice in a row.
Arsenal currently sit a point above City and the consequences of the match are far reaching for both teams’ quest to win the title. An Arsenal win would put them four above City, keeping them at least level with second place Liverpool, and at the most six points behind Chelsea. An Arsenal loss would widen the gap between the Gunners and their top two foes, while City would leap frog them in the standings.
A City loss would put a serious dent in their title hopes and could possible leave them 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, and four behind Arsenal and Liverpool. All in all, this is a must win for both clubs.
Arsenal will bring the same squad to Manchester that we saw at Goodison Park. Aaron Ramsey is a week away from returning to the squad with either a toe or hamstring injury (reports on his injury are conflicting). Danny Welbeck will be back in full training next week, as well, and could feature for the first team in early January. The same goes for Per Mertesacker.
With nothing changing in terms of player availability, Wenger is likely to field the same starting 11 that faced Everton on Tuesday.
Here is Arsenal’s most probable starting lineup on Sunday against Manchester City.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech starts in goal. Sunday’s matchup is usually a high scoring affair and history tells us neither side’s keeper will come out of the match with a clean sheet.
Right Back – Bellerin
Hector Bellerin starts at right back. In his first start since injuring his ankle, Bellerin was expectedly sluggish on Tuesday. With a full 90-minutes behind him coupled with five days rest, expect a sharper Bellerin on Sunday. His pace will come in handy against the speedy and healthy again Raheem Sterling.
Center Backs – Gabriel & Koscielny
Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny start at the heart of defense. Arsenal clearly missed the aggression of Shkodran Mustafi on Tuesday, but his absence was not why his team lost. Gabriel is a capable Premier League experienced defender, who is good enough to fill in for Mustafi. Koscielny is arguably the best center back in England this season, so Arsenal is equipped to handle any injury that comes their way.
The absence of Sergio Agüero, currently serving a four-match suspension, will help Arsenal’s cause, but Koscielny and Gabriel will have to deal with the talented Kelechi Iheanacho, and the always dangerous Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva. This will be a challenging match for Arsenal’s back four.
Left Beck – Monreal
Nacho Monreal starts on the left. He didn’t have the best of games on Tuesday and will look to prove himself against de Bruyne.
Defensive Mid – Coquelin
Francis Coquelin starts at defensive mid. He’ll be tasked with breaking up City’s counters and preventing Silva and Yaya Toure from getting the ball. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him tasked with man marking Silva.
Central Mid – Xhaka
Granit Xhaka starts next to Coquelin, continuing what has been a fairly successful partnership. This should be a good test for the Swiss international. Xhaka was excellent in his last important Premier League match against Chelsea, and it would be a huge boost to the club if Xhaka proves himself to be the type of player that excels in big matches.
Xhaka faces a tantalizing midfield battle with Toure.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Mesut Özil starts in attacking midfield, just behind the striker. The German playmaker will look to make amends for missing two clear-cut chances to put Arsenal ahead on Tuesday. Özil has played well against Manchester City in seasons past and will need to step up to the plate if Arsenal are to come away victors
Wide Right – Walcott
Theo Walcott starts on the right. The last time Arsenal lost to City came in a 6-3 capitulation three years ago where Walcott bagged a brace. He’ll hope for a repeat performance, but not result.
Wide Left – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played with energy and drive on Tuesday, but reverted back to a few bad habits, mainly not trusting his teammates. It’s possible Alex Iwobi comes into the side, but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace could be useful against Pablo Zabaleta.
Striker – Alexis
Alexis starts at striker. The Chilean now has 12 goals in the Premier League, putting him in a tie with Diego Costa for top scorer.
Olivier Giroud will start on the bench and will once again serve as Arsenal’s “change of pace” option. The French striker was ineffective in a short appearance on Tuesday but will likely get more starting time next week as Arsenal’s fixture schedule piles up.
Via – Lineup Builder