The English Premier League is back and fans around the world will be treated with a clash between two sides that play attractive football. The resumption of the EPL would mean that Liverpool will most likely win the title with two games to win. However, there is still much to play for even if the title is almost wrapped up. The fourth place is still to play for and the relegation battle is still a close one. After the dreadful results left behind by Emery, Arteta and his team will be looking to turn their fortunes around and fight for the elusive champions league qualification spot. With City, the season is definitely over for them with Liverpool 25 points ahead is poised to win their first ever league title in the Premier League era. The season could turn out worse for City should their two year European ban appeal be denied which could mean that a fifth place finish for any team could mean qualification for the Champions League. That aside, the clash between Arsenal and Manchester City would be an intriguing game by two very offensive sides.
Arsenal’s strongest XI: Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Torreira; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
A 4-2-3-1 formation has been Arteta’s go-to ever since he took charge of the Gunners. This has been the most popular formation in the Premier League as it gives teams possession and control while being defensively solid. With a double pivot of Xhaka and Torreira, Arteta can let his speedy forward line to penetrate City’s defence.
Manchester City’s strongest XI: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Bernardo, Aguero, Sterling
Guardiola’s most preferred formation is a 4-3-3. With Aymeric Laporte returning to training, it seems like City would have a full squad for their clash against Arsenal. City would surely be favourites going into this game. With the full squad and a long break, Guardiola’s team will be prepared for the Gunners.
Some Premier League clubs have been setting up friendlies to warm up with the resumption of the EPL in a few days. Arsenal has had two friendlies with Charlton Athletic and Brentford. Both games have been played behind-closed-doors and were not telecasted. Arsenal won 6 – 0 comfortably against Charlton Athletic with Eddie Nketiah scoring a hat-trick, Aubameyang and Lacazette getting on the scoresheet as well. The win against a relegation-threatened team should bring about confidence for the restart of the EPL. However, they were beaten 2 – 3 by promotion-chasing Brentford. It seems like Arteta’s side are still unable to resolve their leaky defence, which is worrying as their next game is against Manchester City.
On the other hand, Manchester City has opted to have friendlies amongst their first-team players. They certainly have enough depth and quality to play friendlies among themselves. The scoreline of the friendly is unknown but it may well look like a tougher friendly Arsenal has had since most of City players can walk into any Premier League teams. Even Mourinho said that Man City’s “B team” could be contenders for the EPL.
Players to Watch
Most of the battle will revolve around the midfield. As both teams like to keep the ball, it would be a mammoth task for Xhaka, Torreira and Ozil to match the quality and intensity of City’s De Bruyne, Rodri and Gundogan. Torreira will be important in breaking up play and disrupting City’s rhythm. Keeping De Bruyne at bay could neutralise an important cog in City’s attack but there are other City players that could change the game on their own such as Bernado Silva. Apart from that, City’s fullbacks have the pace to join in and support the attack. In a counterattack, Walker has the ability to pace down the right side of the field, quickly bringing the ball to the forwards.
On the other hand, it is imperative that Xhaka plays his best game against City. He has the ability to spread the ball well if he is given time and space, neither of which you can get when playing against City. With a calmer head and better coaching from a former Arsenal midfielder in Arteta, Xhaka could play a pivotal role in making the Arsenal midfield click. Apart from Xhaka, Arteta has to deal with Ozil disappearing in games like this. There is no doubt that Ozil is a world class player with an eye for a pass but his nonchalant body language on the field often makes him the scapegoat for his side’s losses. On his day, Ozil can change the face of the game and dismantle City’s defence with his crucial passes.
Master vs Student
There is no doubt that the upcoming match will be a test for Arteta to see if he has the capabilities to be a top-flight manager. Tactically, Arteta is a greenhorn as Arsenal is the first top-flight team he has managed. The lack of experience would surely put Arteta at a disadvantage but he will certainly put up a fight against his former boss on Thursday. The restart of the season would mean both teams have full squads available to choose from and each will be fully prepared. The match will certainly be a tactical battle student and master but Pep has to be ready for any surprises from Arteta as the latter might know of a few weaknesses in Guardiola’s tactics.
Everything about Arsenal’s backline screams 2 – 0 down inside 20 minutes. However, I like Arteta’s managerial style and would give him some credit for improving this Arsenal side since his first few games in charge. I do fancy Arteta’s chances for a win given that their defensive frailties have been resolved. However, a rejuvenated Man City after a long break would be difficult to beat. This game would most likely end 2 – 1 with Aguero and Bernado Silva on the scoresheet while Aubameyang would pull one back for the Gunners.
At this stage of the season, a Manchester City win would only delay the inevitable, which is Liverpool lifting the trophy. The Sky Blues second-place finish would see them through an automatic Champions League qualification (should they manage to overturn their Champions League ban). However, this would mean that no EPL team has ever managed to win the Premier League three times in a row other than Sir Alex Ferguson.
A win for Arsenal would bring them closer for a place in the Top Four with Chelsea currently occupying it with 48 points. It would be a mammoth task for Arteta to compete for a Top Four position with the Gunners languishing at 9th, making them dark horses for Champions League qualification.
This game might not be a clash of the titans but both sides will display attacking flair with both managers to challenge one another tactically. This could be a close game with end to end action but a little quality would decide this fixture and it looks like Manchester City will come out on top.