Arsenal will face Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday in a match that could potentially decide the fate of the race for the league title. Arsenal are at the top of the league table with 51 points from 21 matches. Man City follow close behind them with 48 points from 22.
However, the Gunners’ recent form should be a reason for concern for Mikel Arteta. They have only won one of their last four matches across all competitions. That includes a 1-0 loss to City in the FA Cup a few weeks back. Still, should the Gunners be able to win on Wednesday, they will take a significant step towards ensuring their first league title in almost two decades.
On the other hand, a win for Manchester City will bring them level on points with their rivals. A 3-1 win against Aston Villa last Sunday will boost their morale ahead of Wednesday’s clash. Pep Guardiola’s team knows that there is still a lot of football to be played this season. As a result, City is aware they can very well win another Premier League title at season’s end.
Along with all the neutrals, third-placed Manchester United will also watch out for the outcome of the match with bated breath. Surely the Red Devils will hope that both teams drop points on Wednesday.
On that note, we take a look at two things to watch out for in the match.
Arsenal making a few changes to their starting eleven
Arsenal’s poor form in their recent matches might prompt Arteta to make a few changes to their starting line-up. New signing Leandro Trossard has been impressive after coming in as a substitute and also scored a goal against Brentford in their last match.
Gabriel Martinelli has not been that good for the Gunners of late. As a result, the Brazilian might make way for Trossard on Wednesday. Moreover, Arteta might also think of replacing William Saliba, who was not very comfortable dealing with Ivan Toney of Brentford, with Rob Holding in the starting eleven.
However, Bukayo Saka’s good form will be a boost for the Gunners. The young English winger continues to torment opposition defenses with his brilliant performances down the right flank. Should he be able to combine well with Martin Odegaard, Manchester City might have reasons to worry. Hence, one can safely assume that the City back line will have his task cut out on Wednesday
Manchester City dominating possession with the enhanced quality in their midfield
Arsenal is a team that like to have the ball. Yet, they will find it difficult to dominate possession against Pep Guardiola’s side. With Rodri playing as a centre-back, Manchester City will have the luxury of accommodating Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva in their three-man midfield.
Any team in the world would kill for such quality in their midfield. As a result, it can be expected that the visitors will put a lot of pressure on Arsenal’s defense. De Bruyne’s ability to shift to the flanks and find his teammates with crosses and exceptional passes, Gundogan’s tendency to venture into the opposition penalty box and Bernardo’s versatility make them a tremendously powerful side.
If one adds the presence of the hulking Erling Haaland and the enviable ball-skills of Riyad Mahrez, one gets a team that is tacked with too much firepower. On paper, it seems inconceivable that City can actually lose a football match.
However, the game is played on the pitch and Arsenal has fared better there than City so far. The Gunners are no pushovers in the midfield either, with Thomas Party spreading the ball around. Granit Xhaka often advances into the opposition penalty box to complement the commanding presence of Odegaard. However, both Partey and Xhaka might have to a lot more defending than usual against City, who are likely to have more of the ball.
It now remains to be seen whether the Gunners are able to deal with the pressure of being the league leaders. This is their first chance to deliver the knock-out punch to their nearest challengers in the league this year. They better take it.