It’s hard to see Manchester City losing to anyone at the moment. Flying in the Premier League with a five-point advantage over their cross-city rivals, they also guaranteed their place in the Round of 16 in the Champions League this year with an impressive 4-2 win over Napoli in the Stadio San Paolo on Wednesday.
This weekend’s fixture against Arsenal should be a walk-over, right?
Jon Mackenzie offers three reasons why, in fact, Manchester City could struggle in their game against Arsene Wenger’s Gunners.
1 Arsenal's players are fresher
Both Manchester City and Arsenal played in European fixtures this week. In their group-deciding Champions League match-up with Napoli on Wednesday night, Pep Guardiola fielded a strong team with only Gabriel Jesus and David Silva being rested for the Light Blues.
Arsenal lineup against Red Star Belgrade was a somewhat different kettle of fish: Matt Macey, Mathieu Debuchy, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Miles, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson... you get the picture. Despite having one less day to recover, then, Arsenal will go into the clash with Manchester City on Sunday with a fully rested squad.
For Pep Guardiola, it is imperative that City are fighting on at least two fronts this season. For Arsene Wenger, it is not even clear that his side are fighting on one front. Ironically enough, though, this could play in Arsenal's favour and they could enjoy going into this match with a rare underdog status.
2 Arenal are playing a new formation
When Arsenal and City played one another in the Premier League last season, it was the Manchester club who came off the better of the two, winning 2-1 at home before holding on for a 2-2 draw when they visited the Emirates later on in their campaign. In both of these fixtures, Arsene Wenger had stuck with his then-favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
Of course, this wasn't the only occasion on which these two clubs met last season: in April, Arsenal ended up running out 2:1 winners (after extra time) against Manchester City in the semifinals of the FA Cup at Wembley.
Interestingly enough, by this this point in the season Arsene Wenger had started mimicking Antonio Conte's Chelsea and lining his team up in the 3-4-3 formation that served them so well in their run to the championship title in the Premier League.
Last season, Conte got the better of Guardiola on both occasions in the league playing in the 3-4-3 and, although City beat Chelsea earlier this season, Conte's team were riddled by injury, leaving him without the personnel to populate the formation effectively. Wenger, then, will be hoping that the 3-4-3 can still elude Guardiola on Sunday.
3 Arsenal have history on their side
In 25 years of Premier League match-ups, Arsenal are the clear historical favourites going into this game, winning 23 of the 40 meetings between the two clubs to Manchester City's seven.
Of course, a lot can be set in store by historical comparisons between football teams and it is instructive to note that, in those 25 seasons, City were absent for five having been relegated. The resulting swing in Arsenal's favour is clearly in need of contextualisation then.
What will be more worrying for Pep Guardiola is the fact that, even since their return from the lower echelons of the football leagues, Manchester City remain underdogs in this fixture. In fact, in the last five seasons, City have only won three times.
Right now, Guardiola's team are flying high - five points clear in the league and guaranteeing their place in the knock-out stages of the tournament. However, Arsene Wenger should be reminding his players that, as far as recent history is concerned, this game should not be a walk-over for City.
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