City's Fernandinho sees visit to Arsenal as "key game" in title chase
Win against derailed Gunners essential to keep pressure on leaders Chelsea
Manchester City’s visit to Premier League championship outsiders Arsenal is key to their hopes of lifting the title, according to midfielder Fernandinho.
City narrowed the gap on leaders Chelsea to three points thanks to their resounding 3-0 win at faltering champions Manchester United on Tuesday.
Manuel Pelligrini’s City side still have two games in hand on Chelsea and Fernandinho knows they can’t afford to slip off the pace by allowing Arsenal to revive their own fading aspirations with a win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
“This is going to be the key game for us,” said the Brazilian. “We want to win this game to put some pressure on Chelsea and we’ll see what happens after that.
“It will be difficult for us. They are playing at home with their fans, so we need to be ready.”
While Arsenal have been stuttering, City have been regaining momentum in their pursuit of Jose Mourinho’s side and totally outplayed derby rivals United to record a fourth straight league win since they knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup.
Their fifth successive clean sheet set a Premier League club record, while City are also now unbeaten in nine away games. That compares to their dismal run at the start of the season when they won just one of their opening six away matches.
Fernandinho recognises that streak must continue if City are to reclaim the title they won two years ago.
“At the beginning of the season it was a little bit difficult for us but after that we learnt a lot and we have been better away from home,” he added.
“We have got some good results and we need to keep our performances at the same level to get the championship.”
City’s prospects of repeating last season’s win at Arsenal could be boosted by the return of top scorer Sergio Aguero following a hamstring injury but defender Matija Nastasic is still out.
Arsenal have been forced to readjust their sights after a disastrous week.
A humiliating 6-0 defeat at Chelsea last weekend ensured Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of the club quickly turned into one he would like to forget and that was followed by a frustrating 2-2 home draw with struggling Swansea in midweek that severely dented the Gunners’ title hopes.
Arsenal are six points off the top of the table with just seven games remaining and Wenger conceded after the Swansea fixture that, rather than cast their gaze upwards, his side should now be concerned by the gap between themselves and Everton, who lie fifth, six points behind but with a game in hand.
As a result, Arsenal face a real challenge to their bid to secure a top four finish and a place in next season’s Champions League.
Wenger has once again found himself under fire from some Arsenal fans and another disappointing result will do nothing to calm the mood.
The manager received another setback when, ahead of the City match, he revealed midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s planned comeback had been delayed because of a continuing thigh problem.
“(Nacho) Monreal should be the first one back in training because he is just starting to run in the next few days,” Wenger said. “After him, Ramsey is progressing well, but we need to be patient for a few more weeks.”
Wenger added: “We have to do that (restore belief) as well as we can and accept our position at the end of the season, but at the moment (our focus) is to recover from a high disappointment and recover for the next game.
“It is a huge game.”