ARSENAL will face another difficult game this weekend as they attempt to salvage at least a point from their first three outings of the new campaign.
The Gunners will travel to Manchester City today for the early kick-off, looking to bounce back from defeats at the hands of promoted Brentford and Champions League winners Chelsea.
Given City’s ruthlessness, though, in the hammering of Norwich, which saw they knock five past the Canaries last time out, Mikel Arteta’s return to the Etihad could well be an unpleasant one.
Arteta served as Pep Guardiola’s number two before taking over at the Emirates in December 2019.
The Spaniard has made it clear that his rebuilding of Arsenal is a work in progress that will “take some time”.
But against England’s champions today he will almost certainly find no sympathy from his former employers and could suffer a third straight loss. So, a draw may be viewed by some as a decent result.
As Arteta prepares his side for the City onslaught, he will have been buoyed by the return to action of his two senior strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
They both featured in the Carabao League Cup second round win over West Bromwich in midweek. Aubameyang struck a hat-trick, while Lacazette got the last goal in a 6-0 demolition of the Baggies.
Arsenal coughed up £34mil for 22-year-old Martin Odegaard last week and he too started in midweek. This should be an indicator that he will again be in the First XI today.
The Norwegian international midfielder, who arrived from Real Madrid on a four-year deal, certainly adds spice to the Gunners’ attack and gives Arteta a few more options in tactics.
City’s chase for Tottenham striker Harry Kane, seen as a potential replacement for Sergio Aguero, was quashed somewhat this week when the England captain said he would be staying at the London club.
That has ruled out a move to the blue half of Manchester, after Kane himself put in a request for a transfer in the off-season. With three years still to go on his Spurs contract, he came on as a substitute in their 1-0 win over Wolves last weekend — making it his first appearance for Tottenham this season.
For his part, Guardiola will continue working towards getting £100mil signing Jack Grealish established in the role as a creative midfielder.
This has become more telling with Kevin De Bruyne nursing what the manager said was a “little bit of a problem with an ankle”.
Renowned for rotating his players, even after wins like the thrashing of Norwich, Guardiola will almost surely keep Ruben Dias in the starting line-up.
The star Portuguese defender was instrumental in City reclaiming the league title, so much so that he walked away with the Football Writers Association’s Player of the Year award.
And with City’s defence looking solid again, Arsenal’s task of trying to salvage something from their visit to the Etihad will not be made any easier.
Brighton’s home game against Everton today may not appear as glitzy as some of the other fixtures, but it does hold in store a real cracker between two clubs who are still unbeaten and have shown a serious appetite for playing attractive and exciting football.
Graham Potter’s Seagulls outfit is loftily perched in the top four, albeit in the embryonic stages of the season. But they have won both of their matches and that is what counts — points on the board.
They will face what should be a sterner test though, against the Toffees, who have won one and drawn one in the league.
With Rafael Benitez at the helm now, the Goodison Park side may not be as easy to beat as when Brighton overcame Burnley and then Watford last weekend.
Still, if Neal Maupay is fit to face Everton after he was sidelined with a shoulder injury in the Watford game, Brighton will quietly fancy their chances at home.
The 25-year-old Frenchman scored in both their league games to date and his presence in the side will be a welcome boost for the home supporters.
Both Brighton and Everton recorded victories in the Carabao League Cup second round in midweek. The Seagulls put paid to Cardiff City’s aspirations with a 2-0 win in Cardiff. At Huddersfield, 10-man Everton clinched it 2-1, despite having Moise Kean shown a red card for violent conduct.