Arsenal and Manchester City will play in a game that will determine the course of the season because the victor will be in prime position to win the Premier League (PL). The hosts are in excellent shape as they attempt to cut Arsenal’s five points lead at the top of the table knowing that they still have two games in hand after defeating Bayern Munich (4-1 on aggregate) to advance to the Champions League semifinals and Sheffield United (3-0) in the FA Cup semifinal.
The Cityzens have won each of their previous six home PL games by at least a two-goal margin, even though only two of those came with a clean sheet, adding pressure on the league leaders as a result of their performances here. However, Pep Guardiola’s team hasn’t given up in any of the last four head-to-head meetings here (W4), demonstrating how challenging they’ve made things for the North Londoners lately.
But none of those contests had the potential to determine the league champion, and despite opening the month eight points ahead, Mikel Arteta, who was formerly Guardiola’s assistant at Man City, has seen his club falter as the finish line draws closer. Three consecutive league draws, two of which came after Arsenal went ahead 2-0 within of 30 minutes, is a worrying pattern amid claims that they are overplaying the game.
Arteta disagrees, stating that he didn’t notice a lack of confidence when they scored twice after the 85th minute to tie Southampton 3-3. However, their title challenge now hinges on them extending a five-match winning streak (W3, D2) in away league games. Simply said, despite City’s rigorous schedule from now until the conclusion of the season, a loss here will likely destroy their title ambitions.
Given that Riyad Mahrez has contributed to three goals in his last four Premier League games against Arsenal (G1, A2) and his hat trick of goals in the FA Cup on Saturday, he may have a part to play in this situation. Gabriel Jesus or Gabriel Martinelli have each scored twice in the first 30 minutes of Arsenal’s last three games, so an early goal from one of them may be crucial.
Man City enters Wednesday’s crucial match with nearly no injuries, although Guardiola will be concerned about the health of Nathan Ake, who scored the winning goal in January’s FA Cup victory against Arsenal and is currently recovering from a thigh injury.
John Stones, Ruben Dias, Rodri, and Kevin De Bruyne will all be recalled to the starting lineup by the Catalan coach, who wasn’t afraid to make substitutions for the FA Cup semifinal. Mahrez’s hat trick against the Blades may also help the Algerian play his way into a starting eleven.
A seventh hat-trick in Man City colors would put the irrepressible Erling Braut Haaland, 22, in a league of his own in the Premier League, where Andy Cole and Alan Shearer currently lead with 34 goals each in a 42 games season. Haaland currently has 32 goals in the top flight and needs just one more to break the record for a 38 games season.
William Saliba, a crucial member of Arsenal’s defense, is still making slow progress in his recovery from a back injury. The French center back will miss Wednesday’s match and possibly the rest of the season, which is the worst possible development for Gooners as the reviled Rob Holding squares off against Haaland.
Although Granit Xhaka is expected to recover from the sickness that kept him out of the draw with Southampton, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mohamed Elneny will also be watching from the sidelines as they recover from season ending knee surgery. If this happens, the useless Fabio Vieira will undoubtedly replace Xhaka.
Gabriel Martinelli will break the record for the most goals scored by a Brazilian player in a single Premier League season with a goal here, the 21 year old’s current tally of 15 is equal to Roberto Firmino’s 2017/18 haul. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus are both expected to start against their former clubs.
Manchester City possible starting lineup
Ederson, Akanji, Dias, Laporte, Stones, Rodri, Mahrez, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish and Haaland.
Arsenal possible starting lineup
Ramsdale, White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Xhaka, Partey, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli and Jesus.
We predict: Manchester City 3–1 Arsenal
Saliba is so important to Arsenal’s defensive and offensive strategies that without him, things might quickly turn ugly for the Gunners on Wednesday night.
A Man City team that just cannot stop scoring or winning at home should cruise to a comfortable victory to take a huge step towards dethroning their capital counterparts, but the return of Xhaka will at least mean that Arsenal’s midfield should not get bypassed in the manner in which it did against Southampton.