Manchester City v Arsenal
Etihad Stadium, Saturday August 28th, kick off 12:30pm

by John Spillane

Two games into the 2021/22 season and with just one league win (in four) between them it hasn't been the ideal start for either side, as they lie in 13th and 17th respectively.
After two straight defeats the pressure is growing on Arsenal coach, and former assistant to Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta. The fixture list may not have been kind to the Londoners but a heavy defeat on Saturday could well put the manager even more pressure.

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Having suffered a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham on opening day, City took advantage of the visit from newly promoted Norwich City and scored five times without reply, including a goal from £100m Jack Grealish. Though they haven't been able, as yet, to bring in a headline grabbing number 9, the contribution of Gabriel Jesus came in for much praise last weekend. Last year's title came despite without playing a recognised striker for significant periods, but Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling combined for 41 goals. The ability of their improved defence, led by Ruben Dias, to keep 19 clean sheets meant that their regular dominance of possession only required them to break through once on so many occasions. City's simple but effective tactic of getting the ball out wide, finding space and rolling the ball across the six yard box for tap-ins continues to pay dividends. Given Guardiola's ideal philosophy to keep the ball moving at all times, the combinbation of probing passes by Kevin de Bruyne and co, delivered at the right time, into the right areas, continues to reap rewards.

Wednesday night's Carabou Cup 6-0 success, at an experimental West Bromwich Albion, was a much needed confidence boost for Arsenal after successive 0-2 defeats. The return to the squad of Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette added experience and fire power, but the worrying concerns remain in defence. Both Brentford and Chelsea exposed them on the flanks as well as in central attacking areas. Pablo Mari and Ben White, who suffered against Ivan Toney and Romelu Lukaku, will face a very different challenge this weekend but if their full backs offer up so much space again Callum Chambers or Cedric Soares could be in for very tough 90 minutes. Ahead of them there is cause for optimism as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe have the ability to create opportunities, given a decent share of possession. The philosophy to invest in youth is admirable but the vocal Arsenal support are growing restless.

Having had their worst ever start to a season in the top flight in 118 years (no points and no goals) the trip north to Manchester hasn't come at a perfect time for Arsenal. City have won the last eight league games between the two, scoring 19 and conceding only twice and there is no reason to believe that this trend is not going to continue.

Suggested bet : Manchester City -2 (15/8 at bet365)

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