City look to end away day blues
The last time Manchester City won at Arsenal, Asa Hartford, Joe Royle and Rodney Marsh scored, David Bowie's 'Fame' topped the charts, 'Jaws' was keeping people off the beach and in the cinemas and Roberto Mancini was 10 years old.
"I hope we can change that," remarked City's manager about a run stretching back to October 4, 1975.
City visit the Emirates this evening in a good position in the league and in good heart. A lot of the background noise has subsided. Carlos Tevez has withdrawn his transfer request. Although Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor clashed briefly in training yesterday, this merely confirmed the Togo forward's passage towards the exit door, possibly en route to Real Madrid.
Squad strengthening continues, albeit without the wheel-spinning, trolley-dash haste of recent times. City have agreed a £27m fee for Edin Dzeko, the work-permit experts are on standby and the Bosnian striker's arrival is imminent. Dzeko could make his City bow on January 15: from playing for Wolfsburg to facing Wolves.
"Dzeko has all the qualities a striker should have," observed Mancini yesterday. "He is good in the air, has good technique, is quick, strong, tall, scores goals. In the last few years he scored a lot of goals (85 in 138 appearances for Wolfsburg). We expect always for Tevez to score in every game, but it's impossible. Dzeko has experience. All teams in Europe want him."
Although City target young players, Mancini's comment about the 24-year-old former Bundesliga champion having "experience" fits in with the desire for title-winners. Mancini knows that Chelsea and Manchester United boast greater "experience" in surviving the marathon of a championship campaign.
United's Darren Fletcher has questioned City's team spirit, stating that "experience is important".
Yet City have some who know what it takes to last the distance; players such as Tevez (with United), Nigel de Jong (Ajax), Yaya Toure (Barcelona) and Kolo Toure (Arsenal) were highlighted by Mancini.
However, the acquisition of the world's most expensive players does not sit comfortably with the ethos of Arsene Wenger, whose team seek the victory over City tonight that would see them leapfrog the Eastlands club with a game in hand in this most absorbing of title marathons.
"There is no realistic market. You know why? Because Bayern Munich can as well put £30m on the table. And Real Madrid," said Wenger.
"You have always one club who has that potential to do it. That's why for the 'super' player, there is no realistic market. For the normal player, there is a realistic market because he will not interest the club with the massive potential but the super player can be (of interest) to Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Man City and others."
And Wenger admitted that Dzeko came into that category, adding: "He is a super player. He is at the very top, when he is at his game. I see Dzeko a little bit like a Berbatov type -- technically astute, physically good power."
Others have arrived at City for as much, if not more, and are barely used and, for that reason, Wenger insisted that paying as much was, for City, hardly a gamble.
"You look at the number of players who cost £20m who do not even get on the bench at Man City and £27m is not a risk," he said.
Despite City's unprecedented spending, Mancini's men lost 3-0 to Arsenal at Eastlands in October, so they travel with a point or three to prove this evening.
"When two strong teams play each other, anything can happen. It is possible Arsenal can win the title," said Mancini. "Arsenal are a fantastic team, who play fantastic football. They have incredible players, so they have a great chance.
"Fabregas, Van Persie and Arshavin you would maybe say are the best but they are all good players. I like Arsenal. They play real football. Now they have more experience.
"Chelsea have a small chance. They have a problem at this moment as Carlo Ancelotti has a few important players injured."
So do City. Adebayor is still "not right" after injury, Mancini said, while Mario Balotelli and David Silva are out with knee problems.
As for talk about Wayne Bridge going to West Ham and Adebayor to Madrid, Mancini said there had been no movement "at the moment", adding that "I don't think" anything will happen with Benfica's David Luiz.
Tonight's clash, as they seek to end that awful away run against Arsenal, will give City a clearer indication of whether they remain a work in progress or the real deal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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