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Teacher v Student As Manchester City vs Arsenal Restarts the Premier League Season – Match Preview


Over three months since the last Premier League fixture, Arsenal return to action as they travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on reigning champions Manchester City. For those Arsenal fans desperate for football return, they could not have dreamed of a harder start, the Gunners having won just 1 of the last 10 meetings between the sides. And yet, in the topsy-turvy year that is 2020, there are crumbs of hope for Arsenal fans to cling to.

The Best Man for the Job?

When Arteta was appointed as Arsenal boss in December 2019, Arsenal fans rejoiced at the fact that he had worked closely with Pep Guardiola, and had been a large part of their success, as Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing documentary demonstrated. Embracing Pep’s ideology of attacking total football offered a sharp change from Unai Emery’s dull, uninspiring brand of football.

Six months on, and an opportunity to show just how much Arteta truly learnt under Pep Guardiola has presented itself in the form of this fixture. Arsenal could not hope to find a manager more well-versed with the style of play Manchester City implement, or the ways in which it could potentially be countered. Factor in the complete lack of any competitive football, and it may offer Arsenal fans some hope for the fixture.

Team news:

Arsenal have no new injuries to report, meaning that their only notable absentee is Calum Chambers, who suffered an ACL injury against Chelsea. Kieran Tierney is now fully fit following his dislocated shoulder, and Rob Holding is also available for selection following a lengthy lay off.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, Manchester City have also all returned to full fitness, including full-back Benjamin Mendy, and centre-back Aymeric Laporte. Most concerning to Arteta however, will be Leroy Sane’s return from injury, which, combined with the five substitutes which are now allowed, adds an extra dimension to an already potent City attack.

Predicted Arsenal Line-Up:

There are several questions surrounding how Arsenal will line up against the champions. Although Arteta has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation so far as Gunners boss, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him deploy a 4-3-3 to try and counteract Manchester City’s midfield. If this is the case, Granit Xhaka is likely to start, but who takes the other two slots remains a toss-up. Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos are the obvious choices but do not rule out starts for Joe Willock or Ainsley Maitland-Niles (who started both friendly games in this role) in either position, as they offer far more mobility than their fellow midfielders.

In defence too, questions arise. Bukayo Saka has performed admirably as a deputizing full-back, but Kieran Tierney’s return to fitness may see him drop out of the side in favour of the Scot. Equally, who accompanies David Luiz at centre-back remains up for debate, with Pablo Mari the more conventional left-sided player but Shkodran Mustafi’s upturn in form before the enforced break giving Arteta something to think about.

With both Mari and Tierney, the question is not necessarily about quality but rather fitness. Are they at the required level, even if the required level is much lower than it was when play stopped. With a much more level playing field than before, Arteta may feel he can throw them both in at the deep end.

Final thoughts:

Travelling to the Etihad to play Manchester City is the toughest test that Arsenal could ask for to come back to competitive football. No one, even the most hardcore and loyal fan, is expecting a win, and only the most optimistic even dare to suggest a draw. Provided Arteta’s side doesn’t get embarrassed, it is essentially a free hit. On the other hand, it is a new involvement for all involved, and Arteta has had three months to work with his team, which could see an improvement for the final ten games. However, this game may be several steps too far, too soon.

Kick-Off: Wednesday 17th June, 8.15 pm (available on Sky Sports).

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