It is Monday night football for Arsenal so we’ve got the whole weekend to ponder over our clash against fellow title rivals Manchester City. And that means I can take some time out to really enjoy Jose Mourinho and Chelsea’s troubles. And he’s been sacked!! I know their loss this Monday meant we aren’t top of the table anymore but even with all of Leicester’s heroics, we should get the better of them come end of the season. In a season where Mourinho has gone from needless jibes at Wenger to refereeing conspiracies to that quite extraordinary seven minute rant, it was just insanely hilarious watching Jose Mourinho being ‘betrayed’ by his players after he had ‘taken them to the level of champions’ last year, which according to him, isn’t their level! Not to mention blaming ‘disgraceful’ ball boys. I mean, talk of being petulant!
None of Wenger’s teams since moving to the Emirates has been as strong as this Chelsea squad. He’s guided so many average teams to top four finishes and has never allowed any bad phase to spiral out of control the way Mourinho did and that’s a testament to Arsene’s man management and motivational, not to mention tactical, skills. And that Mourinho ended up getting the sack is no surprise. Anyway, that’s my two cents on Maureen I just had to write about as I’d be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t.
Monday night will be a title-defining clash between two teams who look the best equipped to win it come May. Sergio Aguero is back in training and that City attack of Aguero, Sterling, Silva, Toure and De Bruyne looks really scary. They haven’t been that consistent in the league apart from the first few games and like last weekend against Swansea, they’ve nicked a few wins without impressing much. Also in Kompany’s absence, their defence looks vulnerable and it is up to Arsenal to exploit those weaknesses.
We’ve got problems aplenty ourselves, especially the midfield balance with Flamini and Ramsey. Flamini needs to be a lot more disciplined and Ramsey has to consider the threat posed by City’s tall, strong and powerful midfielders before he commits himself forward. Ramsey and Flamini is a partnership that will work if they find the right discipline as a duo so we can be quietly confident that the three games they’ve played as a pair would have taught them as much.
I got in touch with Ric Turner of Bluemoon and he took some time out to answer a few questions for us. Take a read below to find out what he has to say about Pep Guardiola and City’s approach to the game at the Emirates as he makes a surprising pick for City’s player of the season so far.
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- The rumours surrounding Pep Guardiola to City are gathering steam? What’s the fans take on this? And how does that reflect on Manuel Pellegrini?
I think it’s fair to say that most fans are excited by the prospect of Guardiola taking over at City. He is one of the best coaches in world football, and would take us up another level. There is, of course, no guarantee that it will definitely happen but City have been in pursuit of him for a long time. I think Pellegrini has always been kept in the loop on this, and his contract extension in the summer was a protectionist move rather than a firm commitment.
- City probably made the biggest signings of the summer. How have the new recruits fared?
Very well, on the whole Kevin De Bruyne was excellent when he first arrived, although his form has tailed off a little of late and he looks fatigued having played virtually every game. Raheem Sterling has shown flashes of brilliance but is inconsistent, which is not surprising given his age. Fabian Delph was a bargain at £8m, whilst Nicolas Otamendi is a good old fashioned centre half who relishes a battle. He’s still adapting to the pace of the Premier League though.
- How would you rate City’s season so far? City haven’t been as consistent as most expected them to be?
It’s been a frustrating season so far. On the one hand, we topped our Champions’ League group for the first time (and reaped the reward in the second round draw) and are through to the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup. However, our league form has been inconsistent, with some crushing defeats (notably against Spurs, Liverpool and Stoke). We’re still in touching distance of the top of the league, but we need to put together a decent run of victories. Injuries have played their part, but with the squad of players we have you’d have to say we’re underachieving in the league.
- Who has been City’s player of the season of the year?
Fernandinho for me. He doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves, as the attention tends to be on the higher profile players in our squad, but he quietly goes about his business and is an excellent central midfielder.
- What’s your opinion on Arsenal this season?
As always, they’ve played some great football at times but like us have suffered with injuries and been inconsistent as a result. I think this is your best opportunity in a while to win the league.
- One Arsenal player you’d love to have at City?
It’s an obvious answer, but it’d have to be Alexis Sanchez. We were linked with him when he was at Udinese, and you could tell even then that he would be a great success in the Premier League. He’s a fabulous player.
- What will City’s tactical approach be at the Emirates?
With our recent defensive difficulties, a pragmatic approach at The Emirates is called for. We should play three central midfielders, and look to hit you on the break. That’s not Pellegrini’s way though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we try and play an open attacking game. I fear the worst if we do.
- What’s your take the Premier League’s quality in general? Only City and Arsenal look like they can be consistent through to May though you can’t discount Leicester?
It’s been a strange season generally. I think the influx of money into the Premier League has reduced the gulf in quality between the top and bottom, and although it’s a cliche, any team really is capable of beating any other. That said, I didn’t foresee Chelsea’s remarkable collapse and was expecting much more from van Gaal’s United. Leicester have been a breath of fresh air, but will inevitably fall away, I think it’s a two horse race between us and yourselves.
- Predictions for the season?
I would say City to pip Arsenal to the title hopefully. I think the top four will be City, Arsenal, United and Spurs.
- Predictions for the game?
Our record at The Emirates (and Highbury before) isn’t good, so I’m not particularly confident. You’re in good form, whilst we’re all over the place defensively at the moment. Obviously with the quality we have, a win isn’t beyond us but I’d snatch your hand off for a draw as things stand.