Arsenal vs Manchester City: Five Key Battles

Jack Wilshere

Both sides head to the Emirates currently behind their neighbours in their respective league races, and will be desperate not to drop further points in what should be an excellent match.

Here's where the game will be won and lost...

Theo Walcott vs Vincent Kompany

The contract rebel has underlined his importance to Arsenal in recent weeks by becoming the fulcrum of their attacking play. Now installed in his favoured central role, Walcott has demonstrated that he can do more than just run in behind defences, and is canny enough in his movement to drag defenders all over the place. Kompany hasn't always looked the most comfortable against pace, and City's defence has been disorganised at times this year. If they don't keep Walcott in check, he has proven himself able to rip sides to shreds.

Santi Cazorla vs Gareth Barry

Cazorla's importance to Arsenal is undeniable, but he has shown an undesirable knack of drifting out of matches in recent weeks, perhaps tired by the relentless pace of the Christmas fixtures. If Barry can keep him quiet again on Sunday, then Arsenal will struggle to provide enough service to their attack. The much maligned Barry has been impressive over the festive period, and can give City a measure of control in midfield with his calm distribution.

Thomas Vermaelen vs Carlos Tevez

With Sergio Aguero likely to be out injured for the match, Tevez will likely start alongside Edin Dzeko in City's attack. The Argentinian has been in fine form this year, and will be the main threat to Arsenal's goal on Sunday. The Arsenal defence is looking leaky of late, and Vermaelen is yet to show his best form at the club this season. If they are in a generous mood at the back again against City, then they will struggle to get anything from the match. Arsenal need a captain's performance from the towering Belgian.

Keiran Gibbs vs Pablo Zabaleta

Both Gibbs and Zabaleta have been in excellent attacking form of late, and the two full backs will no doubt spend much of the match marauding down their flanks. Whichever of them links best with the attack to overload the other will have a heavy bearing on the result of the match.

Jack Wilshere vs Javi Garcia

With Yaya Toure away at the African Cup of Nations, the pressure is on Javi Garcia to fill the Ivorian's considerable boots for the next few games. He will have a tough start against Arsenal's fine midfield, and will need to ensure that Wilshere is not given the freedom to dominate the centre of the park alongside Arteta and Cazorla. Tracking Wilshere's breaks forward, along with pressing him further up the pitch, will be crucial to City's attempts to stop Arsenal controlling the match.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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