Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: FA Cup Semi-Final: Arsenal vs Manchester City

FA Cup Semi-Final: Arsenal vs Manchester City

Arsenal vs Manchester City

On Saturday evening, the football world will be anxiously anticipating part two of the promising apprentice Mikel Arteta versus the master Pep Guardiola when the most successful teams in the history of the FA Cup, Arsenal, take on the current holders Manchester City.

Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

The duo of Spanish midfielders turned managers have very similar football ideologies and as a neutral fan, it’s clear that these coaches encourage their teams to play the beautiful game with determination, style, swagger and flair, so, we are in store for a cracking match of football where there will be only one winner who will march to the final to meet the winners of Manchester United and Chelsea on Saturday 1 August.

Arteta and Guardiola know each other very well after spending three and a half seasons together dominating English football at the Etihad between 2016 and 2019, winning everything except the UEFA Champions League, while the young assistant-manager sat under the learning tree of the former Barcelona mentor in the blue half of Manchester.

Recently, City have fallen off their incredible standards, allowing Liverpool to dethrone them off the Premier League perch. A direct link to City’s decline in their standards of consistency could very well be the absence of Arteta since he left to become the head coach of his beloved Arsenal. Arteta was instrumental in the development of players like Raheem Sterling, in particular, who’s finishing drastically improved for the better with daily work at the Etihad Campus.

These sides last met 31 days before this clash when football restarted and Arsenal’s chances were ruined by early injuries to Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari in the opening 20 minutes.

The quality of Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, Rodri and Sergio Aguero were all brought off the Citizens’ star-studded bench to add to Arsenal’s woes and a 3-0 result was the eventual outcome.

English FA Cup Semi-Final | Saturday 18 July | Wembley Stadium | 20:45

To Win (90 Mins)
Arsenal 7/1
Draw 17/4
Manchester City 3/10

Arsenal
Arsenal come into the match priced as 7/1 outsiders, but in my opinion, Arteta has shown enough evidence that he has got a tactical masterclass in him that is capable of nullifying City’s attacking threat and hitting them on the break, much like his fellow young coaches, Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed to accomplish in sharp-witted Premier League victories over Manchester City earlier this season. There is a blueprint to defeat City but there also has to be an element of luck that needs to go your way against such dominant opposition.

The players chosen to start this encounter have to understand when their moments to attack are and it is a must for them to be clinical in front of goal when presented with opportunities. Arteta chose to go with a compact shape and started athletic youth-team products Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah to add some extra bite to pressurise Ederson, Aymeric Laporte, and company when in possession as their philosophy is to play out from the back, in last month’s meeting.

You can’t pin your hopes on luck going your way but what always plays a major factor in beating City is your goalkeeper playing a blinder. Bernd Leno was one of the shining lights since the departure of former coach Unai Emery and is arguably the Gunners' best player this campaign. The German shot-stopper has been unavailable and sidelined with a knee injury he picked up in a collision with Brighton’s Neil Maupay.

Emiliano Martinez has stepped in and impressed with performances Leno would approve of. The Argentine goalkeeper has spent 10 years at the club since the age of 17 and will be relishing his chance to show the manager that he’s reliable and deserves to be part of the long-term project at the Emirates. The Gunners defence has to give their man between the sticks a chance by not committing school-boy errors and undoing the great work done by their teammates.

Sokratis hasn’t played since the restart of the season and was favoured more as a right-back than centrally in his last appearances. Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are all competing for the right-back berth, while Kieran Tierney seems to have all the qualities to become one of the best left-backs in the Premier League.

David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac have been playing as a back-three, but performances have been inconsistent. Sides tend to go with a double-six pivot against the Sky-Blues. Uruguayan Lucas Torreira is fully fit and this would be an ideal game for him to get stuck into, but Dani Ceballos and Xhaka are a formidable duo in the middle of the park and look to be the spine of the team going forward.

Mesut Ozil is the highest earner at the club and pockets £350,000 per week for doing nothing but train and sit in the stands at the moment. Ceballos is a Spanish midfielder oozing incredible vision, willingness to work hard, and the ability to create chances to unlock defences.

