English Premiership

Rattled Arsenal face Man City mettle test

2016-12-16 08:48
Petr Cech (Getty Images)

London - All-too-familiar questions about courage, backbone and durability surround Arsenal ahead of their trip to Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the Premier League this weekend.

Arsenal's 14-game unbeaten run had lain strong foundations for a determined tilt at the festive fixure list, only for Arsene Wenger's men to come unstuck in Tuesday's 2-1 defeat at Everton.

Wenger was left to voice time-worn complaints about an opponent's "physical" approach, after his side shrivelled amid the Goodison Park roar, but Petr Cech is desperate to show Arsenal are no pushovers.

"You have to pick yourself up," the Arsenal goalkeeper told the club website.

"There is a big period coming up now with the games coming thick and fast and there is no time to dwell on the defeat.

"Sometimes I think it is best if after a big game you play another big game. You have opportunities to win. It's a kind of a six-pointer. It's probably a perfect game for us."

Arsenal's defeat, courtesy of an 86th-minute header by Everton centre-back Ashley Williams, was their first in the league since a slapdash 4-3 loss at home to Liverpool on the season's opening weekend.

Compounding their disappointment, they now trail leaders Chelsea by six points, while all of the teams around them - Liverpool, City, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United - won their mid-week matches.

If there is a consolation for Arsenal it is that City are by no means firing on all cylinders themselves.

Guardiola's side went four home games without victory in the league prior to Wednesday's 2-0 defeat of Watford and recently fell to damaging losses against Chelsea (3-1) and Leicester City (4-2).

In the absence of the suspended Sergio Aguero, Nolito started up front against Watford and the Spanish forward is anticipating an open encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

"It will be a hard game, but I guess Arsenal will come and try to get the three points, as that is their philosophy of football," he said.

"It is also ours, so we will have to see who gets the points."

MERSEYSIDE DERBY

City will be without midfielder Ilkay Gundogan after he injured his knee against Watford, with reports in Germany on Thursday suggesting he could miss the whole season with ligament damage.

Chelsea secured a 10th straight victory by winning 1-0 at Sunderland and can register 11 successive league wins within the same season for the first time if they win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Antonio Conte's side are guaranteed to top the table on Christmas Day, but his players remain on high alert for signs of complacency.

"I know more than anyone, football goes week by week, month by month," centre-back Gary Cahill told Chelsea TV.

"We want to keep this going and continue the good spirit that's in our camp at the minute. That's the most important thing for us."

Liverpool stole past Arsenal into second place courtesy of a 3-0 win at Middlesbrough and now face the London club's conquerors, Everton, in a Monday night Merseyside derby.

Adam Lallana, who scored twice at the Riverside Stadium, said Liverpool's display was "not too far off the complete performance", but revealed manager Jurgen Klopp was not fully satisfied.

"The manager has already quickly said to us that there are things we can improve on," Lallana said.

"At times we can maybe get a little bit carried away and all of us maybe want to attack at times when we need to protect a bit more."

Sixth-place United visit seventh-place West Bromwich Albion on Saturday buoyed after snatching a 2-1 win at Palace on Wednesday via Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 88th-minute strike.

Bottom club Sunderland and struggling Middlesbrough also lie in wait for Jose Mourinho's men over the festive season, but midfielder Ander Herrera says United can take nothing for granted.

"If we were in Spain I could tell you, 'These are the games we are going to win,' but in the Premier League you never know," said the Spaniard.

"If you think you are just going to beat West Brom, Middlesbrough or Sunderland, maybe you don't do that, so you just think about the next game."

Fixtures

Saturday:

Crystal Palace v Chelsea, Stoke v Leicester, West Brom v Man Utd, Middlesbrough v Swansea, Sunderland v Watford, West Ham v Hull

Sunday:

Man City v Arsenal, Tottenham v Burnley, Bournemouth v Southampto

Monday:

Everton v Liverpool

Read more on:    arsenal  |  english premiership  |  petr cech  |  soccer
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Fixtures
Saturday, 26 August 2017
AFC Bournemouth v Manchester City, Vitality Stadium 13:30
Crystal Palace v Swansea City, Selhurst Park 16:00
Newcastle United v West Ham United, St. James' Park 16:00
Huddersfield Town v Southampton, The John Smith's Stadium 16:00
Watford v Brighton & Hove Albion, Vicarage Road Stadium 16:00
Manchester United v Leicester City, Old Trafford 18:30
Sunday, 27 August 2017
Chelsea v Everton, Stamford Bridge 14:30
West Bromwich Albion v Stoke City, The Hawthorns 14:30
Liverpool v Arsenal, Anfield 17:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley, Wembley Stadium 17:00
Saturday, 09 September 2017
Manchester City v Liverpool, Etihad Stadium 13:30
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth, Emirates Stadium 16:00
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur, Goodison Park 16:00
Leicester City v Chelsea, King Power Stadium 16:00
Southampton v Watford, St. Mary's Stadium 16:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v West Bromwich Albion, The American Express Community Stadium 16:00
Stoke City v Manchester United, Bet365 Stadium 18:30
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