Arsenal's newfound solidity faces test at Man City
LONDON (AP) — Arsenal's newfound defensive resilience will be put to the test in the English Premier League on Sunday against a Manchester City team that is set to feature fit-again striker Sergio Aguero.
The only goals Arsenal has conceded in five matches this season have been from a penalty in the 2-1 win over Montpellier in the Champions League, and from a goalkeeping error by Wojciech Szczesny in last weekend's 6-1 rout of Southampton.
Much of the credit for the team's obduracy at the back has gone to Steve Bould, a member of the famously stingy Arsenal defense of the 1990s who was hired as assistant coach in the offseason.
"We have had a decent start to the season and we have kept the run going so it's important allround, for the whole season," Bould said. "We will go to Manchester City with a bit of confidence. It is better being this way, but it is a proper test. It is where we want to be and hopefully we can come away saying we did OK again."
It is surely no coincidence that having Bould around the training ground has led to the team being tougher for opponents to break through.
Arsenal's defensive solidity contrasts with City's frailties at the back, with Roberto Mancini's Premier League champions winning just two of their five competitive games.
City is reeling from throwing away a 2-1 lead at Real Madrid on Tuesday in the last few minutes to lose their Champions League opener 3-2.
"It has not been an ideal start to the season," midfielder Gareth Barry said. "We finished last season with a great defensive record.
"This time we are scoring a lot of goals but conceding at the same time. I am sure as the season goes on it is something we can work on."
Midfielder Samir Nasri is set to miss playing his former club Arsenal after limping out of the Madrid match with a hamstring problem, but Aguero is fit again after a month-long absence with a knee injury.
Both Arsenal and City are unbeaten after four league games, and have eight points, two behind Chelsea.
Chelsea, though, experienced a midweek Champions League result similar to City's in throwing away a 2-0 lead to open its title defense with a 2-2 draw against Juventus.
It's exposed the difficulties of trying to entertain more on the pitch while retaining the resilience that helped Chelsea win the European Cup for the first time in May.