Eddie Nketiah is suspended and Gabriel Martinelli is recovering from knee surgery, so, it’s likely that Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be tasked with putting the ball in the back of the net, but the Citizens will also need to be wary of 18-year-old Bukayo Saka.

The youngster is so naturally gifted that whatever he does on the pitch, it appears like it comes to him with such ease – a trait that almost all great players possess and you get the feeling that there’s plenty more to come. The versatility and willingness to put his hand up has helped the youngster to break into the team and he keeps improving and showing us his qualities with his efforts. Saka belongs in the same bracket of talented English players such as Foden and Mason Greenwood.



Manchester City
The uncertainty of Manchester City’s entry into the 2020/21 Champions League has finally been cleared up after UEFA announced on Monday morning that City’s appeal has been upheld and was found not guilty of any wrongdoing, overturning the two-year ban imposed a few months ago.

Rumours were circulating that key players could leave the Etihad without Champions League football on offer and even Guardiola himself could look for a new challenge elsewhere.

However, the reason for bringing the Spaniard to the club was to achieve glory in the most elite club competition in the world, after overseeing two wins with Barcelona in the 2008/09 and 2010/11 seasons. The Citizens have relinquished the Premier League title to Liverpool and will surely have their sights set on a clean sweep in the cup competitions.

Real Madrid are looking in imperious form in La Liga and await in the second-leg of their last-16 clash trailing City 2-1 on aggregate, and they are two wins away from lifting their seventh FA Cup title.

Guardiola’s troops had a fairly simple route to this semi-final, beating Port Vale, Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday, and the only Premier League opposition Newcastle in the quarter-finals, while Arsenal conquered Leeds United, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Sheffield United in dramatic fashion.

This team never changes the way they play for anyone, the only exception could be starting players in different roles that we are used to seeing like Foden or Gabriel Jesus as a wide player and Sterling or Kevin De Bruyne playing in the false-nine position. Whoever is selected to start, there will still be five quality substitutes on the bench waiting to come on and make an impact.

The way this team hogs the possession of the ball, Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson is often left with very few saves to make and touches the ball more with his feet than his hands. Eric Garcia and Fernandinho will be the only choice to make in defence as Laporte, Kyle Walker, and Benjamin Mendy pick themselves.

Player of the Season contender De Bruyne is expected to pull the strings from midfield and boss the game as he does so regularly. It could be retiring Spaniard David Silva’s last appearance at Wembley if they fail to win this encounter, but he will be determined to go out in style with the cup firmly in his grasp after the final on 1 August. Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, and Foden provide quality options and are a good headache for a coach to have.

Foden has been played in a more advanced role in recent matches and the 20-year old has been thriving, adding even more goals to the team and proving he is a worthy heir to club-legend Silva. The Citizens are the first team to achieve a new record of five different players netting more than 10 goals each namely Sterling, Aguero, Jesus, De Bruyne, and Riyad Mahrez in a single Premier League campaign.

Mahrez and Sterling have been regularly chosen as starters while the superb Bernardo Silva has had to settle for a squad rotation role. The Sky-Blues have lost German winger Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich but it makes no difference to their quality as they have players like Bernardo on the outskirts of the starting eleven. Aguero is the only player unavailable for Guardiola and is currently undergoing rehabilitation after knee surgery.

Verdict: Arsenal To Qualify (11/2)
City have suffered eight defeats this season so they are definitely there for the taking compared to previous seasons where they have been near perfect. It is a bold prediction after seeing the Citizens regularly routing sides 5-0 without hitting top gear, but no one knows Guardiola and his players better than Arteta. Whether it’s in 90 minutes, extra-time or it goes down to a penalty shootout, my money will be on the Gunners. The FA Cup is infamous for giant-killings and this could very well be it. Arsenal also will look to this cup as their ticket to European football next season. Go into the ‘To Qualify’ market and back Arsenal at 11/2 odds.

Written by Bryan Naicker

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