Match Preview: Manchester City vs Arsenal
As football returns after 3 months, Mikel Arteta, who himself was diagnosed with Coronavirus returns to the Etihad to face his mentor Pep Guardiola’s Blue and White Army.
The match that was initially scheduled for 11th March will finally be played on 17th June unless some unforeseen health risks surfaces. Considering the games in hand with these two sides, this will be one of the first matches played in this game week.
Currently Manchester city stand 2nd in the Premier League and Arsenal barely makes it to in the top half of the table standing at 9th , just 1 point ahead of 10th placed Burnley.
Manchester City goes into the game as clear favourites, but there’s a long list of unknowns post-lockdown that could alter those odds: the relative fitness of both squads, the impact of silent stadiums on home advantage, how players avoid tackles or close contact between themselves as has been advised by the FA. Also, one cannot ignore Arteta’s inside knowledge about City’s playing style and technique which can surely shape up the way Arsenal tackle this game. It also gives Pep an opportunity to try and outfox Mikel and he must be relishing this.
Pep Guardiola: “The players are training good but I don’t know the physical condition. I think we are ready to play one game, but three days after another one, and four days after another? We are not ready. That’s why you have to rotate and use all players.”
Mikel Arteta: “I have to focus and I have to try to convince my players to focus on what we have to do, we cannot control everything that Man City does, it's impossible. Even if we want to, I will drive the players mad in order to do that.”
Manchester City: There are no reported injuries. Leroy Sané, Aymeric Laporte and Kevin De Bruyne are all available for selection however, Pep warned about players not being fully fit to play every 3 days. It would be interesting to see the game time Sané gets considering heavy speculation of him joining Bayern before next season and the fact he last played a senior game in August 2019, for 13 minutes.
Arsenal: The Defence duo of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding benefit from the lockdown as they struggled to find fitness in the first part of the season. Calum Chambers remains out while Lucas Torreira is a doubt. Kieran Tierney is back available for the Gunners.
Head to head
In the last 8 games between Manchester City and Arsenal, including Man city’s Carabao Cup win against Arsenal in 2018, City have prevailed 6 times, drawing only once. Last time Arsenal triumphed Manchester City was in 2017 at the Emirates stadium. As a matter of fact, Arsenal have not won away from home to any of the ‘Big 6’ teams since 2015.
It has probably never happened before that Pep had a full squad at his disposal. Rather, he had to leave a subs bench empty as the squad was plagued by injuries in February 2018 vs Burnley. It took a pandemic for City to have a fully fit squad but it also means selection headache for Pep, so much so, he might have to leave the likes of Stones, Zinchenko and Foden out of the squad.
4-3-3: Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo;
Mahrez, Sterling, Aguero.
Subs: Bravo, Cancelo, Otamendi, Gundogan, Silva, Sané, Jesus.
Date: June 18
Kick Off: 00.45 IST
TV: Star Sports 1 & HD, Select 1 & HD