Our game in hand represents a small chance to make real headway in our chase for the top four in the Premier League.
There’s just one small hitch.
It’s against Man City.
A fair percentage of us Gooners watched the Manchester derby with real interest. The result would surely gauge the motivation levels of Pep Guardiola’s squad when we face them.
Manchester United, as we are all aware, ran out comfortable 2-0 victors, as Pep’s side dominated possession and territory but were profligate up top.
And now we will face a wounded animal that has the potential to rip up any momentum we have built – with ruthless efficiency.
City will be pumped to bounce back straight away from what was a damaging loss. Guardiola doesn’t lose two games on the spin, and his side will be hungry for an instant response.
We knew that we would have to be at our very best to get anything from this game and that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the level that City will bring to this game.
Can we raise our bar and keep up the pace that City will bring? Can we shut down De Bruyne and keep their supply lines closed?
Mikel Arteta has his work cut out here. The Spaniard will have his insider knowledge on what makes City tick, but is it enough to turn the odds around?
Lucas Torreira is probably out for the season with his ankle injury. That leaves the door open for Matteo Guendouzi to stake his claim under Arteta. With Dani Ceballos finding his feet and forming a solid partnership with Granit Xhaka, Guendouzi has had to be content with a backup role, but we will need to rotate until the end of the season, so the Frenchman could get more minutes.
Sokratis started at right-back against West Ham in the weekend, so that means Hector Bellerin should be fit and raring to go for this one. Pablo Mari started in central defence alongside Luiz and that could be the way Arteta goes for this one too.
The major choice Arteta has for this one is up front. Does he stick with Nketiah for this tough away game? Or does he recognize Lacazette’s improving form and utilize his experience in what will be a game where we cannot be wasteful of chances? In short – who will be more efficient in front of goal?
Martinelli, Nelson and Willock all stand by for a start if Mesut Ozil, Pepe and Aubameyang are rested having played in the weekend’s win over the Hammers.
Player to Watch
Kevin De Bruyne
The ginger playmaker is sometimes unplayable. If afforded space he can rip up a whole team with a swish of his boot. So all we can do is not give him any. The only other thing is to ensure the runners who hope to benefit from De Bruyne are closed down quickly. In short, if De Bruyne is at it, then we will be up against it.
How This Could Go
City will want to cement second spot quickly and will also want to concentrate on their Champions League knockout tie against Real Madrid. With his 2-1 up and the League practically in Liverpool’s hands, Guardiola will know that his side’s best chance of success lay in Europe.
Could that mean less focus from his side as they have one eye on the Champions League tie next week? No. City will still be feeling the burn from their loss to United and will come out and dictate play.
We need to stay firm and not concede early. If we do then we have to come out of our shell and that means City will gleefully play around us. We need to keep it tight and the later this game goes without conceding, the better.
If we try and go toe to toe with City, they have shown in the past that they can destroy you.
A loss here isn’t the end of the world, but we need to keep our confidence up.
Good luck boys.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Mari, Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Auba, Ozil, Pepe, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to City
Try and predict the side here!