Arsene Wenger takes on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team for the first time. Who will prevail?
Plenty of questions surround both teams coming into this one. City finally won a league match on their home ground this past Wednesday (vs Watford) while Arsenal’s run of unbeaten matches came to an end at Everton’s Goodison Park the previous day. Only a point separates the two clubs in the Premier League table, and both will want a good result to show they’re firmly in the hunt for the title and to calm the nerves of jittery supporters.
City’s win vs Watford was their first in five league games at the Etihad stadium and the intervening matches there saw draws with Everton, Southampton and Middlesborough preceding the 3-1 loss to Chelsea. That one saw a couple of key players come unhinged at the final whistle. Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho will be be serving suspensions for our match due to the contretemps.
Guardiola will have to draw upon even more of his squad depth due to a knee injury suffered by one of his off-season buys, Ilkay Gundogan, in the Watford game. Still, even with these players missing, City can field a star-studded cast of attackers including players such as David Silva, Yaya Toure, Kevin DeBruyne, Raheem Sterling, Jesus Navas and Nolito. In Aguero’s absence Kelechi Iheanacho will likely lead the line. Another exciting young player, Leroy Sane, might also be called upon.
At the back, City is a bit iffier. Another Guardiola buy, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, has yet to prove his near-suicidal “sweeper-keeper” instincts are properly honed for English Football. Guardiola, in the absence of Vincent Kompany, has also yet to find a settled backline. He dropped John Stones, another big buy at 47 million pounds, for the Watford match and he has also experimented with playing and then dropping others such as Nicolas Otamendi and former Gunners Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna. Only Aleksandar Kolorov has been a consistent pick back there. Fernando will likely takeover as midfield enforcer in Fernandinho’s absence.
However Guardiola mixes and matches his cast of big money players it cannot help but be seen an opportunity for Arsenal to recover from the loss at Everton, though that disappointing result also makes this one a real test of our resilience and character. How will Wenger set out his team and how will he expect them to play? Was Everton a blip or do Arsenal need a new approach? There have been various critiques of the match. Some suggest that Arsenal couldn’t cope with Everton’s “nothing to lose” physicality and the Goodison Park atmosphere. Others believe we just weren’t able to push forward well enough on the break and at other times when we had the ball. Some have criticized our wing play (Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain) while others thought the substitutes (Alex Iwobi and Olivier Giroud) forced us to play a game unsuited to the end of match situation. Still others put it down to bad luck and failure to take our chances when they came or simply poor defending for the two headed goals that Everton were able to claim. What do you think went wrong in that match and how can Arsenal get back on track?
With the negative result seemingly everything is called into question. Will Wenger, perhaps stubbornly, stick with the same eleven he started at Everton or will he want to mix it up (twist) after the poor result? I think, anticipating another open game and some chances on the break, he opts for strength at the back along with speed and direct play up front. In other words, I believe he’ll stay with the same group.
Subs: Ospina, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Iwobi, Lucas, Giroud
But, of course, I am not Wenger in disguise, so what do I know? How do you believe the manager should set up for this one and what sort of match can we expect?
Any way you slice it it’s a big one and a real chance for both teams to show their title credentials. Arsenal need a response after the recent disappointment and, fortunately, they have a big opportunity to make a real statement against the big money behemoth Man City have become.
Go on then…