Arsenal travel to Manchester City on Saturday for Round 3 of the student versus master derby between Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola. Last season, they split the two meetings between the managers — City prevailed in the league, Arsenal in the FA Cup. City also bested the Gunners in December 2019, days before Arteta was announced in North London. Sidenote, well side-question: what’s the statute of limitations on talking about how Mikel was an assistant coach under Pep? We’ve got to be approaching it.
The biggest news for Saturday’s match is that Kevin De Bruyne is out with an injury. It’s not thought to be serious, but Pep Guardiola isn’t sure how long his star midfielder will spend on the sidelines. Gabriel Jesus is also expected to miss out, but Raheem Sterling, who missed out on international duty because of a hamstring issue, should be good to go.
On the Arsenal side of things, there were reports today that the Gunners will be successful in getting Kieran Tierney released from his 14-day quarantine for having close contact with COVID-19 positive Scotland teammate Stuart Armstrong, but there has yet to be official confirmation. It’s also not clear whether Thomas Partey will make the matchday squad. The last we heard from Arteta on the matter was “we’ll see” how he does in training.
As I discussed in my Predicted XI, I think Arsenal’s formation hinges on the availability of those two, Tierney in particular. If Tierney can play, I think Mikel Arteta plays four at the back. If he isn’t, I expect the 3-4-3 to which we have become accustomed. If Partey is ready to start, he could just be a direct replacement for Granit Xhaka in the formation.
Arsenal have struggled at the Etihad lately, conceding 3 goals on each of their last 3 trips. But with De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus out, and Raheem Sterling coming off an injury, perhaps City’s offensive pop will be weakened enough to buck that trend. A draw would be a great result for the Gunners, and I think they can manage it.
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