Manchester City host Arsenal at the Etihad live on Nissan Super Sunday looking to tighten their grip on top spot in the Premier League, and the latest transfer saga regarding the two clubs has rekindled their mutual enmity.
The natural subplot to this encounter concerns the future of Alexis Sanchez, with Pep Guardiola reportedly interested in making a cut-price move for the Chilean this January, and his contract set to expire next summer.
With fireworks a given on November 5, we look back at the history of a modern footballing rivalry which has seen City frustrate the Gunners since the last time the Premier League trophy was lifted in north London.
Man City vs Arsenal
November 5, 2017, 1:00pm
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The break of the hoodoo
There was once a time when there only three certainties in life: death, taxes and Arsenal beating City. In the first 18 Premier League encounters, the Gunners were unbeaten – winning 15 – but that all changed in August 2006 when a Joey Barton penalty ended City’s wait for a victory.
The club became the subject of one of football’s biggest takeovers in history in summer 2008 which sparked a shift in power towards Manchester. Robinho starred in a 3-0 win at the Etihad that November, with the Brazilian’s sumptuous chip helping to inflict a fifth Premier League defeat of the season on the Gunners, leaving their title aspirations in tatters.
City have lost only twice at home to Arsenal since, notably delivering an ominous message by winning 6-3 in December 2013 en route to a second Premier League title.
City raided Arsenal in 2009 for two of their most important players. Kolo Toure, part of the club’s Invincibles side and loyal servant of seven years, caused heartbreak for fans by making a £14m move that Wenger reluctantly sanctioned to help pay off the debt from the new stadium.
Emmanuel Adebayor’s £25m transfer was an acrimonious one, and he fanned the flames further by running the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans after scoring in a 4-2 win in his first appearance against his former club. Bottles rained down on him as he slid on his knees, arms outstretched, in front of those who once sang his name.
In the summer of 2011, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy both took the well-trodden path for a combined £32m in a statement of fiscal intent that provided further ammunition to the argument that Arsenal’s conveyor belt of talent was a convenient supplier for City.
Neither can have any regrets after bagging two Premier League medals each and the transfers didn’t end there. Bacary Sagna joined City on a free transfer in 2014 after Arsenal’s successful defence of the FA Cup.
Even back-up goalkeepers Richard Wright and Stuart Taylor have been lured to the impressive surroundings of the Etihad in the twilight of their careers – and that’s before we get onto the backroom staff.
Patrick Vieira and Mikel Arteta – both influential midfielders during their playing days – have both chosen City as their preferred destination to continue providing their expertise in football after hanging up their boots.
Wenger has had his fair share of run-ins with former City managers over the years. The Arsenal boss was accused by Mark Hughes in 2009 of “not knowing how to behave” after refusing to shake his hand following a League Cup encounter.
In 2011, Wenger was unimpressed with Roberto Mancini over his public pursuit of Nasri, claiming his advances were “out of order” and “against the basic rules of football”.
He did enjoy a more respectful relationship with Mancini’s successor, Manuel Pellegrini, who he sympathised with following his departure last year – believing the low-key Chilean was on borrowed time since the day he arrived.
The Frenchman now pits himself against Pep Guardiola, making this a battle of the game’s biggest purists. It is the Catalan who boasts the better head-to-head record having won five and drawn three of their 11 meetings.
The Sanchez saga
In the final week of the summer transfer window, Arsenal made a sensational attempt to include Raheem Sterling in a swap deal involving Sanchez, but City refused to sanction the switch.
It is hard to imagine Sterling would have wanted to leave City’s swashbuckling squad for one that has seen a wealth of English talent struggle to enhance their reputations under Wenger’s tutelage.
Sanchez could still have ended up wearing sky blue for this weekend’s clash had Arsenal secured a £92m deal for Monaco’s Thomas Lemar which would have allowed the club’s talisman to head north for £60m.
Sanchez’s body language away to one of the Premier League’s top six sides has previously been scrutinised, but having made no secret of his desire to join City in the summer, his appetite to beat his potential suitors provides another layer of intrigue this weekend, regardless of Wenger’s insistence that the player remains fully focused.
The state of play
Arsenal recorded their first away win of the league season in their last trip against a demoralised Everton side at Goodison Park, but this will be a far tougher assignment, coming three days after a Europa League clash at home to Red Star Belgrade.
City head into the contest as overwhelming favourites having made the best start to any Premier League season – winning nine of their 10 games and drawing the other while boasting a goal difference of +29.
Arsenal are no longer so financially constrained, but City’s role in relegating them to perennial fourth-place challengers still rankles with fans. Sanchez’s contract situation looks set to stoke the fires once more.