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English Premier League: Man City vs Arsenal

Pep Guardiola’s former assistant coach Mikel Arteta will face his mentor for the first time after spending three and a half years together which saw the pair win everything except the UEFA Champions League for the blue half of Manchester. The last time these powerhouses met, it was Kevin De Bruyne stealing the show with Arteta still at Guardiola’s side and plotting the Gunners downfall in a 3-0 victory against his current assistant coach Freddie Ljungberg, who was in a caretaker role at the time.

The Gunners boss has undergone a complete recovery after contracting the COVID-19 virus and has been working diligently during the past three weeks in training with his squad. The Spaniard tactician will be aiming for a win at the Etihad Stadium, in their game in hand. 

A win for the London side will see them go level with both Wolves and Sheffield United on 43 points, and create a competitive pack of teams hot on the heels of Chelsea and Manchester United who currently covet the UEFA Champions League spots.

Sergio Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will also be trying to prize away the golden boot from Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane which adds another tasty layer to this encounter.

Standings provided by Sofascore LiveScore

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English Premier League 
Wednesday 17 June   
Etihad Stadium  

To Win 
Man City 7/20
Draw 9/2
Arsenal 13/2 

Manchester City

Manchester City’s last game before the Premier League was a 2-0 defeat at the hands of city rivals United at Old Trafford. Goalkeeper Ederson was not at his best and two costly errors saw the Brazilian come under heavy scrutiny. 

Almost everyone would agree that Liverpool were brilliantly consistent and deserve the title, but if you had to be hypercritical and place the blame from a City perspective, it would definitely be the absence of defender Aymeric Laporte, who was effectively brought in to retire club legend Vincent Kompany. 

The left-footed French centre-half is now fully fit and might still have to dust off some ring rust but he is the most talented of Guardiola’s central defenders compared to the like of Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho. One more yellow card for Kyle Walker will see him tally five and incur a suspension.

Leroy Sane is also back to full fitness and has been tirelessly working with the team. The German winger has missed large portions of the season and would love to get back to what he does best, shredding right-backs on a weekly basis.

It is always difficult to choose City’s starting eleven but with the introduction of five substitutes now being allowed, we could possibly see the Citizens properly routing a few of the relegation-threatened teams. There are two world class teams of international footballers within City’s squad but their most potent threat has to be, player of the season candidate De Bruyne.

The Belgian maestro has shown how important he is to this unit on numerous occasions this season, most notably at the Santiago Bernabeu where he bossed Real Madrid. However, in his absence City just aren’t the same force. The Citizens were complete favourites going into the United game. The Reds were missing the injured Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba and stood little chance at 5/1 odds but De Bruyne missed the game through injury and United stole all three points. 

David Silva is retiring at the end of this season and would love to give the City fans a few more magical performances before he rides off into the sunset. Gabriel Jesus is likely to feature and has even been played in a wider role in crucial matches. Expect Rodri to anchor the midfield and orchestrate from the middle of the park with the likes of Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling providing the width in constant blue waves of attack.  

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Bernd Leno has earned the number one jersey with great performances, but will have to be wary when playing out from the back against the speedsters that City possess. 

During training last week Sokratis scored a near perfect free-kick that found the top right corner of the goal mouth and is expected to start at right-back ahead of the returning Hector Bellerin and youth product Ainsley Maitland-Niles. 

In the central defence, Arteta is likely to pair David Luiz with Pablo Mari and bench Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding, while Calum Chambers is still recovering from the anterior cruciate ligament injury on his left knee. Bukayo Saka will continue to impress at left-back with Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac breathing down his neck for the left-back spot. 

Cedric Soares is yet to make an appearance for the Gunners since injuring himself in Southampton colours and contract disputes may see the Portuguese full-back return back to St. Mary’s as soon as possible. 

Although tough as nails midfielder Lucas Torreira is back in shape, the preferred duo of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos will play in the heart of midfield. Aubameyang should lead the line with Mesut Ozil playing in the no. 10 role and record-signing Nicolas Pepe and academy graduate Gabriel Martinelli providing the pace and width in counter attacks. 

Interestingly, Alexander Lacazette scored three times in his last four appearances that signaled an improvement in his form. The former Lyon goal poacher looks sharp in training but so does one of Arteta’s favourites, 21-year old striker Eddie Nketiah. 

Many pundits have ruled out Arsenal from the race for Champions League qualification but a win against Guardiola’s men could be the kick start to momentum that see them finish strongly and prove everyone wrong. 

Arteta’s football philosophy is apparent from watching his spell in charge thus far. He knows that attracting the best talent and keeping hold of their current stars like captain Aubameyang could potentially hinge on which European competition they qualify for next season. 

As a football fan, it would be wonderful watching Arteta’s team grow in stature as the seasons progress. Jurgen Klopp had a far worse squad when he took over at Liverpool and four and a half years later, he built one of the best teams in the land. 

Hopefully with the backing of the board, Arteta’s exciting brand of football can reach the heights of Liverpool and get Arsenal back to where they belong. It will take a mighty effort to upset City as the last time they beat City was in the FA Cup in 2017 thanks to Santi Cazorla. Luiz, Saka and Torreira are all on four yellow cards and one more could see them suspended.

Probable line-ups:

Man City: 4-3-3
Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Zinchencko; Rodri, De Bruyne, D. Silva; B. Silva, Aguero, Sterling.

Arsenal: 4-2-3-1
Leno; Sokratis, Luiz, Mari, Saka; Xhaka, Ceballos; Pepe, Ozil, Martinelli; Aubameyang. 

Prediction: Manchester City Win & Both Teams to Score (13/10)
City have turned the tables on Arsenal in recent years and have dominated the last six meetings across all competitions, winning by a margin of two goals or more. The Gunners won three games on the trot before the lockdown and are unbeaten in seven away matches, drawing stalemates in the last five times they’ve travelled. Both sides have leaky defences and are expected to score with fantastic attacking players on show. Arteta may have inside information on City’s players after being influential in their growth as footballers during his time at the club, but I feel the Citizens will edge this one. Go into the Matchbet and Both Teams to Score market and select Manchester City Win and Both Teams to Score (Yes) at 13/10.

Written by Bryan Naicker