Arsenal vs Manchester City hasn’t seen a win go the way of the red & white in 12 straight games. Not even a draw. We are extremely bad when it comes to City.
There’s no way of getting around it. We’re damaged goods psychologically when we see that lighter shade of blue line up against us. Now we’re the second-best team in the league, that quirk has to change. Losing twice to City last season cost us the league. If we want to be in with a sniff this time around, losing to them like that again cannot be on the cards.
There are some advantages for this game. KDB is definitely out; he can’t haunt us with his magic tomorrow. Rodri is suspended, there can be no magical horse-placenta-induced return for him. John Stones is ‘unavailable’ but we all know that’s Pep playing games, he was on the bench for Leipzig and didn’t play a minute, but that means very little. My hope is he’s rusty at the very least.
Arsenal have some problems they are dealing with.
Bukyao Saka is the biggest story. He’s on his 3rd injury in two weeks, best case scenario is the pull-up against RC Lens was fatigue-induced, and if that’s the case, he’ll very much be in the redzone. Arsenal have let England know they are still monitoring things and there will be a late test. I’m not sure I believe that for a minute. We’re 8 games into the season, rolling out our best player and subjecting him to the risk of aggravating an injury we’ve all seen would be beyond the pale of dimness. Arteta cannot possibly flirt with his starboy exiting the squad for 3 months.
The only thing that panics me there is he was clearly pushing for Saliba to play at the end of the last season. This is slightly different, we were chasing immortality then, we’re not quite there right now. Context is key here. The only reason Saka plays tomorrow is sheer ego – because I can’t imagine any medical/performance pro is looking at the last two weeks of Saka recommending he start – especially knowing the consequence of that is either an injury or a trip away with Gareth Southgate on international duty. I just can’t buy that we’d be able to play him tomorrow and negotiate him away from England. That would set a terrible precedent for Southgate.
There’s also the PR… fans will lose their minds if Arteta breaks a player because of his Pep G daddy issues.
We also have some other players teetering on the cusp I’m not so worried about. Thomas Partey will most certainly be ready to start if Arteta wants to roll with a double pivot. The idea of having Partey AND Rice will be intoxicating for him and I’d imagine Thomas will want to show the world what he can do against top opposition.
I’m also expecting to see Martinelli available and Trossard ready to start.
The major question for me is: How do we want to play?
Most teams success against City comes from playing a deepblock and hitting them in transition.
Arsenal don’t have deepblock in their new DNA. But we have the personnel to play that way this season. Kai Havertz hasn’t had a hero game yet, but wouldn’t it be fitting if he did playing as a loan striker? He gives us the physical edge we’ve lacked in important games, he can hold the ball up, he’s good a linking play, and I’d imagine his big game nature might be suited to this one.
This is also a huge one for David Raya. His start has been decent, but not wild yet. He will be the busiest he’s been all season against City. He needs to be switched on, his passing needs to be electric, and we cannot see any gaffs. The Ramsdalians will be watching closely.
Home games aren’t our best. The players try and go for the game too early on. There’s no patience. We have been prone to rolling out the dumb.
The key to City is don’t lose… the key to don’t lose is patience.
We need to be on our game tomorrow in a way we haven’t really seen this so far this season. The passing needs to click, players need to step up, and we need to offer up some serious clinicality.
I’m not sure what to think about the game – I’m intrigued more than anything else. Arteta is the most interesting character of the day.
Can he contain his ego when going up against his sporting Daddy?
Can he offer up Pep a true surprise with his tactics?
Can he contain his emotions and keep the players feeling relaxed?
Can he motivate his players to believe that they can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best?
We’ll learn a lot tomorrow – don’t lose is the key message. Don’t do anything dumb is the underlying one.
Let’s see where we land.
Also, check out our latest content below! We have an elite before the whistle – and Johnny spent some time with a City fan. Eat them up today! x
Manchester City Before the Whistle Discussion:
🚑The basics of Saka’s hypothesized injury
☎️We game out the comms scenarios
🔮Get into potential line-ups
👨👦Talk about the Daddy issues going on at Colney
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— LE GROVE (@LeGrove) October 6, 2023
We also have a great free-to-air Manchester City fan interview.