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Arsenal vs Manchester City match preview: The Unai Emery era begins

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Can the Gunners start the season on the winning foot against the reigning champs?

Arsenal v Paris Saint Germain Pre Matchday Activity Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images for ICC

So here we are. Its felt like ages since Arsene Wenger announced his intention to step down as Arsenal’s manager after over two decades as their faithful steward and Unai Emery was announced as the heir apparent to succeed Le Boss at the Emirates. It is an alien time for Arsenal, and a new manager is hardly the beginning of it. Between an active transfer window, the World Cup, and backroom shakeups galore, there have been plenty of storylines to keep Arsenal fans engaged in the off season - some for better, some for worse.

But the preseason is officially over, last season’s horrorshow is well in the rearview mirror, Emery is settled in, and the roster is, for all intents and purposes, finalized. The 2018/2019 Premier League season is officially underway, and Arsenal has the tall task of starting the Unai Emery era against the reigning Premier League champions Manchester City. The Cityzens set the footballing world on fire last season as Pep Guardiola’s side obliterated the competition and the record books, amassing 100 points and 106 goals en route to winning the league by a massive 19 point margin. There is an argument to be made that last season’s iteration was one of the best to play in the Prem.

So, yeah. They were pretty good.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, not much has changed on City’s end, because if it ain’t broke, why fix it? With the only notable addition being Riyad Mahrez from Leicester, the Cityzens already-lethal attack will remain one of the best in the world. Arsenal’s most notable and lauded addition is Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira, who many are hoping will be the answer to Arsenal’s perpetual defensive midfield woes.

Although last season’s disastrous defense was fortified by the signings of veteran defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner, their ages (30 and 34) give many fans a cause for concern. Coupled with the puzzling decision to loan Calum Chambers to Fulham and Laurent Koscielny’s long-term injury absence, Arsenal’s defense does not seem to be markedly improved from last season. So what better way to test them than against a side that put 9 goals past them across all competitions last season?

Working in Arsenal’s favor is that very few of their starters played in the World Cup, which meant that Arsenal’s roster has had plenty of rest and had valuable time to learn and incorporate Emery’s new tactics. City, on the other hand, had 16 total players representing their countries, almost twice as many as Arsenal. However, according to recent reports, both Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are in Guardiola’s plans for tomorrow’s match.

As far as injuries go, Arsenal are without left backs Sead Kolasinac (8 weeks, knee) and Nacho Monreal (1 week, knee), which means Ainsley-Maitland Niles will most likely suit up at left back for the Gunners. Aaron Ramsey, who sat out Arsenal’s final preseason match with a minor calf knock, returned to training this week, although there is no definitive news on his availability. Laurent Koscielny remains sidelined for the long term as he recovers from a ruptured achilles suffered in last season’s Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid.

City are fortunate as they have no long-term injuries.

What’s that? Line-ups, you say? Well, that remains to be the biggest question mark coming into tomorrow’s match. It is anyone’s guess as to who will start at any number of positions for Emery’s first Premier League match. It’s still unclear whether he will favor a 4-2-3-1 formation or a 4-3-3. However, there is no doubt that Emery will field the strongest lineup at his disposal. But I’ll give it my best guess:

Keeper: Cech

Defense: AMN, Mustafi, Sokratis, Bellerin

Midfield: Xhaka, Torreira; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang

Striker: Lacazette

So what say you? Will the Gunners pull out a season-opening win, or will City still be an unstoppable juggernaut? Have it out in the comments, but as always, keep it fun and civil.

COYG!

WHAT: Arsenal vs Manchester City
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
WHEN: Sunday, August 12th, 4PM BT | 11:00AM EST | 8:00AM PT
US TV: NBCSN
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