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Arsenal v Man City Friendly Significance increases
Saturday's game at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki just took on far more meaning. Booed off at half time against Napoli, destroyed by an old arch nemesis on Sunday, and Wenger uttering the words no Arsenal fan wanted to hear and yet secretly knew were coming, words to the effect of "We can win the league with the squad we have, we don't need new players", the friendly in 5 days time could well be a melting pot of anger waiting to explode from the travelling gunners, unless Arsenal can put on a display which underlines Wenger's faith with actions. Batter Manchester City, even in a pre season match, and give both the fans and the players confidence in the managers rhetoric and hyperbole. Lose, and such is the disillusion about the coming season with no major signings, Wenger might find himself on the receiving end of treatment usually reserved for Rafa Benitez by ardent irate Chelsea fans, starting on the first day of the season against Aston Villa, ad infinitum.
The problem is though, Manchester City also have something to prove. New manager, lots of new players, and they've already handed out a ridiculous thumping themselves, scoring 5 against Ac Milan in under half an hour before relaxing, and 9 over 2 games against Chelsea before coming unstuck against the European Champions Bayern Munich in their pre season friendlies. With Chelsea being touted as favourites for the league this year, City would like nothing better than to dent the confidence of Arsenal and show them that there is still a gulf between the two teams which needs spanning before what looks like a 3 horse race can become 4 again.
Confidence is something Arsenal need though. None of their first 10 games are against the top 3 teams last year, and although with home games against Liverpool and Tottenham being possible banana skins, it's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility for Arsenal to have 26 points from a possible 30 before they come up against Manchester United at Old Trafford on November 10th. By then, United will have played City, Chelsea, and there is the small matter of a trip to Anfield in there too. Chelsea also play City within that period, and thus, the opportunity for Arsenal to capitalise on points dropped around them, is something to seriously aspire to. No losses in the games before Man United would take an unbeaten league run to 20, and the value of that cannot be understated. It is achievable, as shown at the end of last season, but to do so, will take huge self belief as well as on field talent.
A big win on Saturday, and the absence of Wenger's chequebook may be overlooked, at least for a while. A loss, and the players go into the new season on the back of two defeats, looking over their shoulders at the ghosts of seasons past, haunted by success's long gone, and their current inability to match them.
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