Arsenal have slowly been going about their business and they have established themselves in the top four. However, they face a huge test on New Year’s Day as they face Manchester City. They were humiliated by Pep Guardiola’s men during their first meeting of the season, with City running out 5-0 winners. Since then, the Gunners have improved, but they are still unproven against the very best. This is a good chance for them to put a dent into City’s title charge.
Mikel Arteta will be missing after contracting Covid-19 for a second time. This is a major blow to Arsenal, as they will be missing his leadership inside the stadium. This is a chance for him to test himself against one of his greatest influences, Pep Guardiola. In their league meetings, Arteta has failed to have much success. However, there will be hope that they can put up a much bigger test this weekend.
After much talk about the fiercest title race in years, Manchester City have pulled away at the top of the table. They have been relentless during the festive period and there is a feeling that they could play even better than they have been. The current champions have won their last 10 league matches, since they tasted defeat to Crystal Palace. On that day, there was a feeling that they could be vulnerable, but they have put that to bed. Guardiola has rotated during this period, yet his team continue to win every week. They have built an eight point lead over Chelsea. It is difficult to see any other team lifting the trophy in May, but they will need to guard against complacency.
- During their last four matches, Arsenal have scored 14 goals and conceded just once.
- Manchester City have kept clean sheets in four of their last five Premier League matches.
It has been an extremely good season for Aaron Ramsdale, as he has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the division. A lot of people were bemused by Arsenal’s decision to pursue Ramsdale for such a large fee following two relegations. However, his character has been perfect for the current squad and he has been one of the leaders on the pitch. During the course of this season, he has now put himself in contention to become England’s number one. Jordan Pickford has the shirt at the moment, but there is no doubt that Ramsdale is now the most likely to usurp him. In his last ten league matches, he has kept six clean sheets and made several key stops. He will be busy against City and Arsenal will need him to be at his best if they are to get a result.
The last few weeks have seen Kevin De Bruyne burst back onto the scene. There were some that speculated that he was no longer in City’s best eleven, but his performances since his return confirm his importance in the current team. In his last four matches, he has contributed three goals and an assist. The last 12 months have been frustrating for many reasons, but the Belgian international looks ready to prove his worth again in 2022. During the narrow victory against Brentford, he had four attempts on goal and made three key passes. He was influential in the match and it was his brilliance that created the winner for Phil Foden. Guardiola has settled on a formation with two free 8s in the starting eleven. De Bruyne has to play in one of those positions, especially in the big games. Since moving to City, he has done very well against Arsenal. This will be another opportunity to haunt the Gunners.
Takehiro Tomiyasu and Calum Chambers are both doubts after testing positive for Covid-19. Their exact timescale of return is uncertain. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won’t be involved as he has been allowed to travel to the African Cup of Nations early.
Rodri could be back after his own Covid absence. John Stones should be passed fit for the match day squad. There will be rotation, with Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez and Rajeev Sterling in contention to return.
Arsenal are much better than the team that were beaten convincingly in the return fixture. The red card suffered that day didn’t help. This should be a closer contest, but City are a machine under Pep Guardiola. Their run of ten successive victories shows their quality and they will have too much for the Gunners.
Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City