Mark Hughes indicated that he is prepared to introduce some of the physicality against Arsenal which caused them so much trouble during his Blackburn Rovers days in the first real test of Manchester City's top-four pretensions at Eastlands today.
Hughes, who revealed that he may be without Carlos Tevez for next weekend's Manchester derby as well as today's game, made the bold assertion that City "have the capability of playing as creative and expansive football as Arsenal." But his game plan, he said, was about the need to "dictate to Arsenal rather than a very good Arsenal side dictates to you, because collectively they are very adept at what they do." He said: "I've gone up against Arsène Wenger's teams many times in the past and I've done okay."
Hughes, who may deploy Nigel de Jong rather than Stephen Ireland as a second holding midfielder alongside Gareth Barry to meet Arsenal's threat, believes he has players who can "batten down the hatches and recognise when the momentum is changing in games. That's the difference this year."
Hughes added: "We need that defensive platform. If we don't have that then we will get exploited by not only the top teams but other teams in the Premier League as well. I'm sure [Wenger] knows what his team needs to start winning trophies again but we know that we're at a level where we can cause the best teams a problem."
City are likely to be without Robinho, who will have a new scan on an old knee inflammation problem to ensure there is no stress fracture, as well as Tevez, whose tweaked knee ligaments could keep him out for anything from 10 days to three weeks.
Wenger is without Andrei Arshavin for two weeks but should have Cesc Fabregas back from a hamstring strain and Theo Walcott in contention for next week's Champions League group opener at Standard Liège following his back problems. He is less agitated about City's big spending than some other managers, despite seeing Kolo Touré, appointed City captain in midweek, follow Emmanuel Adebayor to Eastlands. "It will be interesting to see how far they go," Wenger said.