This Saturday’s encounter between Manchester City and Arsenal is likely to prove a fascinating tactical battle between two astute managers. Here are some ideas relating to probable starting line-ups and either side’s weaker and stronger points.
Arsenal must keep it tighter between the lines
In their 1-1 draw against Everton Arsenal struggled to protect space in front of the back four. Everton had Pienaar drifting inside from the left, Mirallas spending much time centrally and, most crucially, Ross Barkley in the no. 10 position. The gifted youngster constantly got the better of Arteta and positioned himself brilliantly to find pockets of space in dangerous zones throughout the contest. But it was not only the Spaniard who was guilty of Arsenal conceding that vital space. Aaron Ramsey’s positioning was too advanced at times and he did not offer Arteta enough protection.
Arsene Wenger realised the problem bringing on Flamini for the Welshman on 67 minutes. In the game against Napoli on Wednesday he opted for the Arteta-Flamini partnership from the very beginning. Wenger will hardly drop the in-form Ramsey again, but he will definitely instruct him to sit deeper and we will see a rather cautious Arsenal side.
What will City look like upfront?
The partnership between Aguero and Negredo is unique. When fielded together, Negredo’s average position is slightly deeper than Aguero’s. You rarely see such a powerful forward in these positions. The Spaniard’s link-up play is very good indeed and his willingness to drop deeper allows Aguero to stay higher up and use his incredible acceleration in behind.
Had David Silva still been injured, Pellegrini would surely select the duo that had worked brilliantly in big games against Man United and Tottenham this season. But with the Spanish playmaker fit again, the City manager might play Silva in the no. 10 role trying to enhance Arsenal’s above-mentioned troubles in that zone. Then, Milner would be used on the right to provide balance.
It might be wise to hand Walcott a start City are extremely dangerous down their left where Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri form an intelligent partnership. Nasri drifts inside to create overloads in the middle vacating space for the full-back who times his runs perfectly. They are as dangerous down they right too, but Arsenal have an ideal weapon to disrupt the Kolarov-Nasri connection in the figure of Theo Walcott.
The England winger would either pin Kolarov back or exploit the space he left behind on the counter attack. Besides, City proved vulnerable to simple balls over the top recently, which was particularly visible in the second half of their match against Southampton last Saturday. Nearly all chances the Saints created came after long simple balls. Not only Walcott could profit from this. Olivier Giroud also thrives in these kinds of situations being able to latch onto them and lay it off neatly.
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