Arsenal have won this fixture in just one of the past five seasons but if they win this time they will surely go favourites to claim their first Premier League trophy since The Invincibles season of 2004. Only Leicester lie above these two as we head into Christmas, and with Man Utd looking anything but title contenders, the title will surely come down to one of these sides, making this game and the meeting on the penultimate weekend potentially pivotal.
Despite that these two have hardly been consistent this season. City, in particular, have struggled on the road, as they’ve not scored in their last three away matches and have found the net just twice in their last five road trips combined. Arsenal’s win over Villa last weekend was their first clean sheet in five games but after overcoming the odds to progress in the Champions League and racking up back-to-back wins in the league they should come into this match in confident mood. Looking at the Gunners home matches against the top five in the past two seasons and teams currently in the top five this term we see that they’ve been beaten just once but that seven of the 10 matches have finished level – which rather highlights the struggles they have against the best teams. Seven of these games have also had fewer than three goals, with four 1-1 scores, as the matches have generally been tight affairs and, furthermore, this fixture has finished all-square in three of the past five seasons with fewer than three goals in four.
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One key factor in this game could be the expected return of Sergio Aguero for City while Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to be ready for Arsenal. City’s attack is certainly a lot more threatening with the Argentine and they’ve failed to score in just one of the 18 away matches he’s started since the beginning of last season. Looking at their record against the same top-five finishers as Arsenal we see they have a mediocre W2-D4-L4 record on the road, but that both sides have scored in eight of the matches as the only time they failed to find the net was in the derby with United this term.
Both teams have strong draw tendencies against similar teams and with a point being a decent result for both sides it’s possible they will settle for a share of the spoils. Neither side has a lot of clean sheets in recent weeks – particularly if we discount their matches against Villa – but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can expect goals here. Certainly, both teams are capable of coming back from a goal down and the 1-1 score is worth considering. However, if the match starts cautiously there is the risk that it never opens up and the match result looks the best play in this game.
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