For some years now, Arsene Wenger has spoken of the need for football to take note of the monetary issues affecting the wider world. "We are going towards a huge financial crisis," Wenger, an economics graduate from the University of Strasbourg, said in September 2011. "The stadiums will be less quickly full and we have noticed that already."
Certainly that fact will be noticed on Sunday, when Manchester City make their journey to the Emirates, because just over 900 of the club's fans, lacking the largesse of its owners, have returned nearly a third of the tickets allocated to them on the grounds that, at £62 apiece, they are unaffordable. "It just shows that football clubs are out of touch with reality," Kevin Parker, the general secretary of the Manchester City Supporters' Club, said in The Guardian.
Regardless of their exorbitantly priced tickets, Arsenal remain in thrall to the economic might of their guests. City have plundered North London on several occasions in recent years, and though two of those signings, Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure, will be unavailable this weekend, Wenger believes the reigning Premier League champions have seized an unfair advantage through "financial doping". As he wondered ahead of his side's trip to Eastlands in September: "When you look at what Manchester City have spent and analyse their wage bill, what chance do we have?"
Yet Arsenal held City 1-1 that day and, so far as the head-to-head record is concerned, there has been little sign of the financial gulf, with the nine league meetings since the Abu Dhabi United Group's takeover resulting in three City wins, three Arsenal wins and three draws. Those fans not wishing to make the trip from Etihad to Emirates may also have been influenced by some startling statistics: City have not scored a single goal in any of their five league visits to the Emirates since their 2008 takeover and have not won a league game at Arsenal since October 1975.
"Football is like that sometimes but 37 years is extraordinary and records like that are rare but there to be broken," Gareth Barry told City's official website. "We have to go to the Emirates, play as well as we know we are capable of and see if we can put an end to our poor run of league results on their ground."
With Manchester United seven points clear at the top of the table, the imperative is not merely historical, but their task is significant: City will be without Yaya and Kolo Toure, who have departed for the African Nations Cup, as well as the suspended Nasri, while Sergio Aguero is battling to overcome a hamstring problem. Arsenal, for all their high and lows this season, could smell blood.
Arsenal player to watch: Theo Walcott. Goals have been at a premium in recent meetings between the teams, with only five goals in the last five meetings in all competitions, but should Walcott find his range there is hope the hosts can find their way to goal. The 23-year-old has started the last five games at centre forward and although he is still learning the position, failing to score in three of those matches, he is devastating on his day.
Manchester City player to watch: David Silva. In the absence of Yaya Toure, and with Sergio Aguero an injury doubt, there will be a clear onus on Silva to unlock the Arsenal defence. With Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque expected to be present to assess Silva, Javi Garcia and Santi Cazorla, the playmaker will have an added incentive to make a mark.
Key Battle: Per Mertesacker vs Edin Dzeko Arsenal's finest defender this season endured a miserable outing in the 2-2 draw with Swansea in the FA Cup, and the Gunners will be anxious to see the German recover his best form against a City attack that, at its best, can look formidable. The greatest threat may be Dzeko, who is beginning to shake off the 'super-sub' tag after having netted three goals as a starter in City's last three games in all competitions.
Trivia: DaMarcus Beasley is the only Manchester City player to have scored at Emirates Stadium, scoring in a 3-1 defeat in April 2007.
Stats: Arsenal have missed their last three penalties taken against Manchester City, starting with the infamous Pires/Henry mix up at Highbury (Opta)
Odds: Arsenal (2.60), Manchester City (2.62) and the draw (3.50) are on offer at bet365, with a 0-0 draw available at 13.00.
Prediction: History suggests Arsenal are the more likely, and City's absentees will do little to further their cause, but the fact that the visitors are 11 points ahead shows their greater quality. A narrow away victory looks the most likely outcome.