This Saturday looks to really mark the start of the new season. Four of the traditional top six will be facing each other, which will create a great spectacle for the neutral. Manchester City host Arsenal in the early kick off, as Mikel Arteta tries to get one over on his mentor Pep Guardiola. Neither team have started the new season with fluency, which means there is a great opportunity for one to put down a marker. The home side will be the overwhelming favourites, but they struggled to create clear cut opportunities against Tottenham on the opening day. If the Gunners can be tough to break down, they have the pace on the counter attack to cause problems.
Pep Guardiola will be disappointed to miss out on his number one transfer target Harry Kane, after the striker announced that he will be staying at Tottenham this season. There are rumours that City could be set to make the biggest signing of the Abu Dhabi era instead. Cristiano Ronaldo has been heavily linked with a move, but he hasn’t signed at the time of writing. There is a belief that City need a striker in order to retain their league title, especially after Chelsea signed Romelu Lukaku. There is little room for error after their defeat on opening day. They have to win this weekend to ensure they keep in touch with the early leading pack.
Arsenal have been poor at the start of the new season, although they have been damaged by the number of injuries to key players. Mikel Arteta is starting to be criticised by some sections of the fan base and it is crucial that his team perform better this weekend. They looked great during the week running out 6-0 winners against West Brom in the Carabao Cup. Supporters will be hoping that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat-trick will give him much needed confidence as he tries to return to his best.
- Manchester City haven’t lost to Arsenal in their last 11 Premier League meetings. Of these, the champions have won nine.
- Arsenal haven’t lost the first three matches of a league season in the Premier League era. The 1954-55 season was the last time they suffered this.
The summer signing will continue to be the centre of attention, as he tries to adapt to the style of play at Manchester City. He managed to score his first goal for the club in the win over Norwich City last week. That will give him great confidence going into a big match this weekend. Kevin de Bruyne won’t be available against Arsenal, which increases the need for Grealish to play well. He is the most likely to create clear cut chances in the absence of the Belgian. Last weekend, the England international was impressive without stealing the show. He completed 95% of his passes, which shows an intelligence in his decision making. Some believed he would slow City’s build-up play, but there are early signs that he is adapting his game to suit Guardiola’s demands. Arsenal have been poor defensively in their opening two matches. Grealish has the quality to cause them problems and produce a match winning performance.
There has been a lot of criticism of Aubameyang over the past 12 months. Some believe Arsenal made a mistake giving him a new contract. It was feared that it could develop into a similar situation to the Mesut Ozil one that plagued Arsenal for many seasons. During the week, he returned to the starting eleven and he scored a hat-trick, albeit against a weak West Brom team. Regardless of the opposition, it will have done his confidence the world of good and he will now take momentum into the Manchester City game. Guardiola’s side have struggled against pace on the counter attack. Son Heung-min caused them a lot of problems on the opening day. Aubameyang possesses similar traits and if he plays well, Arsenal could spring a surprise on Saturday. He only scored ten in the league last season, but he scored 22 in each of the previous two seasons. The Gabon international will be looking to get back to that kind of form and a goal this weekend will provide a launch pad.
Kevin de Bruyne will be missing for the home side, as he continues to struggle with an injury picked up during the summer. He won’t be linking up with the Belgium squad. Phil Foden remains on the sidelines, but Riyad Mahrez will be pushing for a recall to the starting eleven.
Bukayo Saka is a doubt after suffering a knee injury during the Carabao Cup win. Gabriel has returned to training, but he may not be risked until after the international break. Ben White is unlikely to return after his positive Covid test.
Arsenal do have the pace to cause Manchester City problems on the counter attack. However, it is difficult to see anything other than a home win this weekend. City have been excellent against the Gunners during recent seasons. They were caught cold on the opening day against one North London club. Guardiola won’t let his team make the same mistake twice.
Manchester City 2-0 Arsenal