Cards on the table here. I am feeling rather worried about tonight. The opponents we face are formidable and just like whenever we play United at Old Trafford it doesn’t seem to matter if we’re great – because we lose (last season’s game at the Emirates), we match them – because we lose (the FA Cup game a couple of weeks ago), or we’re terrible – when we lose (the 5-0 hammering at the beginning of last season). The result always seems the same and whilst we have shown really positive signs that we can compete with the best teams in the league, something always seems to happen to us against that lot that seems to prevent us from finally turning that corner.
Last season it was Gabriel’s red card which was for nothing really, as well as the softest of penalties that Silva got to draw them level. If every player went down under the contact we saw last season from Silva, then there’d be a couple of pens a game, yet what we see 99 times out of 100 is the referee laughing it off and telling the player to get get. But not that day. Oh no. That day VAR as the ref to have another forensic look and as soon as he was told that and saw the slightest bit of contact, the referee felt compelled to give the penalty. Let’s just say there was the same level of contact that day as Odegaard on Eriksson for the foul that VAR brough back at Old Trafford this season.
So whether it’s a sending off or dodgy penalty, City have always been able to get over the line against us.
But I hope my recollection of these events is painting a picture as to where my head is at today: I want to roar my head off until I have no voice tonight at The Emirates. I am clocking off early to meet my mates. I am going to get myself worked in to a frenzy ahead of the game with the injustice of it all. Then I am going to shout and scream at every perceived injustice against Arsenal. And in between that? I’m going to sing every single Arsenal song I can think of. I’m going to have no voice at the end of the evening and I hope i’m joined by 55,000 other Arsenal voices. I want us to be so loud that from my corner of the ground – the other side of the away fans – I don’t hear a word of what they are singing. We need to bring the noise tonight. We need to bring the fury.
Arteta has done his bit this week I suspect. In his presser yesterday he talked about the home support upping our numbers akin to playing with 15 tonight. That’s how much the decibels need to be brought up. But not just that, on the sofa, or wherever you watch the game this evening, have the same sense of rage and fire as I do in the ground. Around the world let Arsenal fan voices ring out.
The team needs us.
We NEED these points.
City have won the last five visits to the Emirates. Guardiola hqas won 11 of his 12 Premier League matches against The Arsenal. They come in to this game with all the firepower, few/practically none of their big players injured (don’t believe Haaland won’t start for a second, boys and girls), the media willing them to overtake us so they can all say “see! We told you City would win it and Arsenal will collapse”. Everything is weighted in City’s favour. So we have to bring the heat to prove that we aren’t going everywhere.
For team news I don’t think Arteta changes it. This game is completely different to the last two we’ve played in the league and the stakes are different to the FA Cup tie at the Etihad. Arteta has trusted his players all season and he will do it again. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to make in game tweaks and I think he’ll give Trossard game time tonight, but I suspect he’ll want Saka and Martinelli to have a go at running at Walker and Ake, who I’m assuming will start given that he played so well against Saka in the FA Cup tie. But this time around we’re at home. Saka will feel a foot taller and broader with Arsenal fans singing his name from all corners of the ground. And my hope is that he’ll have a better go at Ake than he got in Manchester. On the other side Martinelli will want more space to show his form was just a slight blip of late, but he’s up against a surprisingly still rapid Kyle Walker who will be able to keep pace with him I suspect.
That’s the battle in their final third, but the big challenge will come in our defensive third too. De Bruyne, Haaland, Alvarez, Grealish, Mahrez – whatever combination Guardiola starts with, they are going to give us problems and Guardiola will know that Zinchenko leaves space for the likes of Mahrez to run in behind. So we’re going to need to find an answer to that. How Arteta does that I don’t really know. That array of firepower will, inevitably, score this evening, but the question will be whether or not we can get enough to keep pace or beat them.
I’ll not link to any of the sites I’ve looked at, but the bookies are making City favourites across the board. The home advantage means little it seems, as well as the fact that we’re top, which is why I’m even more nervous about today. Because the bookies make money by being right and they aren’t going to go against Arsenal at home – unbeaten all season – unless they can see through the numbers and the data that City are hitting form and we are wobbling.
It’s for that reason that, unfortunately, if you told me you would offer me a draw right now to play the game, I would bite your hand off. What I fear is an early City goal, then them getting a second as we commit numbers forward, then City do what Arteta has described as “300,000 passes” previously when you want to kill a game flat. City are masters of that and it is because of that, that I feel a genuine concern that the script of this evening has already been written before we’ve even had a chance to knock the ball around on the green stuff.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope Arteta has a master plan. I hope that the home support can edged us over the line. I just worry that we are now starting to see that this brilliant young team still has a lot of learning to do.
Fingers crossed for this evening.
Catch you all tomorrow for a de-brief/post-mortem.
Have a good one.
The good money will be on a pen or two courtesy of the disgusting creature that is Grealish. Awful piece of work. Flails about like a fish just been landed and has no morals whatsoever.