Champions Manchester City will travel to the Emirates Stadium to face the league leaders in a top-of-the-table clash on Wednesday night. An action-packed period for City saw the team crash at Tottenham, be hit with a wave of charges from the Premier League, and then bounce back superbly against Aston Villa.
Pep Guardiola’s men will need to carry this momentum and find their best form to beat Arsenal in what will surely be one of the biggest games of the season. The match will kick off at 7:30 pm (GMT) and will be shown live on Amazon Prime Video.
If there was ever a time for Guardiola to find his first XI, it would be now. City’s win over Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon has given the Catalan a series of dilemmas for his team selection.
John Stones will be absent due to injury. There is a small question over Erling Haaland’s fitness, but he has been seen in full training since his pre-cautionary half-time substitution against Villa.
The most tumultuous element of Guardiola’s team has been the defence. Ruben Dias put in an impressive first-half display at the Etihad on Sunday, only being substituted off to avoid a second yellow. This is the beginning of the business end of the season; Dias has been crucial to City’s successes and will have a shot at cementing himself in the first XI. Guardiola’s defensive indecision has stemmed from poor build-up play. Aymeric Laporte proved on Sunday that he can be the solution; the opening 45 minutes saw a return to the game control that has characterised City in the past seasons.
Ake should return to the left-back position; he put in one of the performances of the season against Arsenal at the Etihad, entirely shutting down an inform Bukayo Saka. On the right side, Guardiola commented that Walker was back ‘in performance and attitude’ against Villa. Rico Lewis has done nothing but impress this season, but Walker offers the most defensive reliability and will likely take the spot.
Guardiola’s midfield hasn’t been too tricky to predict. Rodri has been a stand-out performer as a holding midfielder, stepping up as a player and leader. Kevin De Bruyne is finding his form again. They’ll likely be joined by captain Ilkay Gundogan, whose intelligent playmaking, leadership, and directness give him the edge over Bernardo Silva.
The front three of Jack Grealish, Erling Haaland, and Riyad Mahrez has become a regular sight in the City team. However, there is an outside chance that Phil Foden gets the nod on the left wing. Foden is one of the most talented players in the world, and a show of faith from Guardiola could provide him with the confidence and concentration he needs to find himself.
Ederson; Walker, Laporte, Dias, Ake; Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne; Foden, Haaland, Mahrez
Arsenal has been the best team in the league this season, attracting praise for their energetic and fluid style of football. Mikel Arteta’s team have gained a position which makes them favourites for the title. If they beat City on Wednesday, they will go six points clear with a game in hand.
Much of the commentary surrounding Arsenal’s rise has scrutinised City’s transfer policy. Arsenal swooped Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from City on relatively cheap signings; they’ve brought a winning attitude and elite-level play to a previously rash and undependable Arsenal side. Jesus is a doubt for the game, but his understudy Eddie Nketiah has proved to be a worthy occupant of the #9 role for Arsenal.
Arsenal is a very complete team. If there is one thing that illustrates their brilliance, it is their build-up play and quick transitions. They attack with incredible pace and precision; this can be accredited in part to Martin Ødegaard. A player oft compared to a younger Kevin De Bruyne, both possess the ability to find a pass that no one else can see. Arguably the two best playmakers in the world, the result could come down to who can impact the game more.
This Arsenal side goes into the game with a small dip in form. It’s been three games without a win, drawing a controversial game against Brentford in their most recent fixture. However, they’ve played well in these games and don’t look to be losing confidence from the poor results. The atmosphere of the Emirates will give them a lift when facing City; the two best teams in the country will go pound-for-pound, and a win for either side will bring an advantage in the title race.
Guardiola’s City has had great success against Arsenal, winning 13 of the last 14 meetings. The Gunners have been in a rebuild throughout Guardiola’s time in Manchester. City’s last two meetings with Arsenal were tense affairs, a stark contrast to previous games.
The last time City went to the Emirates, it was a dramatic, controversial, and vital victory. The electric wing pairing of Gabriel Martinelli and Saka was too much for City to handle in the first half. But in the final minutes of injury time, Rodri desperately poked the ball into the Arsenal net to complete a second-half comeback, started by a Mahrez penalty.
This was one of the best games of the season, it brought a moment City fans won’t forget, and it provided a preview of the current Arsenal.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistants: Gary Beswick & Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Darren England
VAR: David Coote
Assistant VAR: Marc Perry
Written by: @TomKilm04
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