McMahon: Gunners face City backlash

ESPNSTAR pundit Steve McMahon believes Arsenal will face the wrath of a wounded Manchester City side at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

So much talent on the City team.

Manchester City will try to prove against Arsenal on Sunday that their defeat at Chelsea was a mere blip in their bid for the Barclays Premier League title.

What a difference a week has made for Roberto Mancini's side - out of the Champions League and having their lead at the top of the league reduced to just two points. One thing's for sure, it has brought smiles to Manchester United fans who would have feared the worst for their season after crashing out of Europe themselves.

Having been handed a huge favour by Chelsea on Monday, the Red Devils will now look to the Gunners to do the same and send City crashing down to reality. What's amazing is that should Arsene Wenger's side inflict upon the Citizens' their second league defeat in as many weeks, we could see United at the top of the standings come Sunday.

But as much as I would like to see the title race blown wide open, Mancini's side will be too strong for the Gunners at home. Arsenal, however, would be hoping for history to repeat itself after beating City 3-0 at Eastlands last season.

Having said that, City have transformed from a top four side to strong title favourites in less than a year thanks to a massive summer spending spree which saw the arrivals of Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli to add to the galaxy of stars already present at the club. Arsenal fans should be concerned about a possible City backlash.

Nevertheless, we are promised a fascinating encounter at the Etihad Stadium. The Gunners are probably the only top team in the Barclays Premier League that stay loyal to their attacking policy away from home. And given City's array of attacking talent and free-flowing football, we could be in for a cracking showdown on Sunday.

Whatever the outcome, one thing's for sure - Robin van Persie will be at the centre of Mancini's team-talk before the match. The Dutch international is the Gunners' main artillery in their quest for a top-four finish and even an unlikely title challenge. And the order of the day for the Citizens would be to gun down Van Persie. If they can accomplish that, you can be promised a frustrated Wenger at the sidelines.

I'm sure Sir Alex Ferguson will be keeping a close eye at the Etihad Stadium after his side's visit to Queens Park Rangers in the early kick-off on Sunday. But what he should be really concerned about is his United squad. Their performance against Basel in the Champions League further proves that the current squad is not strong enough.

Come January, if United do possess a genuine desire to retain their Barclays Premier League crown, it's imperative that they invest in at least two world class players. With Wayne Rooney's form inconsistent this season and Javier Hernandez hit by injuries, you have to wonder where the goals will come from for United. It's not like the midfield is plundering them in either.

 The likes of Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher have never been known for their goalscoring exploits, while Ashley Young is struggling to rediscover his early season form. And that leaves Nani the best outlet for goals.

I would like to see Ferguson go for Wesley Sneijder again in the January transfer window. The Inter Milan midfielder will provide vision, creativity and most importantly, goals - all the ingredients needed for United to push City in the title race.

Defensively, Ferguson needs to settle on his first choice centre-back pairing. With Nemanja Vidic out for the rest of the season, the United boss has to decide between Phil Jones and Johny Evans as partner for Rio Ferdinand. Jones has been played out of position in central midfield far too often this season and that is not a good sign for a team trying to win the title.

However, these problems will mean little for the Red Devils if they somehow find themselves top of the Barclays Premier League come Sunday.

Steve McMahon was speaking to ESPNSTAR.com's Daniel Teo.



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