Man City v Arsenal - Spread Betting Preview
Man City v Arsenal Preview: City Look To Keep Apace In The Title Race
Manchester City could only pray for a favour from former Premier League conquerors Leicester on Wednesday night, having again fallen to a needless shock defeat to a bottom half of the table side, just 24 hours prior.
The City faithful's prayers were partially answered, with Liverpool dropping two potentially-vital points at home to a Leicester side with a manager who has been frontrunner in the sack race for several months. At a more profound level, the inexplicably lacklustre nature of Liverpool's performance has also given City hope, but there is no doubt that City cannot rely on the Reds of Merseyside continuing in that vein.
Man City v Arsenal Head-To-Head Record
Whatever the pundits may make of City's loosening grip on the title, they remain a real force to be reckoned with on home turf. In no uncertain terms, they demonstrated the existing gulf in class over Arsenal in August's reverse fixture. Unquestionably, the dominant nature of the champions' 2-0 win at the Emirates (back on 12th August) showed that Guardiola's men have the character to negotiate pivotal matches against their fellow peers in the top six.
That win represented a fourth consecutive head-to-head win for City over Arsenal, handing City the psychological advantage. The club's home record against the Gunners also redoubles their mental edge over Arsenal, and indeed, since lifting the Premier League title for the first time, City's overall home record against Arsenal is a very encouraging one.
A 2-0 defeat in January 2015 is the only time that any City squad has suffered at home to the Gunners since 2012/13, and Pep Guardiola has managed City to successive home league victories over Arsenal in his time at the club. With many City fans also wondering if Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne have yet regained full fitness, the element of surprise that saw City break all records last season may once more manifest.
Arsenal Struggling On The Road
It¿s too easy to forget that Arsenal are more than mere bit players in this weekend's big game, and still remain firmly in the chase for a top-four spot. They sit fourth by virtue of goals scored, after a seismic midweek schedule that saw them score a routine home win over Cardiff, combined with a 4-0 humbling for previous fourth-place occupants Chelsea at Bournemouth.
However, Arsenal's recent away form in the league suggests that a heavy defeat to City could be forthcoming. The Gunners have taken just two points from a possible fifteen, since taking three points from the Vitality Stadium back on 25th November. Furthermore, they have also lost the last three away league games in which they have conceded first, and have proved particularly vulnerable in the ten minutes either side of half-time, shipping a goal in that period on their last four road trips in the league. The defensive composure of Arsenal in the big games has already been brought into question by a 5-1 yuletide thrashing at Anfield, and should Unai Emery's side find themselves in a favourable position, all it could take is one simple change from Guardiola to reverse the dynamic of the match.
Gunners Forward Firing On All Cylinders
While home form against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table has little relevance ahead of a trip to a fellow top-six club, strikers that are in-form are always an asset. In that respect, the City backline will do well to once more marshal Alexandre Lacazette, with the Frenchman netting three times in his last four league outings for Arsenal. That said, he is without an away goal in the Premier League since a brace at Fulham in early October, meaning that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may be more readily identified as the main threat to City.
Tactically, neither manager likes to chop and change their favoured setup. Guardiola has a fully fit front three, and for him, the equation is simple. For his part, Unai Emery will need to adapt his winning formation from the 2-0 victory over Chelsea, which in practice means dropping Granit Xhaka back into the deeper `enforcer' role as the pivotal element in launching counter-attacks. With space for the revelatory Lucas Torreira freed up, City's defence will be kept busier than many realise, though any naivety from the Gunners will be punished.
City Slickers Justified In Boasting Favourite Status
Expanding beyond the recent head-to-head record with Arsenal, City have been exceptional under Guardiola when entertaining top-six opposition. As he did in the record-breaking 2017/18 season, the Spaniard oversaw just one defeat to a top-six peer at the Etihad Stadium in 2016/17, and during the course of last season it was won five, lost one at home to their top-six rivals.
While City's talismans are already widely-known, it is worth noting that Bernardo Silva has scored in his last two encounters with Arsenal. While he is nobody's favourite to open the scoring on Sunday, Silva's ability to distribute accurately from a wide range of situations will enable the likelier goalscoring candidates - particularly Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling - to perform their trademark moves as inverted wide strikers.
To put it another way, City will feel very confident of a win here after another setback in midweek, and the incentive of avoiding an eight-point gap behind Liverpool is all that City should need to recapture the spirit of last season.
With huge midweek drama in the Premier League, the title race has taken yet more unexpected turns. Can Manchester City overturn the 5-point deficit on Liverpool? Stay tuned and check out the Premier League Outright Index.