After 2 successive draws, Arsenal are facing a tough test from Manchester City. City, meanwhile, have started their title defence in a decent way – a balanced start. Pellegrini’s men defeated Liverpool at home but lost to Stoke City. For neutrals, draw would be the ideal result. Every point counts when it comes to the title race. So it is a must win game for both the teams.
Formations and Expected XIs
Arsenal – 4-3-3
Manchester City – 4-4-2
Arsenal to attack through their right
Arsenal’s main focus will be to attack through their centre. But they found it difficult to break through the centre when they played against Everton a few weeks ago. Arsenal’s left-back Kieran Gibbs is their weakest link. So Santi Cazorla will be assigned with the task of tracking back Bacary Sagna. This leaves Arsenal with the only choice of attacking through the right flank. Arsene Wenger has Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sánchez, who formed a nice partnership against Crystal Palace, on the right flank. Gael Clichy will be pinned to his position. If the puny David Silva is overpowered by Debuchy, then Clichy will be in trouble.
Aguero’s partnership with David Silva will be the key to City’s success
Sergio Aguero will most probably play the role of second striker. Stevan Jovetic played in that position and scored a brace when City last hosted Liverpool. It was his movement in the space behind Steven Gerard, Liverpool’s defensive midfielder, that helped The Citizens in bagging all the three points. Jovetic was like a pendulum oscillating about a fixed point, Edin Dzeko being the fixed point.
If Aguero drifts towards his right, then it creates space for David Silva to cut inside. If Aguero decides to drift towards Silva’s position, then Samir Nasri will have the space to exploit. Either way the formation changes from 4-4-2 to 4-1-4-1 as Yaya Toure tries to squeeze into the gaps.
But it is Aguero’s link up play with Silva that matters the most. Considering the fact most of Arsenal’s attacks come from their right flank and that it is the busiest one, it will be best for City to overload this region and suddenly switch the play to right, where Nasri and Bacary Sagna can put pressure on Kieran Gibbs. This also stretches Arsenal’s defence which will make it 4 vs 3 in favour of City ( Dzeko, Nasri, Toure and Sagna vs Laurent Koscielny, Gibbs and Mathieu Flamini or Callum Chambers depending upon who tracks Aguero’s movements )
Suppose Aguero decides to play alongside Dzeko and Nasri and Silva drift inside, then it makes Arsenal’s midfield vulnerable compared to City’s. Toure against Ozil, Fernandinho against Wilshere and Flamini against either Nasri or Silva. City will have one extra man in the midfield region – Silva or Nasri. If Arsenal’s wingbacks try to get involved in the midfield battle, then City can control wide areas.
Wilshere and Ozil don’t track their opponents properly. Also Toure and Fernandinho have height advantage when compared to Ozil and Wilshere.
So expect Manchester City to win the midfield battle.