While the attention would be on the Chelsea – Manchester United clash on Sunday afternoon for obvious reasons, City vs Arsenal is the more intriguing tie this weekend in the Premier League for those with a taste for free-flowing, end-to-end football.
Manchester City are flying high at the moment, steamrolling every side that has come in their way, bar Everton. Their most recent victims being their Italian equivalents, Napoli, a thrilling game where Sergio Aguero netted and got his name in the Manchester City hall of fame in fine fashion. On the night, City displayed a new dimension to their already tremendous game – Counter attacking. The Napoli defenders didn’t know what hit them.
Manchester City’s attackers will be smacking their lips at the prospect of facing Arsenal’s defence, which has seen a lot of individual errors directly leading to goals. City’s main concern is whether they would be able to play with the same intensity after the physically draining midweek game.
Arsenal, likewise, will look to fight fire with fire. The much awaited trio of Lacazette, Ozil and Sanchez, with the support of the tireless Ramsey, has hit the ground running and the likes of Otamendi, Stones and Walker will have their work cut out. If the likes of Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil can get the ball up to Lacazette and Alexis, Arsenal can score goals.
It’s at the back where Arsenal have issues with Shkodran Mustafi injured, Sead Kolasinac (who has been a revelation, by the way) doubtful, and Mertesacker in poor form.
Manchester City have been anointed as champions-elect already, but Arsene Wenger remains confident his side can spring a surprise at The Etihad the way they did back in 2015.
Arsenal need to rally-up and defend as a team to even have a chance of taking a point back to London.
HEAR FROM THE MANAGERS
“It’s Arsenal next, so it’s complicated. It is the last game before international break and hopefully we can recover well after a tough performance in Napoli.
“What matters is to play good on Sunday and win the game. The main thing is win the next one. We did it the last one and now we have to do it again.
“The Champions League game was so, so tough and Arsenal didn’t play their normal squad in their Europa League game, so they have rested for one week. Our supporters can help us with that.
“People say we are unbeatable – we are beatable. Some team will beat us. The Invincibles record belongs to Arsene Wenger. We are not going to do it. It’s something fantastic. We don’t want to break this record.”
“I wouldn’t like to come out on our approach, but of course we will try to play our game. We will not hide.”
“When we go there, we want to defend well but you cannot go there and only be focused on just defending. We want to play, have the ball and create dangerous situations. The best way to defend sometimes is to attack.
“When you want to play football, you have to accept the risk and you have to play. If you want to play football, when you walk out on the pitch you have to accept the gamble and the risk. It is part of the game. After, you have to rate the risk. Is it a bigger risk only to defend than to attack if a team is very strong in attack? Maybe it is a bigger risk only to defend.”
MANCHESTER CITY – Pep Guardiola has the complete squad less Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy to choose from.
ARSENAL – Arsene Wenger is hopeful of having Sead Kolasinac available but the wing-back is doubtful. Shkodran Mustafi, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck and Calum Chambers remain out.
- Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City
The Gunners turned the game on its head courtesy an Alexis Sanchez extra time winner at Wembley to book a place in the FA Cup Final.
PREMIER LEAGUE STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Manchester City’s only win in nine games against Arsenal was a 2-1 league victory at the Etihad last season.
- Arsenal have scored at least two goals in eight of the last 10 fixtures, with City failing to keep a clean sheet during that period.
- Sergio Aguero has scored five goals in his last seven matches for Man City against Arsenal in all competitions.
- City’s total of 35 league goals makes this the most prolific start by a Guardiola-led team, bettering Barcelona’s 34 goals in 2008-09.
- City’s tally of 28 points equals the Premier League record after 10 games.
- The two previous sides with 28 points at this point (Chelsea in 2005 and City themselves in 2011) both went on to win the title.
- Pep Guardiola’s side could equal the club league record of nine consecutive victories within a single season, set in February 1947 in the second tier.
- City completed 844 passes in the win at West Brom – the most by a team in the Premier League since Opta began recording this data in 2003.
Leroy Sane has had a hand in 11 goals in his last seven Premier League games – and has scored and assisted in four of his last five league games.
City (71%) and Arsenal (65%) have the highest average ball possession in the Premier League this season.
- Arsenal have won 10 of their last 12 matches in all competitions, losing just once.
- The Gunners have come from behind to win three Premier League games this season – a feat they managed just twice in 2016-17.
- At this stage last season, Arsenal were in second place on goal difference with 23 points. They currently lie fifth, nine points off the lead.
- They have won two of their last 26 Premier League away matches against clubs that finished in the top six last season (D8, L16).
- Mesut Ozil has created 30 goalscoring opportunities in the Premier League this season, a joint-league high with Kevin De Bruyne.
- Arsene Wenger is the only manager to beat Pep Guardiola while he has managed Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
Leroy Sane v Hector Bellerin
It will be an electrifying contest between two of the quickest footballers in England. If the German can get the better of the Spanish right-back, he could swing the game City’s way, but expect to see a more regimented Gunners display at The Etihad with the visitors wary of leaving gaps for the likes of Silva, Sane and De Bruyne to exploit.
Referee– Michael Oliver
Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal
Match preview by Nikhil Rao
Line up taken from Gaurdian
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