The football purists have been salivating since the draw was made. Arsenal and Manchester City; two managers who believe that football must be played the ‘right’ way. Aesthetically pleasing, short passing, and technically gifted players.
There’s no argument that City are having the better time of it recently. Arsenal have won just four of the last ten, two of which were against non-league teams. You can only beat the opposition in front of you, but the Gunners have struggled to do that recently.
Against Middlesbrough, Arsène Wenger introduced a 3 – 4 – 3 formation, using a back three for the first time in nearly twenty years. However, one win against the Premier League’s weakest strikeforce isn’t a credible case for permanent change.
However, in a 4–2–3–1, Arsenal’s defence proved vulnerable against distinctly average opposition. It’s still a mystery how Manchester City didn’t seal victory at the Emirates during the first twenty minutes when the two sides recently met. That it ended 2 – 2 offers hope to Wenger; City were better but lacked a killer instinct.
Not that City are necessarily in better form. Back-to-back wins over Southampton and Hull, followed three without a win against top six teams, including Arsenal. Guardiola’s side are flitting in and out of form.
If the Gunners are to succeed, they could do worse than replicate Juventus’ solid defensive performance at the Camp Nou. A brick wall is asking a lot of a team whose back line has been porous all season.
The two sides have met at this stage once before. 1932 isn’t relevant but Arsenal will be hoping for a repeat of the 1 – 0 victory.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal Team News
City are missing Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus while John Stones and Bacary Sagna are both doubtful.
For Arsenal, it’s almost quicker to list the players who are fit. Sunday’s squad won’t include: Santi Cazorla, Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Perez, David Ospina and Jeff Reine-Adelaide. Danny Welbeck is a doubt following a toe injury.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal Key Men
Vincent Kompany’s return at Southampton could not have been timelier. While the Saints were particularly insipid in front of goal, Kompany gave the City defence a steadiness previously missing. The release of pent-up emotion when he scored, highlighted the depths to which the Belgian had sunk during his time out of the side.
However, City’s biggest issue is the man behind him. Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero have hardly been the sturdy custodians Guardiola hoped for. While their distribution may suit his needs, they are error prone while Bravo broke a horrible run of conceding every time there was a shot on target; seven in total.
For Arsenal, their problems are such that it is hard to pin down one or two key men. Alexis Sanchez is their lifeblood at the moment, encapsulating the spirit, desire and determination supporters want, with the sloppiness in possession which leads to goals being scored against the Gunners.
The Chilean is on fire in front of goal, delivering a superb free kick at Middlesbrough and a Player of the Year nomination. He won’t win it but the recognition of his season is fully deserved.
Which is more than came be said of Mesut Özil. 2017 has been a horrible year on the pitch for the German, failing miserably to reach the levels of the previous season and criticised from all quarters. And that’s a pity; Özil is a phenomenal talent, whose languid style often disguises his contributions to Arsenal’s cause.
An interesting choice for the Arsenal manager is whether to restore Hector Bellerin to the starting line-up. Leroy Sane tore him to pieces at the Emirates, scoring in the process. The German youngster against the young Spaniard could be a battle which hugely influences the outcome of the match.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal Prediction
City are favourites for this match but not by much. Guardiola’s team can be unplayable yet flaky. The clean sheet against Southampton was their first in five games. WasKompany’s return that pivotal? Alexis and Olivier Giroud will test that.
The Frenchman is out of favour but has impressive statistics in terms of goals per minute. And he against City as well. However, Arsenal’s defence is wobbling more than a rope bridge in a high wind. Aside from the win at Sutton, the Gunners haven’t kept a clean sheet since winning 5 – 0 at St Mary’s.
That is likely to be the decisive issue. City’s attack is so varied and ruthless, and it will be the difference between the two sides as City win by the odd goal in three.
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Manchester City vs. Arsenal Live TV Coverage & Online Streaming
Manchester City vs. Arsenal will be shown on BT Sport 1 at 3pm on Sunday 23rd April 2017.