Three key battles in Arsenal v Man City
Tom Phillips examines three key battles in the clash between Arsenal and Manchester City on Monday night
Giroud v Otamendi
Nicolas Otamendi will want to prove that he can live up to his price tag without Vincent Kompany by his side. In the absence of injured Manchester City captain, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have conceded 15 goals in seven matches, while in contrast, they have only conceded two in eight when the Belgium international has been fit. Otamendi will need to live up to the demands of such an important top-four clash against Arsenal. In-form Olivier Giroud has found the net eight times in 12 appearances for the Gunners and will be looking to add to that tally this weekend. With Kompany not in the picture, it would be a huge morale boost for the forward knowing that one of the most competent defenders in the league is still out injured this side of Christmas.
Ozil v Toure
Mesut Ozil continues to be the talisman in Arsenal’s injury-hit squad. The German has been involved in 15 goals this season, which is an improvement on the nine that he was involved in this time last term. Ozil also has 13 assists under his belt. The playmaker will be the main architect of Arsenal’s attack and will need to battle it out with Yaya Toure. Although finding himself in a more defensive role and not finding the same form as he did a couple of seasons ago, Toure will want to rekindle the performances that made him the BBC’s African footballer of the year just last week. The Ivory Coast international has the physicality to limit the services to Giroud and man mark him effectively. The moment he gives Ozil the space to attack will be when City lose this battle.
Koscielny v De Bruyne
Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny has played a big part in the league’s second best-defence outfit as the Gunners have conceded just 13 goals this season. The Frenchman has been pivotal in Arsenal’s hope to once again challenge for the league and now faces the challenge of stopping Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian forward signed for City in the summer and has become an instant impact signing for the club. In his 12 games thus far for the club, he has been involved in 10 goals – scoring four times and making six assists. City will be hoping that he will provide and succeed in the challenge of Arsenal’s defence and provide the service needed to win such a crucial title decider.