Gunners aim to dent Cityzens

Gunners aim to dent Cityzens

The first game of the New Year is destined to be a cracker, as a resurgent Arsenal side host league leaders Manchester City.

Mikel Arteta’s side have won their last five matches in all competitions, including four in the Premier League.

 

The quartet of Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, and Gabriel Martinelli have been hitting all the right notes, combining for 10 goals in the league during this period. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future, another veteran Alexandre Lacazette has stepped up brilliantly, showcasing some of his best form since joining Arsenal.

 

The Gunners have been lucky to not lose too many players to COVID but Arteta will be a big miss on the touchline having contracted the virus yesterday.

The Cityzens, meanwhile, have been on a roll themselves winning 10 straight in the league since the defeat to Crystal Palace at the end of October.

 

Pep Guardiola has thrown down the gauntlet to the other challengers who have faltered in recent times to hand City a bigger lead in the title race. They have scored 18 goals in just the past four matches, despite having some of the starters unavailable over that period.

 

Kevin De Bruyne is slowly hitting top gear, and the return of Phil Foden to the lineup was a welcome addition as he scored the winner against Brentford. City already hold an eight-point lead over Chelsea in second place, but can extend the lead further with a win which they will definitely be aiming for.

 

TEAM NEWS

Takehiro Tomiyasu remains absent as he nurses a calf injury. Albert Lokonga, Pablo Mari, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have all returned to training and could be in contention.

 

PROBABLE LINE-UP: Ramsdale; White, Gabriel, Holding, Tierney; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette

 

Kyle Walker, John Stones, and Rodri are all likely to miss out once again. Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez were rested midweek, meaning they can return on Saturday.

 

PROBABLE LINE-UP: Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne; Sterling, Foden, Mahrez

 

GAMECHANGERS

Bukayo Saka’s development throughout this season has been massive, leading him to become one of the first names on the team sheet. The 20-year-old has finally settled into his favoured position on the right flank of the attack, having played left winger and left back since he made his debut.

 

Three goals and two assists in his last four games have firmly made him one of the primary threats for Arsenal, even keeping record-signing Nicolas Pepe on the bench. City will have to play Oleksandr Zinchenko on the left and his inexperience will be a big factor. Saka is an expert in isolating defenders and running at them at pace, before crossing into the box.

 

Guardiola will be keenly aware of the threat and no doubt the midfielders will have to do a lot of tracking back.

Three goals and an assist (his first of the season) over the past four games might just have served to bring back the deadly form of Kevin De Bruyne. He has had his health issues after contracting covid but is now slowly inching back to being the linchpin of this City side.

 

There is no doubt the team depends a lot on his sharp passing and ability to link up the play, in order to free up the attackers at goal. Arsenal have a two-men midfield pivot who will have to keep a close watch on De Bruyne.

 

Thomas Party has been a bit fallible in tracking down his man against the better teams while the eccentric nature of Granit xhaka is always unpredictable.

 

PREDICTIONS

City ran out 5-0 winners in the reverse fixture with little difficulty but the Gunners are a much more cohesive unit in recent times. FootTheBall predicts a 2-1 win for the Cityzens.

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