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.

"We are playing differently this year, with more emphasis on attacking, but everyone also has to be focused on defending and being organized," defender Branislav Ivanovic said ahead of Saturday's match against Stoke.

"This is what helped us get good results last year ... we are much more creative in the attacking third, but we have to have the right balance and still work hard to get to the top level."

Chelsea's match is the headline fixture on Saturday before the more glamorous matchups on Sunday. As well as Arsenal's trip to City, Man United resumes its fierce rivalry with Liverpool with a trip to Anfield.

The animosity been the sides has been inflamed by the racism row following last season's match at Anfield when Liverpool striker Luis Suarez repeatedly racially abused Patrice Evra. Suarez then refused to shake the United defender's hand at the return fixture at Old Trafford.

There have been appeals for calm from both teams, particularly after United fans chanted abuse in reference to the Hillsborough stadium tragedy last weekend. That followed the release of a report into the 1989 disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

"It is difficult to control all the fans but most of them are aware of the responsibility and I think they will respond well," United captain Nemanja Vidic said.

"I am aware of the sensitivity of the day - everybody is," Vidic added. "All over the world they will be watching this game. It is probably the biggest derby and we have to show we are capable of keeping a good atmosphere and being a good example to the kids."

Liverpool needs to extend United's five-game run without a win at Anfield to halt its worst league start for 100 years.

Also on Sunday, Tottenham hosts Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle takes on Norwich.

In Saturday's other fixtures, pointless Southampton hosts Aston Villa, Swansea takes on Everton, Reading is at West Bromwich Albion, West Ham faces Sunderland and Wigan meets Fulham.


AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report.

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