Arsenal and Manchester City meet in the Premier League on Wednesday evening in a clash between the division’s top two.
The Gunners are the surprise leaders at the top of the Premier League table, as Mikel Arteta’s team chase down a first league title since 2003/04. The defending champions are right behind the north Londoners however, and Manchester City can move top on goal difference with a win at the Emirates.
It promises to be a must-watch encounter, as the best two teams in England right now go head-to-head. Arteta will come up against his former mentor in Pep Guardiola, but the Arsenal boss is not the only notable name to have been connected to both clubs.
Here are eight top players who have played for Arsenal and Manchester City in the Premier League era.
Nicolas Anelka announced his arrival at Arsenal in stunning fashion, a teenager who took little time to show he belonged at the top level. Prised from Paris Saint-Germain for a fee of just £500,000, Anelka became one of Arsene Wenger’s greatest signings.
Rich in promise, Anelka was a forward with blistering pace and cool around goal. In his first full season he played a crucial role in the title run-in as Arsenal won the Premier League, before netting against Newcastle in the FA Cup final to seal the 1997/98 domestic double.
The following season got even better for Anelka. He scored 17 league goals during a coming-of-age campaign, a return which saw him anointed PFA Young Player of the Year. Europe’s elite had taken notice and amid interest from Spain, the forward had his head turned.
He signed for Real Madrid in an ill-fated £22.3m move, a record for the Spanish giants and a huge profit on Arsenal’s initial investment. Anelka failed to settle in the goldfish bowl of the Bernabeu however, with his move beginning a nomadic existence that took in spells at PSG, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbache, Bolton, Chelsea, Shanghai Shenhua, Juventus, West Brom and Mumbai City.
Final minute of stoppage time.@ManCity’s Nicolas Anelka shows how to haunt your former club in style… 😮#GoalOfTheDay pic.twitter.com/RNXQOmE5zB
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 28, 2017
Anelka was electric during those two-and-a-half seasons at City, in which he scored 45 goals in 103 appearances. He signed in a club-record £13m deal after the club’s promotion to the Premier League under Kevin Keegan, but later departed for Fenerbahce in search of European football.
Noughties Nines: Nicolas Anelka – Sullen and spectacular
The last line of defence for Arsenal’s famous back five, David Seaman became an iconic figure during a decorated career in north London. Some questioned the wisdom in Arsenal’s £1.3m capture of Seaman – the fee a then-record for a goalkeeper – but it proved among the club’s greatest ever pieces of business.
Seaman made 564 appearances for the Gunners and won three league titles, spending the first decade of the Premier League as England’s number one.
Four FA Cups, a League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup also arrived as part of an extensive honours list, with Seaman regarded as one of the Premier League’s best ever goalkeepers.
He spent more than a decade as the north London side’s first-choice goalkeeper, before a single season at Manchester City before retirement.
Patrick Vieira arrived at Arsenal as a relative unknown and departed nine seasons later as one of the Gunners’ all-time greats.
A powerhouse of a player who stamped his mark on Premier League midfields, he was at the centre of Arsene Wenger’s iconic title-winning teams. A three-time winner of the Premier League, he was integral to each of those triumphs with his marauding box-to-box brilliance and ability to win and use the ball efficiently.
Vieira was Arsenal’s general at the height of their rivalry with Manchester United, his personal duels with Roy Keane often box-office viewing. The Frenchman inherited the captain’s armband following the retirement of Tony Adams and led the side to their famous ‘Invincibles’ campaign in 2003/04.
After converting the winning spot-kick in the FA Cup final the following season, he departed for spells at Juventus and Inter Milan before returning to English football at Manchester City. He made 46 appearances across two seasons at City and moved immediately into a coaching role at the Etihad upon retirement.
Midfield Generals: Patrick Vieira – A Gunners great
Emmanuel Adebayor looked set to become the focal point of Arsenal’s forward line for several seasons after his emergence in north London, but his relationship with the fans rapidly soured before a £25m move to Manchester City.
Adebayor had joined the Gunners from Monaco and after a period as Thierry Henry’s understudy, assumed main man status following the record goalscorer’s exit in 2007. The following season saw Adebayor explode, netting 30 goals in all competitions as Arsenal challenged for the title.
Among them was a spectacular effort at Spurs, with the Togo international named in the PFA Team of the Year. He scored 16 goals in 2008/09, before departing for the big-spending regime at the Etihad.
