An in-form Arsenal side host a relentless Manchester City outfit who are eyeing an eleventh straight win in the Premier League.
Arsenal’s recent surge in form is no coincidence, as Mikel Arteta is starting to show what his ‘process’ meant. Accidentally or by design, the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seems to have freed up the attacking unit, which has yielded 19 goals across five games in all competitions.
After winning four Premier League games in a row, Arteta might have felt undone after their run paused due to the postponement of the Wolves game on Tuesday. Although, that little break might have given his stars a breather and time to recuperate ahead of their biggest test yet.
While Arsenal enjoyed a terrific outing against Norwich, scoring five goals in the game, they may not be able to enjoy the same level of freedom against Manchester City. Arsenal’s recent good results have helped them rise into fourth place in the Premier League table, a position which they will retain irrespective of their result against Pep Guardiola’s men.
Manchester City come into this clash at the back of a ten-game winning streak in the Premier League, which has helped them open an eight-point gap at the summit. With Liverpool losing to Leicester and Chelsea only able to manage a draw against Brighton, Manchester City had the perfect opportunity to extend their dominance at the top, and they did just that.
Brentford proved a tough opponent, restricting the otherwise fluid City attackers to a single goal. Phil Foden’s solitary first-half striker was certainly enough to secure three points in a game where the Premier League champions, despite their narrow lead, looked completely in control of proceedings.
They have a good chance to extend their recent dominance in the league against Arsenal. Guardiola’s side have won their last nine Premier League games against the Gunners, a record Arteta will be keen on changing. However, based on both teams’ form, this clash promises to be an entertaining one, with either side with a chance.
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Arsenal will be without Mikel Arteta in the dugout after the Spaniard tested positive for Covid. The coaching staff could have further absentees, although the first-team squad tests came back negative. the Gunners will have a near full-strength squad at their disposal, with assistant coach Albert Stuivenberg taking over the reins for this game.
The Covid-related absentees from the Norwich game could yet be on the sidelines for the Manchester City clash. Takehiro Tomiyasu is the most notable player missing, along with Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares.
The Japan international’s absence means Ben White could be again deployed at right-back, with Rob Holding keeping his place at the heart of central defence alongside Gabriel. Kieran Tierney remains the undisputed left-back choice, with Nuno Tavares an option from the bench.
There will be no changes in the team’s shape despite some early reports claiming a back three could be in order. Meanwhile, in central midfield, we could see the same pairing of Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka again, as Arsenal will look to take advantage of their recent good form. This will be Ghanaian’s last game before he travels to link up with the Ghana squad for the AFCON.
In attack, Arsenal could be tempted to pick Emile Smith Rowe after the youngster scored in three consecutive substitute appearances. However, incumbent Gabriel Martinelli ticks more boxes with his energetic displays and might retain his place on the left side of the attack.
Bukayo Saka is firmly placed to start from the right side of the front three, while the in-form Martin Odegaard will keep his place as the advanced attacking midfielder. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is expected to be missing again after reports claimed he has already left to join his Gabon teammates, meaning Alexandre Lacazette will captain the side and lead from the front.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette
Pep Guardiola could make a host of changes from the side that narrowly won at Brentford on Wednesday night. Fortunately, Manchester City haven’t been affected too much by the recent Covid outbreak, which gives the manager plenty of options to choose from. Going by his management style, the Spaniard seems to have planned for this game meticulously, giving him plenty of fresh options to start.
The major change in defence would be the return of Oleksandr Zinchenko, who was replaced by Nathan Ake against Brentford. There is also the situation of the home assault with Joao Cancelo, although the club will make a late call on his inclusion. There is a slight issue in central midfield, as Rodri is yet to be deemed fully fit after missing the last two outings.
Fernandinho, who has played 90 minutes twice in three days, may not be able to do so again. However, with the Spaniard unlikely to make it to the side, the veteran midfielder will have to step up and take charge again. However, he will have fresh legs on one side, with Ilkay Gudogan set for a start after not being involved against Brentford. Kevin De Bruyne will retain his place in the other midfield spot.
Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, also unused substitutes against Brentford, are expected to start the clash. As a result, Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish are likely to drop out, with Phil Foden occupying the false-nine role once more.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
- Arsenal have won their last five home games, keeping a clean sheet in four of those.
- Arsenal have conceded ten goals inside the opening 15 minutes of their last 12 Premier League games against Manchester City.
- Manchester City (24) and Arsenal (17) were the top-scoring Premier League teams in December.
- Manchester City have won ten Premier League games in a row.
- Manchester City have won their last nine Premier League games against Arsenal in a row.
Player to Watch
The 20-year-old finished the game against Norwich with two strikes, his first brace for Arsenal and will be brimming with confidence. Bukayo Saka has been showing tremendous progress with each passing week this season, which has made him probably the most important player in Mikel Arteta’s setup.
However, his form against top teams, much like Arsenal’s need for positive results against teams sitting above them on the table, requires massive improvements. The clash with Manchester City could be the perfect platform for Saka to show such progress and help his side secure a positive result, if not an unlikely win.
Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City
Both these sides hold the two best home records this term, with Arsenal just three points shy of Manchester City in that aspect, with Pep Guardiola’s men having played a game more. However, the English champions could run away with a win at the Emirates.
The 5-0 loss in the reverse fixture might still be hanging over Arsenal, but they will have better players to field in this clash than the last one. Despite that, Manchester City are expected to take all three points, possibly securing a much narrower victory this time.