Where crunch Arsenal vs Man City clash will be won and lost

Haaland will slice Arsenal open if Saliba and Gabriel offer too much space, Saka can exploit Man City’s left side void and Arteta has an ace up his sleeve… where tonight’s title clash could be won or lost

  • Title-chasing duo Arsenal and Manchester City are finally set to meet tonight
  • Pep Guardiola’s side can move top of the Premier League if they take victory
  • But Mikel Arteta’s Gunners are much stronger than in recent meetings 

Manchester City have been in hot pursuit of Arsenal for pretty much the entire Premier League season so far. Now, finally, these two title rivals will meet.

Wednesday night’s clash at the Emirates Stadium was originally scheduled for October 19.

But when Arsenal’s Europa League fixture with PSV Eindhoven had to be rescheduled because of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, this game was kicked into the long grass.

It means a game of immense importance in the title race seems to be happening almost under the radar, shown live on Amazon Prime while all focus is on the Champions League.

Arsenal go into it three points clear of City and they still have a game in hand. However, after they dropped two points in controversial circumstances against Brentford on Saturday, they can be overtaken if City win.

So where is Wednesday night’s pivotal match likely to be won and lost? We take a look.

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland takes on Arsenal defender William Saliba (left) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (right) during their recent 1-0 win in the FA Cup fourth round

Now Mikel Arteta (left) and Pep Guardiola (right) are preparing for a battle of wits in the league

An Arsenal win on Wednesday night would carry them six points clear with a game in hand. But City will move top of the table on goal difference if they win at the Emirates Stadium

How do Arsenal keep Haaland quiet?

City were handed a huge boost when Erling Haaland trained on Monday having limped out of Sunday’s win over Aston Villa with a thigh injury.

The Norwegian striker collided with Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and was forced off at half-time but it looks like he’ll be fit and ready to lead the City line in the top-of-the-table duel.

Haaland has 31 goals in all competitions this season but hasn’t found the net in his last three outings, which constitutes a drought by his standards.

There’s also been a lot of conjecture about whether Haaland actually signed for the wrong club because City don’t counter-attack.

However, you only have to witness his clever assist for Ilkay Gundogan’s goal against Villa to realise he remains as sharp as ever. Plus, he gave up a penalty to Riyad Mahrez.

Arsenal’s central defensive pair of Gabriel and William Saliba become the latest to try and keep Haaland quiet.

They could take the rough and ready approach of Conor Coady and his Everton colleagues when they held City 1-1 at the Etihad back on New Year’s Eve.

Or perhaps the best blueprint would be to study what north London rivals Tottenham did so well when they beat City 1-0 a couple of weeks ago.

Erling Haaland was taken off during City’s win over Aston Villa on Sunday with a thigh injury but has since been training and should make Wednesday’s game

The Norwegian striker in a foot race with Gabriel during last month’s FA Cup encounter

Haaland had an afternoon to forget as City were beaten 1-0 by Tottenham 10 days ago

On that afternoon, Haaland was so shackled by Cristian Romero, Eric Dier and Co he didn’t even register a touch of the ball in the Spurs box.

Watching brief 


Wednesday; 7.30pm kick-off UK

Live on Amazon Prime Video


Arsenal (4-3-3) – Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard; Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli.

Manchester City (4-3-3) – Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Ake; Rodri, Silva, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish.

In what will hopefully be an open contest with both teams unafraid to attack, Haaland should see plenty more opportunities in advanced positions.

Arsenal need greater discipline when it comes to positioning at the back – Brentford succeeded repeatedly in slicing through their back line on Saturday, sliding through passes and getting crosses in.

City could easily replicate this with Kevin De Bruyne, Mahrez and Jack Grealish supplying the service.

The manner of Everton’s winning goal the weekend before, a James Tarkowski header from a corner, will be another source of concern for Arsenal given Haaland’s height and brute strength.

Stop Saka, stop Arsenal?

Bukayo Saka rampaging at opposition defences has been one of the most gratifying sights of the Premier League season.

With seven league goals and eight assists to his credit already, Saka is the major factor in the Gunners being top of the table.

Yet it has been posited that Arsenal are too reliant on Saka to produce match-winning magic.

Tony Adams wrote in his newspaper column ahead of the game: ‘Stop Saka and you stop Arsenal. It’s as simple as that because every time and opposing left-back has a good game against them, they struggle.’

Bukayo Saka is enjoying an excellent season and will be integral to Arsenal’s hopes of winning

Joao Cancelo’s exit to Bayern Munich has left City with a void on the left of defence

Given Saka has played in all of Arsenal’s Premier League games so far, it’s hard to prove or disprove whether they suffer without him.

But for sure, Pep Guardiola will have invested plenty of mental energy into devising a strategy to stop Saka. Doubly so because the England star will be directly targeting an area of uncertainty and weakness for City.

Joao Cancelo was the first choice but he left under a dark cloud for Bayern Munich on loan in January.

Rico Lewis was switched across there for the Tottenham game, while against Villa, Guardiola went with a back three of Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte.

