Premier League 17/18: Arsenal vs Manchester City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
A replay of the Carabao Cup final hits the Premier League this Thursday to provide the Gunners a chance of avenging their defeat.
19:45 GMT, Thursday 1st March, Emirates Stadium (London, England) Sky Sports
In the face of adversity, Arsène Wenger will need to show his true managerial credentials this week. Tasked with picking up his overwhelmed players from Sunday’s visit to Wembley, the Gunners must again tackle the team 27 points above them in the league following a humiliating defeat to City last weekend.
But while they’ve lost each of their last three league games away from home, they’ve only lost seven points (L1, D2) of the 39 available from home fixtures this season, although their only defeat did come at the hands of another Manchester club.
For Pep Guardiola, he now has something tangible to build upon. Despite a growing opinion that the League Cup is not a valid achievement, it is the first piece of silverware that he’s brought to his new club.
With City’s previous three matches all coming in different cup competitions, they must now turn their attention back to the Premier League in which they’ve failed to win any of their last three fixtures away from home.
Furthermore, they travel to a ground in which they’ve failed to win any (D3, L1) of their last four matches.
If the game between these two sides four days ago is anything to go by, these statistics could be about to receive a rosier outlook.
Last Time Out
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City (Carabao Cup)
Pep Guardiola won his first piece of silverware with City as the Sky Blues comprehensively beat the Gunners to lift the League Cup.
Both managers chose to field full-strength teams backed up by deputy goalkeepers but it proved to be far from enough for the Gunners.
The warning signs were plain to see from the first minute for Gunner fans, City taking two corners in as many minutes and having the majority of possession in which they piled pressure upon the Gunners defence.
It was Arsenal who had the first big chance of the match as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just failed to convert from close range in the 8th-minute.
There was a suspicion of off-side by the striker as the ball was played through by Mesut Özil. However, this became a moot point due to Kyle Walker’s last-gasp challenge which nicked the ball out of the forward’s path for his initial shot.
City hit straight back with a shot from Sergio Agüero which caught the side-netting and from that moment on the Sky Blues rarely looked back.
The opening goal came largely courtesy of an Arsenal mistake as Shkodran Mustafi found himself on the wrong side of Agüero from Claudio Bravo’s long kick up-field. A nudge from the Argentine striker then inexplicably saw the German defender stop and raise his hands to leave the unchallenged striker the space and time to chip the ball into the net.
City captain Vincent Kompany capped his man-of-the-match display with a goal when he converted Ilkay Gündogan’s cross-come-shot but proved equally as adept at the opposite end of the field in keeping Aubameyang quiet throughout the afternoon.
This second goal killed the contest as a spectacle with Arsenal player’s heads visibly dropping along with their work-rate.
A third goal was scored by David Silva 7 minutes later and the general feeling was Arsenal could have conceded more if City had been so inclined to push harder during the closing stages.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be available for Arsenal again after being cup-tied for the final last weekend.
Petr Čech is also expected to return to the side. However, Santi Cazorla (Achilles) and Alexandre Lacazette (knee) will again miss out with doubts hanging over Nacho Monreal (back) who was substituted out of the Wembley game after only 26 minutes.
Wenger is also likely to bring in Mohamed Elneny in a bid to tighten up the defensive aspects of his team in the centre of the pitch but could otherwise field a largely unchanged side.
Manchester City Lineup
Fabian Delph will again be suspended after his red card against Wigan while Ben Mendy (knee) is the only other player certain to be unavailable.
There are doubts regarding Fernandinho (hamstring) who left the Wembley clash early and Raheem Sterling (muscular) while Vincent Kompany is unlikely to play a second game within a week.
This will pave the way for John Stones and possibly Aymeric Laporte to come back into the team with a possible 3-5-2 formation used if Gabriel Jesus is deemed fit enough to start this match.
Key Battle: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal) vs Ilkay Gündogan(Manchester City)
One player that Arsenal can now call on for this second meeting with City is Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
While he may not have single-handedly turned the sky blue tide on Sunday, he can certainly add some creativity to a side which looked sterile.
In providing a link between defence and attack for the Gunners, they should carry more penetration during their second clash of the week.
Charged with stopping the Armenian schemer is likely to be his old teammate from his time at Borussia Dortmund. With Fernandinho unlikely to feature after limping out of the final, Gündogan is set to take on the role of midfield enforcer for the Citizens.
Although he has yet to start a game for City in this position, he excelled during his early time at Dortmund as a midfield anchor before moving further up the field to play the role of playmaker.
With both players capable of making a key contribution, whoever comes out on top in this clash could well set the tone for the whole match around them.
Despite the Carabao Cup not being high up Wenger’s priority list at the beginning of this season and despite the fact that a loss to a rival is never a good thing, the nature of defeat on Sunday was surely one of the most crushing games the under-fire Arsenal manager has faced for some time.
Caught in a position with little to gain but much to lose, Wenger lost more than many realised was at stake during Sunday’s drubbing. On Thursday he will once more find himself facing uneven odds, however, he drastically needs a reaction from his players regarding their mentality.
A second successive limp performance will hint at a huge underlying problem at the club rather than signs of slow degradation and he needs to one more prove his team are still capable of hitting the highest heights, even if they are inconsistent.
Shooting for 200
Sergio Agüero should again lead the line for City in this clash and in doing so, can claim his 200th goal for City across all competitions. As the league’s third-top scorer this season, his 21 goals places him just behind Mohamed Salah (23) and Harry Kane (24) in the hunt for this year’s golden boot.
With nine goals and an assist from his previous six league games, Agüero is presently the striker in form. Although he is City’s leading scorer of all-time, he still needs another 15 strikes to equal their record for goals scored in the league.
With 11 matches still to potential play this season, this may not be completely out of sight for the prolific forward, however, a double-century will be the first target he surpasses. While it could well occur at the Emirates on Thursday, he currently has only one goal from his six previous appearances there in the league, although that came during his last visit and the only time he featured for the full 90 minutes.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester City
Arsenal really need to come out of this game with some pride after the humiliating defeat on Sunday and they’re sure to prove City more problems this time around.
City not only won, they looked a long way ahead of the Gunners and this gulf will still be present when the teams walk off the pitch on Thursday evening.