Arsenal’s two talismanic wingers may be unavailable for the massive clash against Manchester City on Sunday.
Bukayo Saka limped off in the midweek Champions League game against RC Lens while Gabriel Martinelli has missed the last five games because of a hamstring injury and the Gunners have suffered as a result.
Martinelli’s explosiveness and directness have not been replaced in the starting XI and Saka has been directly involved in almost half of Arsenal’s Premier League games this season. On top of that, the Gunners have never beaten a Pep-led Manchester City, including two extremely costly losses last season.
Mikel Arteta will have his work cut out for him, but it is time that he shows why he is an elite manager. It’s time for the student to beat the master.
How Arsenal can beat Manchester City without Saka or Martinelli
There is hope that either winger might be able to start but even without those two players, Arsenal still have the tools to defeat the reigning champions, who will also not be at full strength. Here are three keys for the Gunners on Sunday.
1. Winning the midfield battle
The massive positives from an Arsenal point of view are that Rodri and Kevin de Bruyne are unavailable for the Cityzens while Thomas Partey is now apparently match-fit.
As you can see from the statistics above, City are a completely different team without Rodri, losing more while conceding more goals. De Bruyne also seems to have a deep-seated hatred for Arsenal because he always shows up to thwart the Gunners.
Instead, City are set to line up with Mateo Kovačić and Matheus Nunes as the two anchors, with Julian Alvarez in the advanced midfield role. Rico Lewis or Kalvin Phillips could potentially start, too, but it seems that Kovačić-Nunes is currently Pep’s preferred midfield.
On the other hand, this is likely to be the first time that Arsenal will see a Rice-Odegaard-Partey midfield. That’s a midfield trio that is oozing with quality and that has the capacity to kill you with 1,000 passes.
In the last two games against Arsenal in the Premier League, Guardiola’s team was happy to soak up the pressure for the most part and then wreak havoc in transition. Against Partey and Xhaka and with Rodri and De Bruyne, that is a far more viable set-up than how the teams are likely to line up on Sunday.
Alvarez does have massive offensive abilities, primarily his incredible ball striking. The midfield will need to constantly close him down, but if Arsenal dominate possession, then the Argentine should be somewhat neutralised. On top of that, he contributes less defensively, giving Arsenal an extra man in midfield.
Arsenal must win the midfield duels, and the midfielders should be confident going into the game. That battle will tilt the game in the London team’s favour.
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