That was fine against Villa but extra security will be required against Arsenal. Nathan Ake could be favoured at left-back because he successfully kept Saka quiet when City won 1-0 in the FA Cup a couple of weeks ago.

Bernardo Silva – who ‘has the ability to play in 10 positions because he’s so smart’, according to Guardiola – could be a maverick choice.

Nathan Ake could be asked to play at left-back for the top-of-the-table clash on Wednesday

Arsenal form 

January 9 Oxford United (A) 3-0

FA Cup third round

January 15 Tottenham Hotspur (A) 2-0

Premier League

January 22 Manchester United (H) 3-2

Premier League

January 27 Manchester City (A) 0-1

FA Cup fourth round

February 4 Everton (A) 0-1

Premier League

February 11 Brentford (H) 1-1

Premier League

Man City form 

January 14 Manchester United (A) 1-2

Premier League

January 19 Tottenham Hotspur (H) 4-2

Premier League

January 22 Wolves (H) 3-0

Premier League

January 27 Arsenal (H) 1-0

FA Cup fourth round

February 5 Tottenham Hotspur (A) 0-1

Premier League

February 12 Aston Villa (H) 3-1

Premier League

Silva sat in front of the three-man defence against Villa and put in a shift to keep spaces to a minimum.

Whoever gets the nod, it’s a far from ideal situation when Arsenal’s main threat will be coming down that side.

There is a danger that Laporte could be sucked over to that side, or midfielders Gundogan or Rodri get dragged out of positions, allowing Arsenal to exploit space elsewhere.

What’s happened to Arsenal’s attacking thrust?

This ties into a wider point about Arsenal’s stuttering form.

Arteta was eager to keen the focus on the VAR howlers that cost them two points against Brentford but it masked the fact Arsenal’s attacking edge has been blunted in their last three – winless – outings.

That encompasses the FA Cup loss to City, the surprise Everton defeat and Saturday’s draw.

Arsenal have dropped crucial points in recent weeks and also crashed out of the FA Cup

Eddie Nketiah has impressed up front for Arsenal in compensating for the absence of Jesus

Injured duo Gabriel Jesus and Emile Smith Rowe watch the match against Brentford

Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have struggled to make much impact, as though opponents are getting wise to what they are going to do.

Martin Odegaard has been outstanding but he can’t do everything and Eddie Nketiah has been quieter having performed so well in the absence of Gabriel Jesus.

It would be a great time to have the Brazilian ready to come back, just to refresh things again, but it’s likely to be another week or two yet despite Jesus being back on the pitch in training.

All neutrals are hoping this will be a thriller with end-to-end football and plenty of goals, so Arsenal need to ensure they can go toe-to-toe.

Tomiyasu the big game hitman

Everyone is expecting Oleksandr Zinchenko to face his former club at left-back for Arsenal, with Ben White on the opposite side. But a smart move may be to bring in Takehiro Tomiyasu.

The Japan international seems to be a character for the big occasions and could perform a bespoke man-marking job on one of City’s widemen.

In Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Liverpool back in October, Arteta asked Tomiyasu to play left-back and put the breaks on Mohamed Salah.

He did that so effectively, Jurgen Klopp ultimately hooked Salah for Fabinho with 20 minutes to play and Saka scored the decisive penalty shortly afterwards.

And in the vital 3-2 win over Manchester United last month, Tomiyasu came on for White, who was on a booking and struggling to contain Marcus Rashford, and proved key to Arsenal’s eventual success.

So there is a strong case for deploying him to shadow either Grealish or Mahrez even if White and Zinchenko have become the established full-backs.

Takehiro Tomiyasu did an excellent job of man-marking Mohamed Salah against Liverpool

The Japan international also didn’t give Marcus Rashford a moment’s respite against United

Arsenal must overcome the mental hurdle

Do Arsenal believe they can get the better of Manchester City?

If it sounds like a rather basic question, just consider the staggering imbalance between the sides in recent Premier League encounters.

Arsenal have lost their last 10 games against City and by an aggregate scoreline of 26-3. It is their worst losing run against any single opponent in their very long league history.

We all know how much improved Arsenal are this season as they challenge for the title for the first time since 2015-16. Their recent FA Cup meeting was decided by just a single goal.

But with City breathing down their necks and potentially able to go top on goal difference with a win, Arteta must instil a belief in his players they can break this hold over them.

Some of the games between Arteta and Guardiola have had a distinct master versus apprentice feel but the Arsenal boss will have learned plenty from these rough experiences.

Arsenal are at their strongest in years and City don’t appear as invincible as in some recent seasons, so there’s every chance that embarrassing run of results will finally end.

Arsenal have suffered some beatings at the hands of Manchester City in recent seasons

Recent league meetings 


August 28 – Man City 5-0 Arsenal; January 1 – Arsenal 1-2 Man City


October 17 – Man City 1-0 Arsenal; February 21 – Arsenal 0-1 Man City


December 15 – Arsenal 0-3 Man City; June 17 – Man City 3-0 Arsenal


August 12 – Arsenal 0-2 Man City; February 3 – Man City 3-1 Arsenal


November 5 – Man City 3-1 Arsenal; March 1 – Arsenal 0-3 Man City

Source: Read Full Article