They’re yet to meet in the Premier League this season, but now unexpected league leaders Arsenal come up against presumed-champs-in-waiting Man City. Well, well, well.
Pep Guardiola welcomes former student Mikel Arteta to the Etihad on Friday night. So will the hosts ease to a straightforward, business-like win over their rivals that might not tell us a whole lot about how the title race is going to pan out?
By their own standards, City have been sloppy
Or can Arteta engineer an away victory that would be an incredible statement of intent for the North London side?
Arsenal have lost three games in all competitions this season; the side looked impressive as they beat Man Utd 3-2 in their most recent league outing on Sunday.
And by their own standards, Man City have occasionally been sloppy this season – and indeed, this year. We’re still in January, yet Guardiola’s team have lost against both Southampton and Man Utd already in 2023.
With further defeats to Liverpool and Brentford (at the Etihad!) in the Prem, City have looked unexpectedly vincible on recent occasions.
Some point to Erling Haaland’s addition having changed the way the team plays – and not entirely positively. To balance that criticism, it’s probably worth mentioning that Haaland scored his fourth hat-trick of the season on Sunday.
Fast Eddie could be worth a look
In any case, Guardiola will be at great pains not to be knocked out of the FA Cup by the Gunners, let alone grant his rivals any kind of psychological advantage in the title race.
And to be fair, City’s record against the north London team is pretty good. The Manchester side have won each of their last 10 league meetings with Arsenal; City scoring 26 goals over that period to Arsenal’s three.
More encouragingly for the visitors, when these sides met in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in 2020, Arsenal won 2-0. Arsenal went on to win the final, too, Arteta landing his first trophy as a manager with the club.
So… who wins this one? In truly gutless style, I am going to weasel out of answering. Instead, like a Tory politician, I’ll answer a wholly different question to the one asked; yes, both teams can score here.
In seven of City’s 11 Premier League games at the Etihad this season, both sides have got on the scoresheet. City’s home advantage should mean they find the net. But Arsenal have only failed to score in two games all season (against Newcastle in the Prem, and PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League).
Alternatively, Gunners man of the moment Eddie Nketiah could be worth a look in the goalscorer market; fast Eddie is 5/2 to score at any time, which is tempting indeed when you consider he’s racked up seven goals in his last seven games in all competitions.
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