Arsenal face top of the league Man City, who are in ruthless form.
Arsenal sit mid-table, while Man City are 17 unbeaten in all competitions, close to their previous 18 wins record.
Arsenal are 6 unbeaten at home, but generally look better away.
Arsenal manager Arteta used to be Pep’s assistant at City and Pep is very fond of the Spaniard.
Pep is still confident Arsenal will ‘beat and contender for titles. Faith from the best manager around goes a long way for a young manager.
From an Arsenal perspective, any kind of positive result will be very tough against the high-flying blues.
With Europa prioritised, there are 5 changes. Tierney comes back from injury into the XI, Mari & Holding back in for Gabriel & Luiz.
Ødegaard keeps his place, while Smith Rowe gets a well-deserved rest.
Pepe comes back into the team and Elneny comes in for Ceballos, with caution in mind.
I would’ve loved to see Martinelli start, but other than that I’m happy with the rotated line-up.
Man City are back to full strength – De Bruyne comes back in to haunt Arsenal fans as usual – playing in the False 9 role he operated so well in vs Chelsea.
Gundogan makes a return (typically) after his hot form, being the top scorer in 2021 in the prem.
The strong & well-balanced Stones and Dias partnership comes back, while Bernardo retains his place along with Sterling.
High flying young talent Foden drops to the bench to compensate the return of the Belgium superstar.
The game was a very tactical affair last time, which ended 1-0 to Man City at the Etihad.
Both managers are very unpredictable, so this could be a very interesting tactical watch.
Score prediction: 1-2 Man City.
City started it off nice and early as they always do, where Mahrez cut inside and played it in where Sterling got away from Holding to head it home.
A great goal, poor marking and the warning signs were already there after Sterling mis hit a shot.
Arsenal breached after just over a minute, this could be a long game.
Sterling got in behind after a brilliant De Bruyne pass, but overcomplicated and couldn’t get a shot off.
Rampant from City only 5 minutes in, who have got in behind Tierney a few times already – who has struggled so far.
Arsenal took 8 minutes to get any sort of the play. It’s so hard to retain the ball against such a hardworking, versatile outfit.
It is important Arsenal stay in the game in the early stages, as they are lucky to not be found 2 or 3 down.
Arsenal had their first taste of goal after Saka interchanged with Tierney, with Bukayo’s effort reaching an offside Aubameyang.
Which, wasn’t intended as the effort could’ve troubled Ederson.
De Bruyne’s match fitness was telling as his passing was a bit off.
Stones, playing as an RB in possession gave City that extra option in possession, as he found himself in attacking areas.
Arsenal are playing very passive, just allowing Man City to dominate the ball. To pounce on a mistake or prevent the score changing for now.
City continued to tire the Gunners out with a lot possession.
The lack of attacking chances for the Gunners left for some very poor touches.
Saka helped Tierney out defensively after that initial 10 minutes of dominance.
A poor pass led to a Fernandinho interception, who played it to Gundogan who’s touch was poor to the relief of the Gunners so Holding could block the shot.
Ødegaard was a very frustrated figure, as Arsenal have had very little of the ball.
When in attack, Tierney was pivotal to any attacking rhythm, with his overlapping runs.
Far more positive from Arsenal as the game has progressed.
Half time, as Arsenal despite being battered for the first 10 and dominated for the next 20 have come right back into it.
Mainly through the left-hand side, as Xhaka was positive with his passing.
A very tough 2nd half coming up, but good signs for Arsenal.
Bellerin & Holding particularly struggled. Once Tierney got help from Saka, he was far more comfortable.
Gundogan and De Bruyne haven’t quite been at their best, while Leno has coped well enough with the press and Mahrez & Sterling have been very problematic.
As good as City were early on, several mistakes in possession only helped their momentum.
Arsenal have kept the ball well after that first 25-30 minutes, winning duals in midfield and keeping City camped in their own half.
I want to see Ødegaard get the ball far more to pose a threat on either side – be more unpredictable.
No early 2nd half goal and so long as it stays 0-1 there’s a chance – with the late left hand side dominance.
A few minutes after the break, De Bruyne received the ball and narrowly missed an audacious chip.
Would’ve been some goal.
Gundogan got in behind once again, but a great Holding tackle saw the ball go out.
Leno made a good save to prevent Gundogan’s strike and ultimately keep Arsenal in the game.
It was sloppy from both teams, as the game went to a bit of a stalemate, as Ødegaard gave the ball away a lot.
Lacazette & Smith Rowe came on for Ødegaard & Pepe who have done little.
Lacazette will go to a 9, Smith Rowe in the 10 and Aubameyang on the wing.
City seemed very reluctant to drive at Arsenal, instead keeping the ball.
Aubameyang got in behind Cancelo, fired it in the area where Saka slipped. A good chance for Arsenal to get something from the game.
Jesus drove into the area, played it inside to Cancelo who did a brilliant fake and missed the target. Major let off for Arsenal.
A concussion sub was used for the first time, as Holding went off for Luiz.
A poor 2nd half from both sides meant City got the win across the line. 18 in all competitions now, special.
The lack of ball retention from Aubameyang particularly stopped many attacks and made sustainable attacking very difficult.
No shame in losing to such a strong City side, but not taking advantage of a wasteful City who weren’t at their best is slightly frustrating.
Arsenal didn’t challenge Ederson once as City were still very assured.
Man of the match:
There are 2 contenders, no one else comes near.
Ruben Dias was superb, along with his partner John Stones. There’s a good reason they’ve kept so many clean sheets collectively.
Both exceptional defensively, it’s very hard to pick a MOTM. I have decided to give it to John Stones.
His redemption this season is great to see and how composed he was – never in doubt with his defending either.
He specifically dealt with Aubameyang and gave him nothing to work with.
A great defensive display as usual from the Citizens.
Xhaka was Arsenal’s best, as he prevented the game getting out of reach and played a few threatening balls in behind.
Leno – 6.5
Bellerin – 4.5
Holding – 6.5
Mari – 6
Tierney – 6
Xhaka – 8
Elneny – 6
Pepe – 5.5
Ødegaard – 4
Saka – 7
Aubameyang – 4
What next for Arsenal?
Arsenal face Benfica in Athens in an important 2nd leg.
They go in equal with their opponents (1-1) with an away goal, but it’s essential Arsenal progress in their European pursuit.
This can be found on BT Sports next Thursday before another tough game on the weekend vs Leicester.
Score prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Benfica.
I expect a professional job to be done against a Benfica side who Arsenal should’ve beat in the first leg.
Consistency is the current priority for the Gunners.