Manchester City vs Arsenal Preview: Players to watch, tactics, predictions and more

Few would have predicted that Arsenal would lead the English Premier League title race this season, yet Mikel Arteta’s side were one of the most exciting teams to watch as they tried to wrest the title from defending champions Manchester City, who have won it four times. times in the last five seasons.

Going into Wednesday’s showdown between the two, Arsenal sit first on 75 points, with Man City trailing on 70 points but with two games in hand. Arsenal stuttered after three consecutive draws, including a dramatic 3-3 comeback against last-place Southampton, opening the door for Man City in the title race.

The stakes couldn’t be higher ahead of this match, as the winner will likely be crowned champions at the end of the season. ESPN correspondents Rob Dawson and James Olley answer your burning questions and share their predictions, which players to watch and more.

What is the situation of Man City in the match?

Dawson: Pep Guardiola’s side have gone through some spells where they haven’t looked convincing, but that late-season form has finally arrived. City have not lost since early February and a 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich ended a 10-game winning streak that was enough to secure a place in the Champions League semi-finals. They are defending well and scoring goals in Guardiola’s hybrid back three/back four system. Erling Haaland has 15 in his last eight games, ending a run of seven consecutive goals in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United.

Guardiola has repeatedly said that Arsenal are favorites to win the title due to their position at the top of the table, but he will be happy with the way the run-in is going, especially after Arsenal have drawn three in a row to drop to six. point in two weeks.

City have been in this position so many times in the last 10 years that they don’t have to face a crucial game against their title rivals in mid-April. They are playing well, the key players are fit and in form, and they will go into the game at the Etihad Stadium as favourites, and for good reason.

Arsenal going into the match?

Ollie: dangerous The contrast in mood is stark compared to a fortnight ago. By drawing their last three matches, Arsenal have been stymied to the extent that the dynamic of Wednesday’s game has changed significantly. It was no longer the free hit that the Gunners could tell themselves it was when they had a big lead at the top.

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A five-point advantage never felt so fragile. The knowledge that Wednesday’s defeat would leave City in pole position for the title only adds to the feeling that the momentum is slipping away from them at the wrong time. Arsenal scored twice in the final three minutes of normal time to salvage a point against Southampton on Friday, but at the full-time whistle, most players collapsed on the floor.

Perhaps the mental exertions of the title race were starting to take their toll, but at the same time, they knew that a point against the bottom of the Premier League was not really enough. Yet at the same time, they should take heart from the starts they made in their past two away games at Liverpool and West Ham, where they went 2-0 up thanks to a lot of exciting, devastating football that gave them a shot. The club’s first title since 2004. The challenge for manager Mikel Arteta will be to harness the positives of those spells and produce a complete performance in what is arguably the toughest place to visit in Europe.

What will Guardiola and Arteta learn from each other?

Dawson: Guardiola and Arteta know each other well from their time together at City, but Arteta still managed to surprise his former boss in an FA Cup tie in January by playing a man-to-man system all over the pitch. Other teams have tried it in the past, but speculation since Guardiola has been that he doesn’t expect it from Arteta and that could cast doubt on him ahead of Wednesday’s game. If goalkeeper Ederson doesn’t see the short pass, City will have to bypass more of the midfield, instructing Haaland to go long.

Ollie: Arteta doesn’t hide the fact that he is a Guardiola disciple and the two sides have a lot in common in how they try to control matches. One of Arteta’s most obvious traits was his use of Oleksandr Zinchenko — a former City player — in an unorthodox midfield role when in possession.

Zinchenko helps overload the opposition by driving infield from his left-back position and dominates central areas. It’s something Guardiola first did with Joao Cancelo and a tactic he later did with John Stones on the opposite flank, effectively getting out of the right to act as an extra midfielder.

The only interesting aspect of Wednesday’s game is whether Arteta will change his approach or dare City attack every team they have this season. How Zinchenko is used will be a big hint.

Who are the key players?

Dawson: Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne obviously, because when they play well City usually win, but John Stones is the key to Guardiola’s system. Rested against Sheffield United at the weekend, he is expected to start at right-back with the freedom to push into midfield alongside Rodry and allow Ilkay Gundogan to get forward.

Guardiola will be worried about the pace and movement in wide areas of Bucayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, but he has already trusted Stones against Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musial when they play Bayern.

the game


Dawson: Never seen anything like a record-equalling Haaland

Rob Dawson has seen Erling Haaland equal Mohamed Salah’s record for goals in a 38-game Premier League season, with eight games remaining.

Ollie: Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard have provided Arsenal’s creative heartbeat this season. Each will be important on Wednesday, Saka and Martinelli for their pace and penetration on the counter-attack, Odegaard to calm the ball under pressure.

Achieving the right balance between attack and defense will be essential to Arsenal’s chances of beating City. There have been signs of late that this burden of leading responsibilities is taking its toll on Saka and Martinelli, but the pair still scored against Southampton and will need to be at their best to maximize the limited opportunities to punish City. Pause.

Who will each team miss the most?

Dawson: One of the reasons City look so strong at the moment is their lack of injuries. Ederson, Ruben Dias, Rodry, Stones and De Bruyne will all return to the team after being rested against Sheffield United while Phil Foden played the final 20 minutes at Wembley after recovering from an appendix operation.

Riyad Mahrez made a case to start after scoring a hat-trick at the weekend and Guardiola has the luxury of being able to pick from a fully fit squad at a time of the season when many other managers have selection problems.

Ollie: William Saliba. The Frenchman was forced off with a back injury in the 21st minute of Arsenal’s Europa League last 16, second leg clash with Sporting Lisbon on 16 March (which they won). Since then, the Gunners have crashed out of Europe, dropped six points in the Premier League and failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their matches. It’s too simplistic to explain Arsenal’s recent wobble solely through Saliba’s absence, but without his calm, composed presence they no doubt look more vulnerable defensively.

Saliba’s regular centre-back partner, Gabriel Magalhas, has been particularly unsettled while Rob Holding has been an adequate but limited deputy: he was fortunately not penalized for sending off Mohamed Salah for a clumsy challenge to give Liverpool a second-half penalty at Anfield. -Kick wide targets. Salibar can’t build holding from the back with the same efficiency. Arteta is concerned about Saliba’s return date so his involvement cannot be completely ruled out, but recent updates have disappointed.

What is your match prediction?

Dawson: City have already beaten Arsenal twice this season and it will be a surprise if they don’t make it three out of three. Haaland looks unstoppable, meaning Arsenal need to score at least twice to win and City have not lost two games since beating Tottenham 4-2 on January 19. Arsenal’s confidence is fragile and it could be a heavy one. 4-0 win for City.

Ollie: Both teams scored, but City won 3-1. It will likely be played at a frantic pace as both try to establish control of the ball to manipulate the other out of position. City gave Arsenal some schooling in the second half of the reverse fixture, and although the stakes were higher this time, their proven class under pressure could tell.

What is your headline prediction?

Dawson: After Arsenal, City still have to play at home to Chelsea and away to Brighton before the end of the season, but there’s nothing to scare them in the run-in. A Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid is a complication, but City have a good chance of remaining unbeaten for the rest of the season and emulating Manchester United’s 1999 treble.

Ollie: I went to Manchester City in August and will be with them now. Their experience has started to tell in recent weeks and it is possible that they can win every game from here on out. As brilliant as Arsenal have been all season, Newcastle look a tougher question in early May, and with key players showing signs of dips in form at the wrong time, they could fall short of the title.

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