Despite the fact we’ve broken on through to the other side of the last international break of the season, the fixtures don’t get any easier for City. Last time out, the Blues could consider themselves unlucky to not have claimed all 3 points against Liverpool at the Etihad, yet this weekend sees us take on a team who used to beat us for fun: Arsenal.
We’ve picked up just the one league win at the Emirates since the ground opened, but Pep Guardiola’s men are imperious away from home. Couple that with Arsenal’s recent wobbles, City have a big chance to win here. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to watch the heroes of ArsenalFanTV admit that David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are better than their quasi-Deity, Mesut Özil, fam.
Other than the obvious two injuries, City seem to be in what is increasingly becoming norm of having a fully fit squad. Kevin De Bruyne missed both Belgian internationals through a groin strain, however Pep confirmed that he, along with Raheem Sterling and Pablo Zabaleta are ‘not top, top perfect, but are okay’. Vincent Kompany’s injury remains to be a mystery to everyone involved, when and if he’ll be back remains to be seen.
Fernandinho or Yaya Touré?
In three months’ time, Yaya Touré’s contract will be up and he’ll leave City, unless a magical contract appears. Not too long ago, Dmitri Seluk claimed Yaya Touré loved City, but then went on to say that he’d negotiate with Manchester United for his client if they came calling. It seems very likely that we’re finally seeing the career wind down of arguably City’s best ever, and despite fitting in surprisingly well under Pep since the olive branch was held his way, Yaya is not the physical presence he used to be. After 65 minutes against Liverpool’s constant harrying, he was dead on his feet. Though his best asset is his technical ability, I think tomorrow is going to require a physically strong midfield who can run for the full 90, and therefore I’d slot Fernandinho in over Yaya. Our main worry tomorrow will of course be the mercurial Alexis Sanchez, and I think leaving Touré to chase him could end in disaster.
Full-backs to the Wall
One of the best facets of Arsenal’s style is their attacking full backs, coming mostly down the right hand side. Hector Bellerin has emerged as a target for both City and Barcelona, and it is mostly down to his incredible pace and attacking abilities. Though Leroy Sané’s company might force Bellerin to restrict his attacking intentions somewhat, City need to be aware of the threat posed down the sides and therefore Bacary Sagna must start at right back. In addition to Zabaleta’s knock which leaves him at ‘not top, top perfect’ level, Sagna has outperformed City legend Zabaleta this season, though both look set to leave the Etihad this summer. On the other side, Clichy should maintain his position thanks to his pace, and the fact Kolarov is more of a centre half these days.
A braver man than I might suggest a 3-2-4-1 formation, but I think Pep will stick with the precedent he’s set in big games, with the standard back four, one holding midfielder, then a cluster of attacking players. We seem to change formation dependant on whether we’re in possession or defending the ball, with Silva and De Bruyne tucking inside or going outside and that could cause some real damage if Ramsey or Xhaka neglect to track either/or. Arsenal have a similar squad balance to City, in that they look very good on paper but often seem to fall short, and will be hoping to reverse their fortunes: I can see a great attacking game with a lot of chances and perhaps goals scored, and with Petr Cech out its disputable that Arsenal fans will be more worried about their keeper than we are of ours, which is unusual.