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Manchester City’s march to a fourth Premier League title in five years now appears unstoppable after slip-ups from both Chelsea and Liverpool over the festive period. Their win over Brentford on Wednesday night was their tenth in a row in the league, helping them to establish an eight-point lead over their closest challengers Chelsea.
Arsenal v Manchester City, Saturday January 1: 12.30pm
BT Sport 1
Arsenal are well adrift in fourth but look sure to pose a tougher test for Pep Guardiola’s side than the feeble showing they put in away at the Etihad in a 5-0 thrashing back in August. They’ll be without manager Mikel Arteta on the touchline for this one, though, following a positive Covid test.
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City’s win over Brentford was uncharacteristically unconvincing after an irrepressible three-game spell that saw them score 17 goals in three games, but they should be confident of securing their 11th win on the bounce on Saturday lunchtime, despite coming up against an in-form Arsenal side.
Arsenal have won three games in a row since losing successive games against Manchester United and Everton, scoring 11 goals and conceding just one. However, their record against some of the better teams in the league has been nothing short of appalling.
They have lost all three games against the top three this season, conceding 11 and scoring none, while they also went down to a 3-2 defeat against a poor Manchester United at Old Trafford. They have improved a lot since losing 5-0 to City at the start of the season, but they would be doing well to avoid defeat.
Arsenal may have scored 11 goals in their last three league games and 16 in their last four in all competitions, but they have been utterly toothless against the best of the best in Premier League. The Gunners have barely registered a shot in anger against City, Liverpool and Chelsea this season and that is unlikely to change on New Year’s Day against the best defensive team in the league.
City have conceded just 12 goals in their opening 20 games of the season – the best defensive record in the division – and boast the most clean sheets in the division too, keeping their opponents out in one of every two games that they have played. Arsenal may have scored 11 in three, but they haven’t faced a defence like City’s.
At the other end, Arsenal have made great defensive improvements since the 5-0 mauling at City in August. The Gunners boast the second-most clean sheets in the league and have conceded just six goals at home all season – the joint-best home defensive record in the league.
All signs point to a low-scoring City win.
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Joao Cancelo has established himself as comfortably the best all-round full-back in the league this season with a series of eye-catching and influential displays for the runaway league leaders. The Portuguese has been a key fixture in Pep Guardiola’s side, registering four assists in the league and a further three assists in the Champions League, marking himself as City’s second-most creative player behind Gabriel Jesus.
He averages more than one key pass per game in the league this season and could be the key to unlocking a sturdy Arsenal defence.
Manchester City have won their last four league games at the Emirates Stadium without conceding a goal. Raheem Sterling has scored in each of the last three of those games, scoring the first goal in two of them.
The English winger appears to have finally found his goalscoring touch following an incredibly sluggish start to the season, scoring five goals in his last four league appearances. Sterling clearly enjoys scoring against Arsenal at home, while four of his nine goals this season have come as City’s first. We’re taking him anytime here, but for a little extra value he could be worth taking as first goal scorer.
If City are to extend their record of winning at the Emirates without conceding, Sterling is the most likely player to help them do it.
Arsenal v Man City tips
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New Year’s Day football tips
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- Premier League tips: Our 11/1 acca for Sunday’s 2pm kick-offs
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