Jack Lang is expecting Pep Guardiola’s side to complete a quick fire double at the Emirates…
Arsenal v Manchester City
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Oh no. Surely there has been some kind of mistake. Not… you again? Yep, sorry Arsenal, but the fixture list likes a prank. And so here, just four days after their League Cup final humbling, the Gunners welcome tormentors Manchester City to the Emirates Stadium. What could possibly go wrong?
There were so many things wrong with their performance at Wembley that it’s hard to know where to start. The attack was limp, the midfield bypassed time and again, and the defence as accommodating as a hotelier. Room for two, Mr Agüero? Why not try the honeymoon suite? The upgrade is on us!
The last few days have been bleak for Arsene Wenger, with renewed calls for him to call time on his own reign in north London, but then Arsenal’s unpredictability is such that it wouldn’t actually be that much of a shock were they to record a (fairly worthless) moral victory on Thursday night. At least Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be back in contention, although Nacho Monreal is out.
Who can stop City?
City have been enjoying the flipside of the coin, their first silverware of the season secured. It was fitting that, for all the new faces, it was three members of the old guard who got the job done on Sunday: Sergio Agüero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva have all seen this side evolve over the last few years, and are clearly still hungry for success.
The Champions League now becomes the priority, with the Premier League title all but sewn up, although handily for City, they already have breathing space in their last-16 tie against Basel. That means Pep Guardiola can use full force against Arsenal here and Chelsea at the weekend, knowing that rotation will come against the Swiss side.
Raheem Sterling is a doubt, having missed out at Wembley, and Fernandinho looks set for a spell on the sidelines. But with Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sané back in action, City will again be confident of getting the job done.
No reason for faith in Arsenal
Arsenal’s recent Premier League record against City is shaky – they’ve won just two of the last 11 meetings between the sides – and the Gunners have struggled against fellow members of the ‘big six’ in the last couple of seasons, with two wins from their last 16 such games.
Home fans will no doubt hope for some kind of wounded-animal effect here, but the truth is that City are a far superior side. They did not even need to hit top gear to get the job done at the weekend, and look solid favourites even at 1.86 away from home.
Goals on the horizon
If Arsenal concede, it will be the first time they have gone 10 league games without a clean sheet since 2002. That underlines their fragility at the back, and this is a fixture that has tended to produce goals: the last seven meetings have gone over the 2.5-goal line (NB – one of those went to extra time).
But with the overs priced at just 1.54, the best option here might be to boost the odds on an away win. City to come out on top and over 2.5 goals is 2.28.
Agüero the main man
With Jesus still feeling his way back to fitness, Agüero should lead the line again for City and looks a good pick at 2.02. The Argentine has scored four goals in his last six league appearances against Arsenal and will be full of confidence after his stunning opener at Wembley.