It’s that time again! Arsenal’s Premier League season kicks off tomorrow against Manchester City, and in advance of the big day, we talked with Reeves Guyton of Bitter and Blue, SBN’s Manchester City blog, about what we can expect from the blue half of Manchester tomorrow. Want to know what I told them about Arsenal? This here link will get you there!
TSF: There’s not a lot that Manchester City needed to do over the summer, but are you happy with what business they did do?
B&B: Obviously City were the best team in the league but there were two needs that became apparent, especially in champions league football. Those were a defensive midfielder as well as a winger— both for depth. City tried to rectify the winger depth during the winter transfer window but couldn’t settle on a price with Leicester City.
Fortunately the two sides agreed to a 60 million pound fee for Riyad Mahrez this summer but failed to sign Jorginho and other defensive midfielders. I thought our biggest need was wing depth as Fernandinho, in my opinion, can still go for 2 or more years and Stones looks to be up to the challenge of playing that role.
TSF: Did Riyad Mahrez fill a need, or was that move at least partly to prevent him going somewhere else?
B&B: He definitely filled a need for Manchester City. Sterling and Sane both had career years last year but behind them there wasn’t much production. There was Bernardo Silva but that was really it. In the preseason, Silva left his winger spot for his more favored role in the midfield . Thankfully City has Mahrez so they can keep a 3-man rotation for the winger position.
Sane is the starter on the left wing and Mahrez and Sterling will be competing for the starting spot on the right while the loser will play backup for both. Even though Mahrez is the better player, I think Sterling will start against Arsenal and most of the season because Pep seems to love him.
TSF: Who do you see as City’s most credible/difficult title rival?
B&B: The title race won’t be as easy for Manchester City this year as it was last year (partly due to Pep focusing more on Champions League football) but as of right now I would say Liverpool. I originally put Chelsea, but they still lack a pure goalscorer like 4 of the top 6 have despite their improvements in the midfield.
Liverpool are the obvious favorites for second position with their improvements during this summer and their impressive Champions League run. I think if Salah (front three in general) continues his form from last year and their new signings perform relative to their fee, they will challenge Manchester City for the title.
TSF: What do you see as City’s biggest weakness going into this season?
B&B: The woodwork, Liverpool, and the Premier League. Last year, City hit the woodwork more than any team and by a pretty wide margin. Despite scoring the most goals last year, they could’ve scored even more. Liverpool is our obvious weakness as they beat us all but once last year and will be a very tough opponent this season.
The Premier League/FA has usually had it out for Manchester City but new comment from the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore; ”It doesn’t take away from City’s excellence, but we want the season to go to the last. I’d like someone to get a little bit closer to Manchester City.” and Douglas Luiz not getting a work permit doesn’t bode well for City this year.
In all seriousness, I think our weakness is mental mistakes. We didn’t make a lot last year but when we did they were costly (Salah goal in Liverpool 4-3 win comes to mind). City obviously won’t be able to cut out the mental mistakes completely but have shown their ability to develop and adapt and I expect that to happen this year in regards to that.
TSF: Fill in the blank: For Arsenal to beat Manchester City, they must ________
B&B: Pressure Manchester City. Pep loves to play possession ball and relies on his defense to make passes until they find an opening. Kyle Walker even said that Pep doesn’t like them to hit any passes longer than 3 meters. Last year, Liverpool won against us mainly due to their pressure, as demonstrated in this clip. Liverpool press City’s back line and although City get past the halfway line, Silva loses the ball. If Arsenal want to win on Sunday, they must put the backline under pressure and force them to make mistakes.
TSF: Would Manchester City like to earn a lot of goodwill and karma around the league by not destroying Arsenal too ruthlessly on Sunday?
B&B NO MERCY! In all honesty, I don’t think it will be as big of a blowout as most people are expecting because it is the first game of the season and players are still returning from the World Cup. I think it will be 2/3-1 with City winning but think it will come down to the last 30 minutes until City really pull away.
Thanks again to Reeves and Bitter & Blue for taking the time to chat.