The Premier League title race will come under the microscope on Wednesday. Arsenal host Manchester City in a game that will tell us a lot about the direction of this title race. The home side needs to avoid defeat if they are to remain in control. A win for Pep Guardiola’s side will shift the momentum back in favour of the champions. It will be a mental blow for the Gunners, especially after dropping points in their last two matches. These two teams met in the FA Cup and City were the winners that day. Neither side played to their full potential on that day, but they will both be fired up for this one.
Arsenal have had an excellent season to date. It would have been impossible to maintain their form over the course of an entire season. There was always going to be a dip at some point. That has now come and Mikel Arteta will be hoping for a significant improvement on Wednesday. This is a chance to wrestle back control of their own destiny and put a dent into City’s challenge. It is the biggest match of his managerial career to date.
Manchester City have been distracted by off-field headlines, with a focus on the Premier League’s legal battle with them. It is likely to rumble on for years and it will have impacts on their transfer activity, as it is a cloud hanging over their long-term future. However, Guardiola seems focused on the current season and the performance against Aston Villa was much improved. There was a change in shape and personnel, but it has helped the team. The only issue was a gaping hole down their left flank. If they set up similarly, Bukayo Saka could cause them a lot of issues. It will be interesting to see if they stay with the set-up or adapt it.
Arsenal have only won two of their last five Premier League matches.
Despite their inconsistent form, Manchester City are the top scorers in the Premier League this season with 56.
This is going to be a great opportunity for Saka to play a match-winning role. Manchester City have issues down their left flank and Saka will be given instructions to take advantage of that. In recent weeks, he has been one of the better performers for Arsenal, despite the poor run of form. This has been an excellent 12 months for Saka, as he has consistently performed for club and country. It would put the icing on the cake if he was to win the league title. There is already a lot of responsibility on his shoulders at a tender age, as he is a key player for the Gunners. There isn’t another player that can come in and perform to the same standard on the right side. With seven goals and eight assists, Saka is well on his way to passing ten for each. That would represent his best ever league season.
With doubts over Erling Haaland’s involvement, Riyad Mahrez could be the key player this week. He is currently in fantastic form and one of the first names on the team sheet. Since the World Cup, he has six goals and four assists across all competitions. It has been a struggle for him at times at City, as Pep Guardiola hasn’t always trusted him. Mahrez has been in and out of the team for a long time. However, he is now performing on a weekly basis and he will be confident of delivering another good showing against Arsenal. There are some vulnerabilities in the Gunners’ defence, with few clean sheets coming since the World Cup. The direct style and confidence of Mahrez will cause them problems.
Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson are both a couple of weeks away from a return to action. Gabriel Jesus won’t be back involved until March. Leandro Trossard is pushing for a start after scoring at the weekend.
Erling Haaland is a doubt after being taken off at half time at the weekend. John Stones is still out, but Guardiola will be enthused by the performances of Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte. Nathan Ake could come back into the team to play left back.
This is going to be a very difficult game to call. Arsenal aren’t in the form they were a few weeks ago, while City delivered their best performance since the World Cup break at the weekend. It feels like the momentum is shifting slightly in the title race. If City win on Wednesday, it will cause a huge shift and the majority will believe that they are favourites once more. An entertaining score draw feels like a good prediction, with neither team wrestling control.
Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City