Arsenal vs Manchester City: third time lucky?
By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)
To be frank, for this semi-final, out of the three teams we could’ve faced, Manchester City was the least favourable draw. Since Pep Guardiola stamped his authority over the Etihad side during his second campaign in England, his side have rarely failed to embarrass us when we’ve met. Our last four encounters up against the Cityzens have all played out in a similar manner. The 18/19 Premier League champions tend to grab a few goals with relative ease and then take their foot off the gas. By which point, our players look completely demoralised. Incredibly painful viewing for all Arsenal fans. That being said, strangely, I still have hope for this weekend’s tie. After all, we are the FA Cup specialists. Mikel Arteta was the man who captained the side which ended our trophy drought in 2014 through victory in the world’s oldest cup competition. Now, he’s the man representing us in the dugout. However, on the road to our 2017 FA Cup win, during the semi-final, Mikel Arteta sat on the opposite side’s bench. Not as a player though. At this point, he was in the early days of his tenure as Pep Guardiola’s assistant. This was a beautiful day for everyone involved with Arsenal Football Club. This game came at a time when we were on track to miss out on Champions League football for the first time in two decades. This game came at a time when rumours were rife concerning Alexis Sanchez’s potential departure. This game also came at a time when pressure was mounting upon Arsène Wenger. But still, against the odds, Wenger’s side overcame Manchester City and reached the FA Cup final.
The current situation’s resemblance to the one described above is actually quite astonishing. For the first time in 25 years, it seems a genuine possibility that we may not qualify for Europe at all. Pierre-Emerick’s Aubameyang’s future is in some doubt. Meanwhile, whilst there is not major pressure on Mikel Arteta (thankfully), the board must be feeling the heat right now. Once again, nothing suggests Arsenal should be winning this game. Mind you, I doubt we’ll be quite so fortunate this time round. Mainly due to the amount of luck we’ve had this week already. After the good fortune we received against Liverpool on Wednesday, we can’t expect the same against City. This, combined with the fact that on their day the current Carabao Cup holders are the best attacking side in the world. But that’s no biggie. In terms of set up, I envisage Arteta setting up in a very similar style to the way he planned his side to play at the Etihad a few weeks ago. An organised structure defensively which will enable us to play long balls over the top when we win the ball back. Thus, trying to expose the weakness in City’s high line whilst simultaneously making it difficult for Kevin De Bruyne and co. to break us down. Nonetheless, the key difference this time round will be the formation change. Last time round against City, Arteta was still trying his luck with the 4-3-3. Tomorrow, the 3-4-3 will remain in effect. The back three should remain unchanged from the one which played against Liverpool. All three of Holding, Luiz and Tierney excelled in their respective roles and are therefore undroppable. In front of them, Torreira will drop to the bench in order to make room for the in-form Dani Ceballos. Hector Bellerìn and Bukayo Saka will line-up either side of Ceballos and Xhaka. Then, the front three will consist of our three danger men, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pépé, who absolutely have to be clinical when chances come their way. Whilst I come into this game with no great expectancy of a win, I hope to see the same sort of grit and determination that we saw against Liverpool. If we can match Guardiola’s side in the “effort” and “attitude” which Arteta referred to following Wednesday’s win, the least we have is a chance. BELIEVE.
Predicted Line-Up: Martinez, Holding, Luiz, Tierney, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka, Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Score Prediction: Arsenal 0-3 Man City (I know I said believe, but, let's be rational).