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Arsenal vs. Manchester City match thread: big game

This one is kinda important.

Arsenal FC v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Arsenal host Manchester City at the Emirates today in a highly anticipated clash at the top of the Premier League table. It’s first versus second, Mikel Arteta versus Pep Guardiola, red versus blue. An Arsenal win stretches the lead to 6 points + a game in hand. A City win takes them top on goal difference, albeit having played an additional match. A draw and both sides live to fight another day.

It’s fair to say that the outcome of the two Arsenal - Manchester City head-to-head matchups this season easily could determine the Premier League title. With the Gunners holding three point lead and a game-in-hand, I feel good about their chances to win the league if they don’t lose ground over the pair of fixtures. Obviously win-draw or win-win, either way, gives whoever comes out on top a massive advantage in the race.

The stats from the recent meetings between the two clubs are a bloodbath. Arsenal have lost their last 10 Premier League matches against City, scoring 3 goals and conceding 29. Kevin de Bruyne has five goals against Arsenal, his joint-most against any opponent, and Riyad Mahrez has scored or assisted in each of his last four matches against the Gunners.

City score early and score often against the Gunners, opening the scoring in the first three minutes in three of the last four meetings between the sides. Arsenal have given up 10 goals in the opening 15 minutes over their last 13 Premier League matches against City. The Gunners have received three red cards in their last five meetings with City. It’s not pretty.

You have to go back to December 2015 to find Arsenal’s last Premier League win against City. Arsenal drew them in April 2017 and beat them in the FA Cup later that month. In the time since then, the Gunners’ lone win against City came in the FA Cup, en route to Arsenal winning the competition. For good measure, Manchester City beat Arsenal three times in the cups in that same period.

It’s not pretty, y’all.

If you’d like a silver lining, it’s that I don’t think Pep Guardiola will set out to defend Arsenal in the same way that Everton and Brentford did. Both opponents took a page from Newcastle’s tactics book and double-teamed the Arsenal wingers to great effect. It severely limited their time and space, which cut down on their, and subsequently Arsenal’s, attacking production.

Pep isn’t going to ask Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish to track all the way back. He’s too arrogant. He’ll want his team to impose their will and style on the match, as he always does. And if he unexpectedly switches up his tactics, great. I’ll happily take City’s wingers further from the Arsenal goal. More generally, one of Guardiola’s biggest foibles is galaxy-braining his setup — making changes that wind up with his side looking muddled and confused.

If Arsenal are going to do ‘da ‘ting today, they’ll have to do it without Thomas Partey. The Ghanaian picked up an injury in training that, while not thought to be serious, will keep him out against Manchester City and probably Aston Villa, too. The Gunners win 63% of their Premier League matches with Partey and just 47% of them without him.

Arsenal will also be without Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Gabriel Jesus, and Mohamed Elneny. It seems as if ESR and Nelson are close to a return, and Mikel Arteta hinted that one or both might even make the matchday squad. Even if they do, I doubt we see either in action. Gabriel Jesus is training outside and recently started working with a ball, but is still a few weeks out from making his return.

Manchester City will be without John Stones. Erling Haaland, who was substituted off at half time against Aston Villa at the weekend, looks set to be available, but it’s not clear whether he will start or only be available for limited minutes as a substitute.

For more, check Tony’s preview and Nathan’s predicted XI.

Arsenal - Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Jorginho, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah

Manchester City - Ederson, Walker, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, Grealish, Haaland

WHO: Arsenal vs Manchester City
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
WHEN: Wednesday, February 15th, 11:30 am PT | 2:30 pm ET/ 7:30 pm BT
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming on Peacock

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