Arsenal v Manchester City - Match Preview
We won the Cup!
Now it is time to get back to business in the league where we take on the defeated finalists again - just as we did in 2011 when having secured the first trophy under Roberto Mancini we played and beat Stoke City in the postponed league fixture again later that same week.
More of the same please.
The litany of excuses that flowed from both the Arsenal manager and his surrogate Moaner in Chief Jack 'turf muncher' Wilshire following their capitulation at the weekend were laughable. From the complaints about Aguero nudging the weak and insipid Mustafi before his sublime finish for the first goal, through to the call for Sané to be ruled offside for Kompany's ecstatic second through to Wenger actually asking why more time wasn't added on at the end of the game (yes, WTF?) they were trying to blame everyone but themselves.
Well, it clearly didn't work if the response from the fans and ex-players is anything to go by and this was supported by the media who roundly agreed that Arsenal were poor and need to look at themselves before blaming others. But they can leave that until after Thursday when hope they put in a similar performance. There are some thoughts that they might be better rested as this tweet puts it:-
From @Pete2Boogie on Twitter:
'Bookies tipping Arsenal to beat Man City on Thur. Largely because the gunners have had an extra few days rest whilst City played in a cup final on Sunday'
Enough of our opponents.
Boy was that win needed last weekend. After unceremoniously being dumped out of the FA Cup the previous Monday much was at stake in the Final and more than just the winning of the trophy. Two defeats in the space of a week and the shrinking of the potential competition success this season from four to two would have only served to reinforce the media spotlight and ramp up the pressure on Guardiola and the players. An increase in self-doubt and an emboldening of opponents is not the order of the day as we move into the final stage of an extraordinary season.
I am pretty sure that I was not the only one whose reaction actually matched that of Vincent Kompany when he stabbed home his goal in the 58th minute last Sunday. Talk about a cathartic moment. As City stepped up their game in the second half the confidence could be seen flowing through the players and it never faltered to the final whistle.
Job done - what's next?
Next is the same side at the Emirates. Doubtless there will be much talk from the Gooner fans of an 'opportunity for revenge' which is understandable but one can only hope that their players try and achieve this fairly. Given the way in which the sour faced Wilshire was reacting as the game progressed one could be forgiven in expecting him to launch into some tackles modelling himself on Cardiff's Joe Bennett. In between trying to get opponent's sent off. He really is someone who is a legend in his own mind and who has never lived up to the hype. He showed himself to be a petulant child last Sunday and we can hope that he is once again taught a footballing lesson.
Having won his first trophy in English football ( :033: to the haters) I am sure Pep will not allow there to be any relaxation from the City players. There remains work to do and the Catalan coach will not rest easy until it is complete & I am sure he will not let his players take their foot off the gas. Having dealt with the Sanchez Dilemma, seem the effects of the Pogba Initiative he is now faced with solving the Fernandinho Conundrum.
For all the plaudits that have rightly been received by Kevin De Bruyne this season, the importance of Fernandihno to the way the City side have played this season cannot be understated. His energy, speed of movement of the ball, aggression when needed, his passing......he has been the fulcrum around which the City machine has purred and it will be a tough call replacing him. There is no update yet on the severity of his hamstring strain but he is certain to miss the Arsenal match and so someone will have to fill in. My money is on Gundogan although some have mooted using Vinnie in his old midfield position. Certainly Toure is unlikely to be an option given his absence from the bench recently.
Big shoes to fill but everyone will be buoyed up by the cup win and I am sure that the whole team will have an extra yard in their stride to compensate.
In other teams news Sterling may be available after missing the last few matches with a hamstring problem of his own.
Arsenal will be missing Monreal who made a quick exit at the weekend after he injured himself with his pathetic dive in an attempt to fool Craig Pawson into awarding a penalty. Perhaps he saw what was coming and decided that the bench was the best place to be. Why he hasn't been cited by the diving panel I have no idea.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistants: Scott Ledger, Ian Hussin
Fourth official: Mike Dean
Predicted City staring XI & subs:-
Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Danilo
De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva D
Silva B, Aguero, Sané
Bravo, Zinchenko, Kompany, Stones, Foden, Sterling, Diaz
After the week he had had - losing under controversial circumstances to lower league opponents, involved in a tunnel fracas, being charged by the FA (why then?) - Pep will have absolutely loved winning that final at Wembley. He knew, he absolutely knew the how important that game was for the rest of the club's season. He will insist his side kick on and build on this success - there will be no resting on laurels.
He has got the first trophy under his belt and now he will want more. Thursday is an opportunity to bring that dream one step closer.
Come on City!!!