ARSENAL’S visit to the Etihad today for the clash with Manchester City will bring together two of the most potent frontlines, not only in the Premiership but all of European football.
In more than just a few ways, these two teams are strikingly similar and for that reason we can expect some fierce attacking football.
While both sides boast a formidable front-six, the envy of many a club, they also have backlines that are a sorry call for teams with such great ambitions. And therein lies the issues that Pep Guardiola, and until last December his former assistant on the City bench, Mikel Arteta, will ponder.
Even without injured central striker Sergio Aguero, City can be a menace in the opposition’s half. They keep the ball better than any other team in the Premiership and score considerably more goals — Liverpool included.
It could be that Guardiola would start with Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Ferran Torres as a three-pronged attack, but he might be without their talisman Kevin De Bruyne, or indeed Sterling as well.
Belgian captain De Bruyne was withdrawn in the game against England last weekend and his condition would be examined further before today’s fixture. It’s expected though, that Sterling’s hamstring will have healed and the England forward is likely to start.
However, with their first Champions League game of the season against Porto lined up for Tuesday, it is quite likely that Guardiola won’t play either of his two regular starters.
But even then, City should have enough in reserve to see off the Gunners in Manchester.
Indeed Arteta will be keen on dishing out just as much as they receive.
And barring injury worries after the international break, he will almost surely call on Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Willian and Nicolas Pepe to venture forward and inflict as much damage as they can on a City rearguard that has proven Guardiola’s Achilles heel.
There should be an equal measure of interest in the debut of Thomas Partey, the Ghanaian midfielder who recently signed for Arsenal from Atletico Madrid. Big things are expected of a player who was a key figure in Diego Simeone’s squad and has been singled out as “a special talent”.
Ruben Alves Dias, who arrived at the Etihad from Benfica in the just-concluded transfer window, made his debut alongside Aymeric Laporte in central defence against Leeds, and should start again. His presence is likely to strengthen City’s backline and maybe give them an edge over the Gunners.
All the same, with so much flair in the strike forces, there should be plenty of goalmouth action and quite a few goals in this fixture.
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