so tomorrow the premier league resumes play again after this past week’s exciting round of world cup qualifiers. and the surprising marquee match up for this saturday pits ambitious manchester city against the side many expected them to unseat from the top four this season, arsenal.
both sides are off to flying starts this season (minus the unfortunate gunners’ loss to manchester united), and there are a host of interesting subplots in the match to consider.
each squad will be without key members due to injuries picked up on international duty. the citizens will be without workhorse carlos tevez, and brazilian trickster robinho. tevez, just as he did with cross-town rivals united, runs about the field pressuring defenders and creating space for city’s goal-scoring hero adebayor. robinho’s probable absence is no doubt a loss, though his inconsistent form means his contributions aren’t always a garauntee.
meanwhile, the gunners will be without the mercurial andrei arshavin and fleet-footed theo walcott. arshavin is a constant threat to produce both dazzling runs and dazzling goals, and arsenal will sorely miss his creativity on the field. walcott is still trying to shake his lingering injury from the u-21 euro championships, coupled with tomas rosicky still not being completely match fit, it leaves arsenals wings a little bare.
also of interest is man city’s poaching of former gunners emmanuel adebayor and kolo toure. this weekend will be the first time either has faced their old club, and I’m sure the visiting section at eastlands will give them plenty of grief. adebayor’s move showed his true colors–which are neither arsenal red or city blue–as he prefers the black of a hired mercenary. toure’s situation is a little different, as his frustrations with wenger made him a little more “sellable” (i think i just made that word up). needless to say, it will be very interesting to see if adebayor will be able to keep up his scintilating goal-scoring form against his old squad.
but in my humble opinion, the most interesting subplot involves the clash between two completely contrasting club philosophies.
on one side we have arsenal’s self-sustaining club philosophy. much to the bewilderment of their fans, arsenal refuse to pay over the top for established/experienced players. arsene wenger instead prefers to purchase talented, and cheap(er), youngsters so he can bring them up the “arsenal way” under his watchful eye. (on a realted side note, it will be interesting to see how arsenal’s recruitment philosophy is affected based on the outcome of the chelsea-kakuta saga. will it force wenger’s hand and make him start recruiting in high-priced senior players?)
on the other side we have manchester city’s arab cash-fueled revolution. backed by the billions of their ownership, the blues have gone about paying top dollar for the best available talent money can buy. well, at least the best talent that real madrid hadn’t already bought. shay given in to guard the net. lescott, wayne bridge, toure and sylvinho in to sure up the defense. gareth barry in to plug up the middle of the park. and adebayor, tevez, craig bellamy, roque santa cruz and robinho in to put the ball in the back of the net.
so while wenger has been meticulously building his team over the last decade, mark hughes has splashed out hundreds of millions to build his in a matter of months. will arsenal’s long-term project finally pay dividends, and defend their top four position that city so desire? can the citizens rich boys gel quickly enough to break into the english elite? team chemistry is not something that just develops over night, or so they say.
this weekend is only a step in the process to see how this whole equation will work out. but, i think whoever wins tomorrow’s match at the city of manchester stadium will take a big psychological step into figuring that answer out.