Arsenal will be buoyed by the news of Kevin De Bruyne.
One of football’s truly world-class stars will not be featuring on Saturday, with Arsenal and the rest of north London breathing a considerable sigh of relief upon the announcement.
With their midfield linchpin ruled out of proceedings, the onus on the Gunners to win the midfield battle will not only be greater than ever, but more feasible than ever, too.
However, while Manchester City have been weakened in the centre of the park, their Achilles heel lies elsewhere.
Now what I’m about to discuss may well be crumpled up and tossed out of the window with Pep Guardiola’s ever-changing lineups – much to the dismay of Fantasy Football addicts – as there is every chance he’ll switch things up.
As probably gathered, it’s their left-back: Benjamin Mendy. He’s not very good.
Which is a surprising statement to make when you consider just how superb he was in the months following his signing. An absolutely devastating force in the final third with pin-point deliveries bombarded into the box with whip and pace, the point where he is at now is desperately dissimilar.
A calamity waiting to happen, his focus comes in bit-part segments. His reading of danger seems to come and go like the wind. Cross-field passes are a nightmare for him to deal with, although, that said, his head is usually in the clouds so he’s none the wiser.
It was a common feature against Leeds – to use the most recent example – where he got turned inside and out at every one-on-one he was faced with. Lining up alongside two new centre-backs, the communication, or lack thereof, is also nowhere near at its sharpest. Disrupting this area of the pitch early on will embed doubts that may be difficult to overcome for the remaining minutes.
But as mentioned, things could change. Given how poor Mendy has been, Joao Cancelo could come in at left-back to ease City’s defensive concerns, yet he is only just starting to find his feet in the division. Not to mention he’s naturally a right-back.
Would Nicolas Pepe’s fleet-footedness be best suited for Saturday? I’d argue so, although Arteta’s Etihad blueprint will almost certainly involve Willian’s more tactical-tuned intelligence.
City are there to be got at. Planting seeds of doubt early on to provide adequate time to flower will be decisive.