Our EPL writer previews the matchup between title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal.
Manchester City will look to get their season back on track when they host Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Pep Guardiola’s side take on Watford on Wednesday before a meeting with the Gunners who travel to Everton on Tuesday, at the time of writing. Following back-to-back league defeats, the Citizens will be desperate for three points, but they face a difficult task as Arsene Wenger’s side are unbeaten since the opening day of the season.
Manchester City are fourth in the Premier League table on 30 points, seven adrift of leaders Chelsea and four behind second-place Arsenal. Being two managers who are all about possession-based fluid football, entertainment is guaranteed when Pep and Wenger meet.
English Premier League | Sunday 18 December | Etihad Stadium | 18:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Manchester City 23/20 | Draw 5/2 | Arsenal 22/10
Manchester City are winless in three matches and Pep Guardiola’s only focus will be on claiming three points against Arsenal. Back-to-back league defeats against Chelsea and Leicester City in between a draw with Celtic in the UEFA Champions League raises concerns. In that run, they’ve shipped eight goals and have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight games across all competitions – they’ve kept just one clean sheet in their last 17 matches.
It certainly hasn’t helped that captain Vincent Kompany has struggled to overcome his fitness troubles, making only two starts this season. John Stones has been abysmal since his £47m move from Everton. Many had labelled him as great but he hasn’t even mastered good and no outfield player has made more errors leading directly to goals in the Premier League over the past three seasons.
And as for goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, he looks like an accident waiting to happen. Guardiola will be delighted to have Nicolas Otamendi available for Sunday’s clash after the Argentine centre-back missed the 4-2 defeat at Leicester through suspension. However, the Citizens will continue to be without the suspended duo of Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero.
City are winless in their last four league matches at the Etihad Stadium, drawing three in a row against Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough (all 1-1 scorelines), before losing 3-1 to Antonio Conte’s title-chasers.
Guardiola has met Wenger eight times before, winning four times with two draws and two defeats. The Spaniard will be looking to make it five wins and he’ll need his players to rise to the occasion. The likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Kelechi Iheanacho need to wreak havoc on the Arsenal defence, while Stones, Otamendi and Aleksandar Kolarov need to tighten things up at the back.
Arsenal, unbeaten since the opening day of the season, come into this fixture in good form – provided they beat Everton as expected on Tuesday. The Gunners have won their last three Premier League games convincingly, beating Bournemouth 3-1, West Ham 5-1 and Stoke City 3-1.
Wenger’s side have been tearing teams apart, however, they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in 10 games across all competitions, which is unacceptable for a defence boasting Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny.
To make matters worse, influential centre-back Shkodran Mustafi suffered a hamstring injury in the win over Stoke last Saturday and is set to spend at least a month on the sidelines. The Germany international, who has made a huge impact since his £35million arrival from Valencia, limped off after just 25 minutes.
With Per Mertesacker at least five weeks away from being available following a serious knee injury sustained in pre-season, Gabriel should partner Koscielny in defence with fit-again Hector Bellerin slotting in at right-back. The Gunners will still be without Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla who is set to be out of action until March.
Arsenal remain the only unbeaten side on their travels, winning five from seven games played having scored 18 goals while conceding five times. Alexis Sanchez has been in stellar form in a central role with 11 goals and five assists so far, having been used as a winger in his first two seasons. Eight of his goals have come away from the Emirates Stadium – no player has scored more on the road this season.
Theo Walcott is another player who has impressed this season with seven goals and two assists. Although, six of his goals have come on home soil and the Englishman will need to improve his goalscoring form away from home.
Mesut Ozil needs a big-game performance as he is too often accused of going missing in these sort of games. The German maestro has the ability to unlock the stingiest defence in world football and is one of, if not, the best passers in the game. Ozil can create something out of nothing and City’s defence will need to be alert.
Verdict: Arsenal Win & Both Teams to Score (3/1)
I think we’ll be in for an open game as both sides thrive on attacking football. Both teams are dangerous in attack and have issues in defence. However, City have looked dismal in recent weeks and will struggle without Aguero and Fernandinho. I’m backing Arsenal to Win & Both Teams to Score at 3/1.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets