Monday, April 22, 2024

Could Manchester City and Arsenal abandon their usual possession-based game on Sunday?

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In a game likely to bear huge impact on the ongoing three-way title race in the Premier League, Manchester City play host to Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday.

The Gunners have already beaten the reigning champions at the Emirates this season, and they’ll surely try and complete an amazing double to boost their chances of lifting the trophy at the end of the season, but going to the Etihad to try and beat last season’s treble winners is obviously not an easy task.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta spent three years at Manchester City working as Pep Guardiola’s assistant, before returning to the club where he ended his playing days to lead a new era from the dugout. It’s therefore no surprise that the two Spaniards nourish similar styles, wanting their players to control the ball for as much of the game as possible and keep it on the ground whenever possible.

But come Sunday, it just *might* happen that one of the two managers – or both – abandons his usual game in favour of a more practical approach under the circumstances. With Rodri sitting ahead of the City back line and Declan Rice patrolling the same area for Arsenal, playing through the opposition with short passes and movement through the middle of the park is likely to prove very challenging for both sides.

Therefore, it should not be forgotten that both sides are also well-equipped for playing long balls from the back. Both goalkeepers are very good at finding desired targets some 60 or 70 yards away, as is City’s backup option Stefan Ortega, who will probably be deputizing for the injured Ederson Moraes if the Brazil No.1 doesn’t recover in time. Also, in Erling Haaland and Kai Havertz, both teams have attackers more than capable of winning aerial duels and skilled at hold-up play.

If the two teams indeed choose to play over the middle of the park rather than through it, the main benefactors are likely to be wide attackers, whom the strikers would look to employ via flick-ons, and both these teams have plenty of top-level quality in that area as well. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have suffered minor injuries recently, but there’s a realistic chance for both to be ready for this game. In case either of them is unavailable, Leandro Trossard is an extremely worthy option to call upon. On the other hand, City’s Phil Foden seems in the form of his life, and the likes of Jeremy Doku and Jack Grealish are certainly players to be reckoned with.

Whatever happens, defenders at both ends of the pitch will have to be at their best to be able to deal with the vast attacking threats coming their way.

The outcome of this match is extremely difficult to call in advance. It could go anywhere between City destroying Arsenal and the Gunners blasting the reigning champions and completely silencing the home crowd. The only thing that appears certain is that the contest will be far from boring for the neutral lovers of the game, and that it will be closely watched at Anfield where Liverpool play Brighton and Hove Albion earlier that day.

Arsenal and Liverpool are currently tied at the top of the table with 64 points each, though the Gunners have a notable advantage on goal-difference. City are just a point behind, and will be interesting to see how these teams stand on Sunday evening.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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