by Abdulmajeed Bakare (@simply_ambo)
The Super Sunday clash between Manchester City and Arsenal throws up an exciting clash at a crucial time for both teams.
The Gunners visit the Etihad hoping to win, stay fourth and remain ahead of Chelsea who got humiliated by AFC Bournemouth in midweek. City, on the other hand, will be looking for an immediate reaction after falling to a surprise defeat in their clash against the Magpies.
Team News and Head-to-Head Record
Ahead of this clash, Man. City will worry about the fitness of No. 1 shot-stopper, Ederson, who suffered a leg injury against Newcastle. Expectations are that he will be fit. However, Pep might have to rely on 20-year old Muric.
This game might be too soon for Benjamin Mendy as he has trained on and off during the weekend. “We’ll see day by day, but I don’t know,” Guardiola said at his news conference on Friday.
On the other side of the divide, Arsenal have Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, and Sokratis on the treatment table. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Laurent Koscielny will both face fitness tests.
“He trained today well, we are positive with him,” Arsenal boss Unai Emery said of Koscielny, who is recovering from injuries to the face and head. It had been worried that the player suffered a broken jaw.
Head-to-head makes for grim reading for Arsenal fans. In the previous six games in all competitions between the pair, City have won four, lost one and drawn once.
Arsenal have not won any of their last 2️⃣0️⃣ @premierleague away games v big 6 sides – their last win came at Man City in Jan 2015
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 1, 2019
In their last six outings in all competitions, Manchester City have a 5W, 1L, 0D record. Arsenal in their last six in all competitions have accrued 4W, 2L, 0D.
So, What Can You Expect?
1. Pressing v Counter-pressing
City being at home will look to press Arsenal high up the pitch and dominate possession. In 12 home games played this season, they’ve scored 40, averaging 3.3 goals per game. Of those 12, the only game they didn’t win was their loss to Crystal Palace.
Pep is expected to go with his usual 4-3-3 which transitions into 2-3-5 when they attack. Laporte and Stones will defend, Danilo and Walker will move in beside Fernandinho while De Bruyne and David Silva will move into the attacking third with presumably Sane and Sterling staying out wide.
This approach is likely to give an angry City side much joy as their counterparts have their defensive crisis to deal with.
Arsenal should start in a 4-4-2 diamond formation as this formation gave them good returns against Chelsea. This formation will arguably allow Arsenal to match and press City in midfield. The back four will play narrowly in this system to give a chance to defend against the midfield runners and help contain City. The question will be how long they can do that for.
They will look to counter-press high up with Aubameyang, Lacazette and whoever plays 10. They can achieve this with long balls over the top looking to catch City’s fullbacks out of position or quick transitional play forward.
2. Early Goal
Arsenal have a shaky defence even without the injuries. It could translate into early goal(s) for Man. City as they will look to come out firing on all cylinders to make a statement.
It’s just hard not to see a half time lead for City.
3. Goals In Both Halves
Arsenal can be likened to late bloomers as they don’t start games in the best of fashions. And this is unlikely to change at the Etihad. 57% of their goals this season have come in the second half.
City on their own have scored 52% in the first half which might further suggest a good start for the Cityzens. After all, Aguero scored in the first minute of their game against Newcastle before a fight back in the 2nd half.
In their last six games in all competitions, two or more goals have been scored. Hence an over 2.5 bet might not be far-fetched for the punters.
4. Key Battles
Aubameyang v Laporte: This battle might decide if Arsenal get to score at all. Aubameyang will need to drag Laporte out of position and make the space for someone to run at. Also if Aubameyang decides to go the way of running in behind just between Laporte and Danilo with Danilo likely out of position, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
De Bruyne v Torreira: If anyone is capable of stopping De Bruyne or David Silva that will most likely be Lucas Torreira. He’s a fantastic player who can play in any of the top 6 sides, and he could be the one to stop De Bruyne’s run into the final third.
You get a feeling whoever comes out tops in these key battles will surely have a say in the final score-line.
5. City’s Reaction
You can expect Pep and his men to come out of the Etihad dressing room all fired up and ready to correct their midweek slip-up. It’s not a favourable time for Emery to face Pep’s reigning champions.
The fixture comes just as they break into the top 4 even if only on goals difference. After all, in 11 attempts Unai Emery has failed to beat Pep, and the odds are stacked against him to make him 12th time lucky.
Since tagging their remaining games as finals, you have to fear for Arsenal. A side with 11 wins in 12 home games is dangerous enough, right?
These two teams are not the same from Arsenal’s MatchDay 2 loss this season. However, Emery has to coach his men to adapt to City’s approach while staying effective when they go forward themselves.
Seeing as City are not likely to lose at home to a defensively unstable Gunners, I’ll go a 3-2 home win.
How about you? What do you think? Share your thoughts with me by dropping your comments.
Author: For The Goal
You can keep in touch with us on most social media platforms @iamforthegoal