Saturday’s afternoon kick-off sees an intriguing clash between Man City and Arsenal, with both sides coming into the game with contrasting starts to their league campaigns. Pep Guardiola’s men arrive here with a potential crisis on their hands. Anything but three points against the Gunners will mark their worst start to a Premier League season in 10 years.
While it’s only early doors, there have been some worrying signs in recent months. Many would point to a shaky defence and individual errors at the back, but for me, the issue lies ahead of the backline. City are lacking the intense press which struck fear into the league over recent years.
Saturday 17:30: Man City v Arsenal
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Their frontline aren’t closing down with the same sharpness and cohesion as before, and this won’t be helped by the unforgiving schedule the players currently find themselves in. If the press isn’t working, City leave far too much space between the lines – exposing Rodri, Fernandinho and their defence.
While City have undoubted quality all over the pitch, the absences of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus is cause for concern. Added to this, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne also missed midweek international duties with slight injury worries, and the Belgian will sit this one out.
In the opposing dugout sits Pep’s former pupil. Mikel Arteta is in the very early stages of his managerial career but has already embedded his philosophy to shape a new-look Arsenal.
His standout win as a manager came against City in July with a deserved 2-0 victory in the FA Cup Semi-Final. Arsenal pressed aggressively and were fearless themselves while being given the same treatment. I expect to see much of the same again this weekend. While they will take huge confidence from that, Arsenal will still need to execute this game plan to perfection, a similar approach didn’t work earlier in the season in a 3-1 defeat at Anfield.
While the Gunners have won their other three league outings, they can probably count themselves a little lucky to pick up all three points against West Ham and struggled to create an awful amount against Sheffield United. Based on the current state both sides find themselves in, there are a couple of selections I like the look of for a Same Game Multi.
City will be having nightmares over the five goals they conceded last time out at home against Leicester. I expect to see both Rodri & Fernandinho sit in a double pivot in an attempt to block any open spaces.
In addition, injury concerns up top could see City far from their free-flowing best. Arsenal have struggled to create freely this season and will look for quick breaks and transitions, they would be more than happy to nick the odd goal. Don’t expect to see a goal-fest we’ve become accustomed to so far this season so Under 3.5 Goals seems like a nice play.
As mentioned, Arsenal exploited space beyond the first wave of City’s press during the FA Cup Semi. Expect to see the same here at some point during the game.
While Rodri is a fine talent on the ball, he lacks the mobility to provide adequate cover when needed most. I can see Arsenal’s pace on the break drawing some cynical City fouls and a booking for Rodri.
Will the student become the master this weekend? Given what I’ve seen so far this season I’m happy to oppose Pep here with Arsenal (+1) on the handicap.
Man City v Arsenal tips
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets. Odds in copy correct at time of publication.
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