Much has changed since that devastating 6-3 defeat of Arsenal at Manchester City but Arsene Wenger remains on the lookout for “one or two” defensive reinforcements to help keep rampant attackers in check.
Arsenal, fifth in the table, are 13 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and two less points adrift of second-placed City ahead of their visit to the Etihad Stadium.
Memories of Arsenal’s last visit to the 60,000 capacity stadium may have been suppressed by the 2-2 draw in north London last September, but the ‘Gunners’ are yet winless at City since October 2010. Wenger does not expect history to play much part when both sides get at it on Sunday but knows anything short of a point could disrupt their bid for a top four finish.
“The history will not play a big part in this game. It’s the performance of the day that will play the biggest part and the only important part,” Wenger, 65, said in his pre-game media ritual on Friday.
“I believe we have consistency. Last year, we did not win the championship only for that reason. We did not perform in the top games away from home. I believe we have the potential now to be much more stable and to show that we can do it.”
Wenger’s side have dropped ten points from a possible twelve against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and City in the ongoing campaign, the latter two against both Manchester teams coming at the Emirates Stadium.
And with Sergio Aguero back in Manuel Pellegrini’s squad, the French boss is wary of their opponents’s attacking threat and warns his wards to be cautious in challenging for the ball.
“You have many games when you know you will be judged on your potential,” he said. “Manchester City is one of them. Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are other games that people have a close eye on to judge your potential.
“They (City) have always had good teams but we have won at Manchester United, we have won at Manchester City.
“For many years [our record in the biggest games] was our strength and in the last two years it is true that it has been a weakness. I think we are mature enough now to rectify it.
“We want to have a good balance between attacking and defending because we know that City attack very well, so it’s important that we do both sides of the game very well.”
The manager confirmed the news that Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta are outbut says Kieran Gibbs will be tested today to ascertain his readiness for the trip up north. The trio of Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil are available.
Striker Danny Welbeck made his Arsenal debut in the reverse fixture last year but now faces “two weeks” on the sidelines with a thigh injury.
In contrast with earlier premonitions that Arsenal will be inactive in the January transfer window, Wenger also confirmed the club had agreed a fee with Legia Warsaw for midfielder Krystian Bielik who will undergo a medical today. He added that he was looking for some defensive reinforcement before the close of the transfer dispensation.
He told the club’s official website: “Yes we are more in the market now. We have Chambers and we have Bellerin, who is coming on well, and I want to give them a chance as well, but of course we are in the market like many other clubs.
“We are out in the market and we are working very hard every day. All our scouts and our people are working very hard to find a defender.”