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Arsenal vs Manchester City Preview: Opportunity Knocks

Arsenal host league leaders Manchester City before the second international break

RC Lens v Arsenal FC: Group B - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Fortune has to eventually change, right? What goes up must eventually come down, they say. When it comes to Arsenal FC playing Manchester City in the Premier League, though, that has yet to be seen.

On Sunday, the Gunners host the persistent thorn in their side known as Manchester City, the team that the Gunners held off for nearly 8 months last season before injuries and a series of poor results ultimately doomed Arsenal to finishing second behind City. Sunday’s match is the last one for Arsenal before the league takes yet another brief international break, and, depending on the outcome, could potentially see Arsenal overtake their rivals and maybe even Spurs, who took the top spot .

Recent history in this tie has been as one-sided as it comes, and despite Arsenal having their best season in years, they still just couldn’t get past the City hump in the Premier League. The Gunners notched a win over Pep Guardiola’s side when they faced off in August for the league’s Community Shield, but the true test of Mikel Arteta’s side will be to see if they can finally, actually beat City during league play.

So what will it take for Arsenal to get an elusive win on Sunday? Here are five talking points ahead of the match:

  1. Goalkeeper selection - When Arsenal signed David Raya on loan from Brentford, Arteta made a big to-do about how he views Ramsdale and Raya as a 1a and 1b type of situation, hinting in press conferences that he would rotate as necessary. Raya was signed due to his shot stopping and distribution, but in the last few matches, his distribution has left much to be desired, even directly contributing to a goal for Lens during Tuesday’s Champions League match. Plenty of fans are clamoring to see Rammers back between the sticks, a decision that will certainly have an impact against City’s attack.
  2. Bukayo Saka - The Saka Injury Roulette has been one of this season’s least-enjoyable developments. The England star has hobbled off the pitch for the last few matches, carrying perpetual knocks and niggles. He needed a first half sub against Lens due to feeling something after a backheel attempt, but has been cleared for Sunday. He is the most important part of Arsenal’s attack, and despite his Wolverine-like recovery ability, the injury luck will eventually run out if Arteta is not careful.
  3. The Midfield battle - Arsenal’s midfield has been improved with the addition of Declan Rice, especially in Thomas Partey’s absence. The jury is still out on Havertz, but Arteta seems intent on making him a central piece in the midfield. City is currently facing an un-City-like midfield crisis, as Kevin De Bruney and Rodri both out for Sunday. Their absence was felt last weekend when City fell to Wolves for their first loss of the season. City have talent, but Arsenal will need to win the midfield battle if they want to win the match.
  4. Form - City have not been their best recently. They lost against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup before falling to Wolves. They rebounded in the Champions League to beat RB Leipzig, so they could be coming into the Emirates with a boost in confidence. Arsenal, on the other hand, just lost a match against a feisty Lens team that were faster to every ball and more physical than Arsenal appeared ready for. Was that match a necessary gut-check, or will it rattle the Gunners’ psyche?
  5. Tactics - Arteta has been doing his best Pep impression this season, tinkering more than normal, with some of that due to injuries. The Gunners are mostly healthy outside of Jurrien Timber’s ACL injury and Gabriel Martinelli. Thomas Partey is back in training and was on the bench against Lens but did not see the pitch. Arsenal negated City in the Community Shield with Partey and Rice in the midfield, clogging up City’s attack. But Arteta may see visitor’s midfield as vulnerable and attempt to be more aggressive.

The season is still young, but a win against Pep’s side will do wonders for the Gunners heading into the break. A draw only helps the cause of Tottenham and Liverpool, and a loss doubly so. Arsenal need to be at their best, and perhaps, just maybe, they can do the damn thing.

Anything can happen. Come on you Gunners!

WHAT: Arsenal vs Manchester City
WHEN: Sunday, October 8th, 11:30am EST/7:30am PST/4:30pm GMT
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming live on Peacock.

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