Preview: City v Arsenal

City entertain Arsenal with a 100% record this season, and as the only side in England yet to concede a goal. If City can come through the next two fixtures with those statistics intact, then many will feel the club are truly set to challenge for trophies. However it underlines the strength of the ‘top four’ that in the eyes of most neutrals City will be going into both games as underdogs.

Much of the focus against Arsenal will be on Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor. Prior to kick off, it will surely feel strange for Toure to be shaking hands with Fabregas as captain of the opposing side, even if he is sure to get a warm reception from the visiting fans. The same cannot be said for Adebayor who they used to boo even when he played for them, but it’s the Togolese they will fear more as he’s started his City career in outstanding form. He’s also got a point to prove.

Emmanuel Adebayor:

“These sort of things stay with you in your heart and it will stay with me not just for the rest of my career but the rest of my life.

“What you can see now is a confident player. I feel loved again and that’s why I’m smiling again.”

Against the Gunners, we can’t rely on poor finishing and Shay Given’s brilliance if we’re to keep another clean sheet. They’ll need to be some improvement in the defending, particularly stopping crosses coming in, better cover in front of the back four, and not letting the game get to stretched.

With the majority of players from both sides having featured for their national sides this week, at least Wright-Phillips, Bridge and Lescott will be fresh after watching England’s destruction of Croatia from the sidelines.

Tevez is definitely out with a tweaked knee, while Robinho’s fitness and form are also questionable. If he plays, this could be just the kind of game to bring out the best in the Brazilian. As was the case last year, he’s a potential match winner, not just with the goals, but also with his ability to unlock a defence.

Hughes on Robinho:

“He had a little bit of swelling on the ankle. We do not think there is a significant injury there but it is best to check to make sure there is no stress fracture. Once we get the results we can decide whether he plays tomorrow or not.”

With Tevez injured, there’s a lot of speculation that Nigel de Jong may get his first start of the season, providing a tough tackling barrier alongside Gareth Barry. This seems eminently sensible as we attempt to hold off Arsenal’s pass and move football, and it would allow Ireland to concentrate on the creative side of his game.

For Arsenal, it was a mixed week for injuries with Arshavin now ruled out, but Fabregas expected to return after playing for Spain. Rosicky also played during the week, but it’s doubtful Wenger will rush him back. Walcott is still working on his fitness.

Despite this, Wenger will still have a strong side at his disposal, and it could be one of the few home games we see this season where the opposition have a greater percentage of possession. As a result, concentration and keeping the team’s shape intact will be paramount. Arsenal are a team that can be frustrated, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hughes encourage a more physical approach to our tackling.

Mark Hughes:

“Arsenal are an outstanding side and if you allow them to dictate play and get their tails up they have the ability to hurt you.

“They have outstanding individual talents within a way of playing that allows them to create chances, and if they get it right on the day they can really hurt you.

“Ourselves, United and Chelsea are the only British teams to have beaten Arsenal in the past 10 months, which shows the consistency of results they are able to achieve.

“That’s what we’re aiming to do. We have great respect for what they can do when they’re in full flow.

“But they know we will be a test, certainly at home, where we were outstanding against them last season when we won 3-0.”

Arsenal have started the season in excellent form and could well have beaten United in their last match. A draw would be a good result, but as ever I’m hoping for a win.

Possible line-up: Given, Richards, Toure, Lescott, Bridge, De Jong, Barry, Ireland, Robinho, Wright-Phillips, Adebayor.

Prediction: 2-0 to City