😍 @E_Adebayor with the most 𝙄𝘾𝙊𝙉𝙄𝘾 celebration and biggest piece of karma in @PremierLeague history #OTD in 2009.#MCFC | #ManCity pic.twitter.com/3VS5QfFx7z
— City Report (@cityreport_) September 11, 2020
He marked his debut with a goal and scored in each of his first four games for City, the last of which is a moment few will forget. After heading home against his former side, Adebayor raced the length of the pitch to goad the travelling Arsenal support. The relationship with fans who once lauded him had reached its lowest ebb.
Adebayor failed to build on a promising first season at City and departed after 18 months with a record of 19 goals in 45 games. He later signed for Tottenham, adding insult to injury for Arsenal fans.
Kolo Toure made the same switch as Adebayor in the summer of 2009, leaving north London after seven successful seasons at Arsenal.
The Ivorian had been one of Arsene Wenger’s great finds, signed for just £150,000 from ASEC Mimosa after a short trial period. He began life in England in midfield before reverting to the centre-back role in which he excelled, forming a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell during Arsenal’s Invincibles campaign and run to the 2006 Champions League final.
That latter European venture saw Arsenal keep a record ten consecutive clean sheets, shutting out Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal over two legs in the knockout rounds. Toure made 326 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions, before joining the ambitious project at Eastlands.
#OnThisDay in 2009, Kolo Toure moved to @ManCity
🎶 *That* famous chant followed soon after 🎶 pic.twitter.com/J1yCy4Ve1g
— Premier League (@premierleague) July 29, 2017
After being joined by brother, Yaya, in his second season at City, the duo helped the club to FA Cup success and a first major trophy in 35 years. A first Premier League title followed in 2011/12, before Toure moved on to Liverpool on a free transfer in 2013.
The path from the Emirates to Eastlands was a particularly well-trodden one in the late 2000s. In just five seasons between 2009 and 2014, five players swapped Arsenal for the big-spending blue half of Manchester.
It emphasised a shift in the balance of power, with Arsenal – in decline after the early success of the Arsene Wenger era – lost top talent to the Premier League’s emerging force. Among the most painful exits was that of Samir Nasri, a cultured midfielder who had formed part of the Gunners’ entertaining but often fragile side.
A superb Arsenal team goal! 😍#GoalOfTheDay pic.twitter.com/AfdqbY23Yq
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 22, 2020
Nasri’s final season with Arsenal saw him score 15 goals in all competitions, impressing in a technical engine room alongside Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas to earn inclusion in the 2010/11 PFA Team of the Year.
Manchester City made their move for the mercurial Frenchman that summer and agreed a £25m deal for Nasri, who had entered the final 12 months of his deal in north London. He made 176 appearances across six seasons and won two Premier League titles, the second of which came alongside League Cup success.
Arsenal raided Manchester City last summer to sign Gabriel Jesus as the club sought a long-term option to lead the line.
Jesus won four Premier League titles with the Citizens, but rarely commanded automatic status and made 60 of his 159 league appearances for the club from the bench. The Brazil international scored an impressive 95 goals from just 151 starts across all competitions for City, form which persuaded Mikel Arteta to sanction a £45m deal.
Get it on repeat! 🔁 #ARSLEI pic.twitter.com/82Bfd1dQqJ
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 14, 2022
Arteta had worked alongside Jesus during his time on Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff and the forward has made an immediate impression in north London. Selfless and industrious in his work from the front, Jesus has scored five goals and provided five assists in 14 league appearances for the Gunners this season.
His arrival has contributed to the progress of Arteta’s side, who have exceeded all expectations this season to lead the title race.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is another talent who was under-valued in Manchester, but who has become a crucial cog in a team who has emerged as his former side’s closest competitor this season.
The Ukraine international was respected at City for his tactical intelligence and versatility but has shown just how influential he can be with a more prominent role at Arsenal.
Zinchenko has transformed how Arsenal build attacks, dictating games from a complex left-back role. Tasked with providing width and tucking inside to create a numerical advantage in central areas, he has performed his fascinating dual-task to an elite standard this season.
As City have tried and tested different solutions to their left-back issues, the man allowed to leave last summer has been a standout for their title rivals. In a market of vastly inflated fees, his £32m price-tag has proven some of the summer’s most astute business.
Read – Iconic Duos: Arsenal’s monstrous midfield partnership, Petit and Vieira
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