The first game of 2022 sees Manchester City travel back down to London to face an in-form Arsenal side. The home team will be without Mikel Arteta, as the Arsenal manager is isolating after testing positive for Covid. The game kicks off at 12:30 pm (GMT) and will be broadcast live on BT Sport in the UK.
Pep Guardiola had three absentees for the game against Brentford; John Stones, Kyle Walker and Rodri. The training videos City posted on Thursday showed that only Kyle Walker returned out of the three. Thursday evening saw a shocking incident occur regarding Joao Cancelo. However, Cancelo has made himself available for selection and has travelled with the league leaders.
Predicted City XI:
Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko, Fernandihno, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Silva, Sterling.
The month of December was a perfect month for Pep Guardiola's side. City won 7 out of 7 league games, gaining 21 points. The latest of these 7 wins came against Brentford on Wednesday night. The victory was made even sweeter because both Liverpool and Chelsea dropped points.
If City beat Arsenal on Saturday, it will be their 11th league win in a row, and they will go 11 points clear of Chelsea in 2nd place. Liverpool and Chelsea play one another on Sunday, so there is a guarantee that one of the two teams will drop points. This makes a City victory even more valuable.
The win against Brentford on Wednesday night was not vintage, but it was a solid defensive performance. I expect the game against Arsenal to follow a similar pattern. Last game at the Emirates, Guardiola's side won 1-0, courtesy of a Raheem Sterling header after 2 minutes. City will be more than pleased if the outcome is the same come the final whistle as Arsenal are the other in-form team in the league.
I have predicted Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus to be dropped to the bench against Arsenal. Neither played poorly against Brentford, but Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez have been impressive as of late and are the most in-form City attackers. I expect Ilkay Gundogan to come back into the side after he was rested against Brentford. This leaves two spots for Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden. Kevin De Bruyne is returning to form, and there is no better player in the league when De Bruyne is at his best. I have gone for Bernardo Silva to provide energy and defensive cover next to Fernandinho because I worry that 3 games in a week is one too many for the City captain.
City will look to start 2022 with a win, it will not be an easy task, but it will make yet another statement and put more pressure on the chasing pack.
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistants: Simon Long and Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend
VAR: Jared Gillett
Assistant VAR: Derek Eaton
Arsenal are currently sat in 4th place in the Premier League, this is after they have won four games in a row against Norwich, Leeds, West Ham and Southampton.
Their last Premier League encounter would have been against Wolves on Tuesday night, but it was postponed due to Covid cases in the Wolves camp.
Arsenal themselves have been impacted by Covid cases, with Calum Chambers, Cedric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles among those infected.
Arteta will not be in the dugout on Saturday, but I expect Arsenal to set up in his preferred 4-2-3-1 system. Ramsdale is a name worth mentioning because he has been a breath of fresh air for the Gunners. Not only has he made brilliant saves, but he also seems a great personality, something Arsenal have desperately needed in their dressing room. Emile Smith-Rowe has not started any of Arsenal's last 5 league matches, yet he is scoring goals from the bench. Whether he starts or not, City will need to be wary of the threat he offers.
The North London side have scored 32 goals and conceded just 23, that's the 7th best defensive record in the league. The number of goals conceded has been inflated by their poor start to the season, when they conceded 11 goals in their first 3 games. This will be a very difficult game for Guardiola's men because Arsenal are defensively solid and offer a large threat going forward.
This will be a tight game, and anybody expecting City to roll over the Gunners will be in for a shock. However, I believe Pep's side will leave London with a 2-0 win, with Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan scoring the goals.
Written by: @benking200012
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