The much-anticipated first league match between two main contenders for the Premier League title – Manchester City and Arsenal – is just a few hours away. The excitement and apprehension are palpable as the game approaches. As of now, Man City is in second place with one game still to play, trailing Tottenham by a few points, who currently occupies the top spot.
Arsenal will do all they can to keep their unbeaten record in the league intact this season, in what would be their longest unbeaten start to a league season since the 2007/2008 season. It’s likely to be a game of fine margins, with both teams capable of taking advantage of every mistake opponents give them.
Arsenal’s form (all competitions): L W W D W
Man City’s form (all competitions): W L L W W
When & Where?
DATE: Oct 8, 2023.
TIME: 4.30pm UK
VENUE: Emirates Stadium, London.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referee: Stuart Burt
Assistant Referee: Lee Betts
Fourth Official: Tim Robinson
We understand everyone but Martinelli and Timber should be available for this match with Saka reportedly passing his fitness test. Gabriel Jesus has been spotted limping towards the end of Arsenal’s game with Lens but he should be fine for the game.
Kevin De Bruyne continues to be out, while Man City will also be missing one of their key players in Rodri who misses out thanks to a suspension following his red card versus Nottingham Forrest.
John Stones is also likely to miss out on this one with Guardiola saying: “John Stones is not ready to play. Maybe for the national team but not for us”.
Arsenal will combat Man City’s 4-2-3-1 formation with a 4-1-4-1 with Rice being deployed as the deepest midfielder. Rodri’s absence will be felt for Manchester City once again as the pivot of Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes got off to a bad start versus Wolves.
Arsenal were sweating over Saka’s fitness issues for this one and rightfully so as losing such an important player wouldn’t only be catastrophic for the team’s morale, but the fact Arsenal rely on pace in their wingers and not having either of him and Martinelli would significantly decrease their chances of getting a result.
Ben White got a deserved rest in the CL clash with Lens and he’s expected to join the familiar backline of Zinchenko, Gabriel and Saliba.
Thomas Partey is back in contention now, after completing his thigh injury recovery process but there is a question to be asked now whether he should be back in the eleven and where.
Rice has adapted incredibly quickly to the lone number six role and looks practically undroppable but… Arsenal are still searching for a player who’ll lock up that left number eight spot with all of Havertz, Vieira and previously Rice being trialled in the position. With Manchester City coming up, I do wonder if Arteta might opt to push Rice further up the pitch in order to gain some more solidity in his midfield.
Jesus, Havertz, or Nketiah up top?
Mikel Arteta has been experimenting with Jesus out wide more than a couple of times recently but it’s well-known what his best position is and I’m sure Arteta knows too. However, having Martinelli out of the picture does open up the idea of Jesus being deployed on the left once again. Could Kai Havertz start up top in what is seemingly his best position? Does Eddie Nketiah have a horse in the race with the two penalties won and two goals in the league so far? Questions, questions…
Will Man City go long in their search for Haaland?
Guardiola has previously shown he’s willing to surrender some possession if it means there’s a better chance to get Halaand more involved and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that on occasion tomorrow.
Haaland hasn’t scored in his last two games and one more goalless game would be unlikely for his standards. I’m positive he’ll do everything possible to get on the scoresheet back again versus Arsenal and make life a living hell for Arsenal’s defenders.
His goal companion Julian Alvarez has been enjoying a fine start to the season too, with 3 goals and 4 assists to his name in the Premier League so far.
Bukayo Saka has been electric this season, already being involved in 10 goals + assists in all competitions with 6 of those goal involvements coming in the Premier League. I’m expecting another big performance from him in front of the home crowd, provided he’s fit enough to play at his usual intensity.
Julian has been in breathtaking form this season, with his off the ball runs and poised ball-striking ability helping him to 11 goal involvements in all competitions. He’s earned his place in this team and is now one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Arsenal possible starting lineup: Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Rice, Odegaard; Saka, Jesus, Trossard.
Manchester City possible starting lineup: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Akanji, Gvardiol; Lewis, Kovacic; Foden, Alvarez, Doku; Haaland.