December is never a good month for Arsenal because it is the time when the wheels start coming off derailing their English Premier League (EPL) campaign and this is why the Super Sunday clash against Manchester City is of special significance.
The match is a defining moment for the Gunners’ season because a loss will peg them nine points behind leaders Chelsea (40 points) while a win will keep them within reach of the top. However, coming after an uncharacteristic loss to Everton, it is a match that will test the mental strength of the Gunners; whether they have developed thick skin to produce results with their backs to the wall.
Arsenal fans (Atate) have dismissed the nay-sayers, arguing that the loss against Everton is just a bad day at the office. The Gunners will bounce back. It is hard to pin-point what went wrong for the Gunners to fail to finish off Everton as they had all their juggernauts on the pitch. The only explanation is that it’s the same complacency that has seen them fail to win the league in the last 12 years.
The only hope for Arsenal is that they play against a very inconsistent Manchester City team. City’s inconsistency has largely been attributed to manager Pep Guardiola’s frequent tweaking of the starting line-up which, according to SuperSport football analysts, has changed 50 times already this season.
Guardiola has also been criticised for leaving out Yaya Toure who is best suited for the Premier League than his preferred proteges. Critics have also singled out goalkeeper Claudio Bravo as another weak link in the team as he is failing to prove himself as a shot stopper. The loss to defending champions Leicester City did not help matters coming fast on the back of another 4-2 loss against Chelsea.
Guardiola wrung some changes in the mid-week fixture against Watford by dropping John Stones to the bench and it paid off as they managed a rare clean sheet. Expect more changes this Sunday as the two managers try to out fox each other. I give this match to Man City, pepani Atate.
Another interesting match is on Monday between Liverpool and Everton. Last time Everton were trounced 4-0 but not this time. Liverpool who are second with 34 points alongside Arsenal,have also proved to be inconsistent lately. Injury to Coutinho has robbed Liverpool of that impetus in attack. The return of Simon Migno let gives the team better shield. Of course, Sadio Mane stepped up very well mid-week against Middlesbrough. I expect a Liverpool victory in this one though or a draw.
I expect Chelsea to continue their winning streak to 11 consecutive matches at Crystal Palace. Of course Crystal Palace revels in beating big clubs and nearly forced a draw against Manchester United. Eden Hazard who was rested mid week should return fresh and ready to do damage. Thibault Courtois proved his worth for the club with a save of the season denying Sunderland’s Van Anholt last stoppage goal.
I hope United, having won two consecutive matches so far, can make it three if they win against West Brom and close in on Tottenham who are on position five. Paul Pogba is slowly proving that he is worth the amount United forked out for him with telling passes.
Lastly, the under 20 team which went to Cosafa and returned after losing two matches and drawing one without even scoring a single goal embarrassed us big time. This is unacceptable. And there are growing choruses that it’s a good side that should be supported. This, to me, is like encouraging failure. How about telling the lads and their coach the truth that what they did at Cosafa is shameful? We need to encourage a winning mentality. n