Man City boss Pep Guardiola is out to pile more pressure on beleaguered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger when the two sides meet at the Emirates this afternoon. However, the Spaniard is also wary of a backlash from the Gunners in their Super Sunday clash in north London.
“When you lose a lot of games it is a dangerous moment. I would prefer to take Arsenal after a lot of wins,” he said. “Everybody knows them – good quality in the middle, good quality in the sides with Alexis [Sanchez] going inside, runs in behind with [Theo] Walcott, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain. Good quality. Arsenal is a top team.”
Guardiola will be without long-term casualties Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus for the trip to the capital, but expects both Kevin De Bruyne and Pablo Zabaleta to be involved.
“They are not top, perfect (fitness), but yes,” he said when asked if De Bruyne and Zabaleta would feature.
As a further boost, Jesus is also expected to return to the squad before the end of the season. “The crutches are gone. He has started to walk and hopefully he can come back to the pitches and start to run and make some exercises,” he said. “Hopefully he can help us in the last games of the season and come back for us in the pre-season.”
Wenger, meanwhile, has refuted suggestions that doubts over his future were impacting on the team’s performance. A run of six defeats in their last nine matches has seen Arsenal eliminated from the Champions League and facing a battle to finish in the top four of the Premier League, sparking renewed protests from fans against the manager.
“I believe the priority in life is to focus on what is important,” said the Frenchman in his pre-match press conference. “Not to look for excuses. “The results aren’t going as we want. The priority is on the pitch. The big professional is to perform on the football pitch.”
Arsenal will be without first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech after the former Czech Republic international was forced off with a calf injury during the 3-1 loss at West Brom before the international break and has not recovered in time to face City so David Ospina will deputise.
Forward Lucas Perez (thigh) has also been ruled out but both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez should start having represented their countries in the past week, while Santi Cazorla (Achilles) will not play again this season.
City forwards De Bruyne (groin) and Raheem Sterling (back) are both in contention to face Arsenal. The pair were doubtful after picking up injuries on international duty but, while not 100 per cent fit, are hopeful of featuring. Defender Zabaleta has also overcome a knock suffered while with Argentina.
Arsenal have lost just one of 19 previous home Premier League matches against Manchester City (W12 D6 L1). City are looking to do the double over Arsenal in a league season for the first time since 1975/76.
The last seven Premier League meetings between these two sides have produced 27 goals – 3.86 per game, on average. Wenger has won just two of his previous nine competitive meetings with Guardiola (W2 D2 L5), both in the Champions League.
This is only the second time that Arsenal have found themselves outside the top five in the Premier League as late as April in a season under Wenger – the other occasion was in April 2006.
On the day of this game, Arsenal will have spent 1209 days behind City in the Premier League table since the start of 2011/12. In the six Premier League seasons prior to this (2005/06 to 2010/11) they spent just 246 days behind City in the Premier League table.
Theo Walcott has scored four goals in his last four Premier League games versus City, but he hasn’t scored in the league since December (against City).
Only Thierry Henry (0.73) has a better goals per game record against Premier League sides from London than Sergio Aguero (0.70) – min. 15 games. The Argentine striker has 37 goals in 53 apps against teams from the capital.
These two sides have scored the most goals through substitutes in the Premier League this season – Arsenal (8) and City (7).
Guardiola has suffered five league defeats as City boss this season – he’s never lost six in a single league campaign as a manager. City have won just four of their last 15 Premier League matches played on a Sunday (W4 D6 L5).