SoccerSurgery dissects the massive clash at the Emirates between Arsenal and Manchester City.
Manchester City: Gabriel Jesus(Foot), Nicolas Otamendi (Fatigue), Ilkay Gundogan (Foot)
Arsenal: Santi Cazorla (Foot), Peter Cech (Foot), Lucas Perez (Thigh)
Probable team set up
With both teams desperately unsafe in securing Champions League football, it would be doubtful a conservative approach would be taken by any manager. Furthermore it is not in their DNA. Expect an open match. City(71%) ranks 1st for possession in the opponents half, Arsenal (64%) ranks 3rd. Each team’s philosophy at bedrock is to control the game by controlling possession, pressing high into the opponents half to rewin possession where possible.
The two keys to the game then are (1) Errors in possession and (2) the strength of the back four in repelling 3v3 or 4v4 counter attacks.
The Possession Battle
Xhaka has been awful in his maiden campaign especially in keeping calm when under pressure; either giving the ball away needlessly or making rash attempts to rewin the ball or both. But where does Wenger go otherwise? Coquelin may offer a better shield but has forgotten how to adequately distribute to the forwards since the season began. Of recent the puller of strings next to the holding player has been Oxlade-Chamberlain, in whom Wenger has immense faith – we have no idea why given his history of giving away the ball then holding his head as calamity ensues.
City on the other hand will combine Yaya, Silva and De Bruyne in their midfield press – a combination of guile and power which should be able to stamp an authority on the game. The only real question is whether “KDB” has fully recovered from a knock suffered on international duty. The other question – can Yaya keep up with the pace of Walcott and Sanchez should Arsenal break quickly.
The only chance Arsenal has of surviving the midfield battle in our viewe is if Wenger starts Coquelin and Ramsey who have more experience in these heated affairs but time will tell Wenger’s approach.
Here is the area Arsenal have an advantage on paper but Mustafi, Bellerein and Monreal have been playing with such low confidence for stretches of the season.
The entire City backline has been maligned all season. There is no player who has been exempt from criticism – even the goalkeepers who have been rotated endlessly in search of a spark.The season stats reveal a different tale however – City tie for 2nd with 27 clear chances allowed; Arsenal sit middle of the pack with 42. So clearly this would suggest City is a better defensive unit.
That said if one examines the individual players Koscieny (74) and Monreal (68) are in the top 4 players for interceptions while Koscieny sits 6th for tackles won (99). On the other side City’s best defender statistically speaking Nicolas Otamendi has been less favoured of late and as we alluded to earlier possibly unavailable for this match.
SoccerSurgery Prediction: Manchester City 2 – Arsenal 1