This game against former mentor Pep Guardiola must have been on Mikel Arteta’s mind for a while, despite anything he may say to the contrary.
The aim to establish an underperforming and underachieving Arsenal is underway but a decent result against his former mentor Pep Guardiola will give confidence during a rather crucial run-in.
Arteta may have an advantage in knowing how the City manager thinks, but he isn’t blessed with the talent of his opposite number and will have to get the best out of every available player to pull off a determined draw or unexpected victory.
City are and have been a level or two above Arsenal in recent seasons but they have, on occasion, shown that if luck had been dressed in red and white, the gunners could have sprung a surprise.
The 2-0 defeat by Pep Guardiola’s City (2018) early into Unai Emery’s reign saw Arsenal reign on terms for long periods of the game and had the finishing been better, the gunners might have managed to nudge in a draw.
City’s form has been scratchy at times this season and Arteta knows that motivation is key to any available points.
While City may appear to have weak spots mainly in the application of their instructions, they have also surprisingly failed a few times against less-talented teams and their tactics.
The biggest concern will be Kevin De Bruyne, who has the engine and vision to put any side to the sword. His passes can literally split any defense like a hot knife through butter and make for easy pickings for Pep Guardiola s strikers.
Imagine if he had Aubameyang and Lacazette ahead of him, the pair would both rake in around thirty goals per season.
Aside from his injuries of 2018/19, De Bruyne has been by far the best and most exciting player in the division with Aguero being the most consistent one.
Arsenal will need to find a defensive pairing capable of nullifying the threat and if it were me, I’d probably go with Luiz and Mari at the heart of my defense rather than having to depend upon either Sokratis or Mustafi to not give my beating heart cause for concern.
Ceballos will no doubt play alongside Xhaka and I don’t really expect major changes in the midfield or frontline if everyone remains fit.
Arteta will want to stifle the creativity and limit the space by pressing fairly high and he’ll probably be looking for quick counters to turn the game on its head.
However, expect more than your fair share of patient passing as the wing-backs Bellerin and Saka try to cause problems on the flanks in support of the strikers.
Ceballos may be vital here and could be Arsenal’s version of De Bruyne.
He is a baller, good in support of the forwards and a creative influence but he’ll certainly need to do his share in defense.
Saka, Bellerin, Aubameyang, Pepe or Nelson would be able to apply the needed pressure in front of the goal if things do click for them from the midfield.
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City under Pep Guardiola meanwhile have problems of their own with injuries to Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane and concerns over Sergio Aguero but they have depth and as long as there are no other absences, City will be more than be able to cope and possibly flourish given the ridiculous bench strength they have.
The season has been something of a struggle for the last season premier league champions and they have had to endure Liverpool’s dominance on a domestic and European level. Quite frustrating and exhausting one would assume.
Despite the respect and admiration between both Arsenal and City bosses, this game means more than just three points.
For City, it’s about continuing success for the future and showing that their own inimitable brand of fantasy football still flourishes in the league.
For Arsenal, it’s about showing improvement, however slight and closing the gap on the top four at all costs.
Liverpool and City are still ahead by some distance but Arsenal could certainly make a statement in their clash when an irresistible force (Pep Guardiola) meets an immovable object (Mikel Arteta).
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