Venue: Emirates Stadium
Date: 12 August 2018
Referee: Michael Oliver
Kick off: 16:00
Manchester City’s league campaign commences on Sunday when the Citizens travel to London to face Unai Emery’s Arsenal at the Emirates. Pep Guardiola’s men will be eager to build onto the comprehensive Community Shield victory over Chelsea in which City, spearheaded by an outstanding Bernardo Silva, showed no sign of diminished ambition going into the new season. Fittingly, skipper Vincent Kompany suggested that City sustained the desire that drove them last season – a facet that he described as ‘different’ compared to the past two times City had won the league. Inspired by Pep’s pursuit of perfection, could City become the first team to retain the title since the Manchester United side that won the league three consecutive times (2006-2009)?
Guardiola confirmed on Friday that both Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, who did not feature against Chelsea after their extensive World Cup campaigns, are in contention to start on Sunday. Jose Alvarez reported that David Silva, who suffered from a minor injury, will also be considered by Guardiola. Given Bernardo’s form, however, Pep might stick with the Portuguese in midfield.
For Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny, Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Danny Welbeck will all miss Sunday’s game. Considering Monreal’s and Kolanisac’s absence, Emery indicated that Maitland-Niles will start at left-back as he has also played that role in Arsenal’s most recent friendly against Lazio.
City will face a different Arsenal side to the one that the Blues saw off with two 3-0 wins in the space of a week last season. Arsenal have been in good form during pre-season, convincingly beating Lazio and PSG. The City game, however, will effectively illustrate just how well the team can apply Emery’s tactical concepts. Emery, who coached PSG prior to starting his endeavour in North London, is known for his detail-obsessed nature and,has mainly used variations of a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 in the past. This mainly begs the question as of how and whether he will be able to efficiently utilise the strengths of both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
To bolster the backline, Emery brought in full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner (formerly of Juventus) and centre-half Sokratis Papasthatopoulos (from Borussia Dortmund). Bernd Leno (from Bayer Leverkusen) competes with Petr Cech for the spot in goal whilst Uruguayan prodigy Lucas Torreira (from Sampdoria) will aim to lock down a place in the middle of the park. Matteo Guendouzi, brought in from Lorient, can be expected to become a squad player.
Arsenal have not lost any starters this season, with only Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez (both signed by West Ham), Calum Chambers (loan to Fulham) and Santi Cazorla (who returned to Villarreal) being players that could have been expected to feature consistently in the first team.
Emery has worked with his team for a while and should have been able to start implementing his style of play by now. Whilst the new players have increased the competition for respective positions, none of them are world-class material. Emery could arguably also not face a tougher opponent than City to launch Arsenal’s post-Wenger era.
City put down a convincing display against Chelsea and will be further boosted by the returns of De Bruyne and Sterling with Ederson also being likely to replace Bravo in goal. Considering the gap in quality between the two sides last season and the desire for success that Pep has seemingly been able to sustain, I will go for a 3-1 City win with Aguero scoring the opener.