Will Guardiola Increase the Chances of the Cityzens Lifting Another League Trophy?

Gabriel Martinelli and Bernado Silva going for a duel

Football fans have a culture of predicting the league title rivals/contenders from the calibre of trade and purchases made at the beginning of a new season. The deals that got everyone talking amongst all 2022 summer stellar signings were Erling Haaland’s move to Manchester City and Darwin Nunez’s move to Liverpool. People predicted a head-to-head comparison between both players and clubs based on eye-test and statistics ahead of the start of the 2022/2023 season.

To everyone’s surprise, it became a title race between Arsenal and City. During the summer, Gabriel Jesus, Fabio Vieira, and Oleksandr Zincheko signed for the former, while Haaland, Kalvin Philips, and Manuel Akanji joined the latter – amongst others. Arteta began the league with a five game win streak, with the first three games having goal differences of at least two. Many English Premier League fans termed it a usual Arsenal ‘beginning of the season’ behaviour, expecting them to end up fighting for a place to qualify for the Europa league.

They thought it the beginning of the end, when Arsenal lost their sixth game against Manchester United, seeing Antony crown his debut game with a bottom-left corner strike after picking up an intelligent pass from Rashford. Arsenal bounced back with another four-league game win streak against Brentford, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Leeds – in that order. Arteta and his boys seemed to come into the season meaning serious business. Impressively, they got a total of 40 points – from a possible 45 – after the first 15 games. They managed to maintain that form which kept them at the top of the table since the beginning of the season.

On the other hand, City amassed a total of 35 points – from a possible 45 – after their first 15 games, with Haaland scoring 20 goals, being the current league’s top scorer. City’s mini streak of wins was not surprising as Pep Guardiola is considered by some to be the best at what he does. Interestingly, the first game that should have brought Arsenal and City together was postponed with no specific future date. City maintained a five-point gap directly behind Arsenal throughout the November-December World Cup break.

Arsenal’s starting striker, Gabriel Jesus, sustained an injury in a group stage game against Cameroon, ruling him out for a sizable chunk of the second half of the season, if not till the end of it. People predicted a rough journey for Arsenal post-World Cup as the Brazilian was seen multiple times on crutches. Eddie Nketiah, their back-up, had to step up, and he’s been surprisingly excellent, dropping masterclasses every game week. Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and Thomas Partey have also been outstanding for the team. January was impressive for both teams, although Arsenal seems to be losing their mojo, making City cover up the gap.

A Save by Aaron Ramsdale

Arsenal recently lost to City when the two teams met in the FA Cup, sparking a run of poor form that has seen them fail to win in three games and scoring just one goal in the process. As it stands, Arsenal will still have to face Pep’s side twice before the end of the season, and City has managed to reduce the 5-point gap to three, with the Gunners still having a game in hand on the Cityzens. The first of the two games would be on Wednesday, the 15th of February, 2023, at the Emirates. It is one of the season’s most anticipated Premier League games, not just because it’s between the first and second on the table, but also because it could also be the title decider as Pep has a record of not dropping points once he climbs to the top of the table. Arsenal have gained a solitary point from the last two games, while City have three from a possible six. Haaland, City’s striker, sustained an injury in the previous match which keeps everyone in doubt about his fitness towards the Wednesday game. Jesus, Smith Rowe, and two others are still hospitalized in the Emirates.

Arsenal will probably field their standard lineup, having made the fewest changes of any Premier League site to their starting line-up, with Ben White, Gabriel, Saliba, and Zinchenko at the back, protecting Aaron Ramsdale; Partey, Odegaard, and Xhaka in the middle; and Trossard/Martinelli, Saka and Nketiah up front. Depending on Haaland’s condition, Julian Alvarez will probably start ahead of him, with Grealish/Foden and Mahrez/Silva on both wings; Kevin, Gundogan, and Rodri in the middle; and Walker, Nathan, Laporte/Akanji, and Gomez/Lewis at the back line. These are predictions based on previous games, which do not hold 100% certainty.

Will Arsenal get back on their feet with a win against City? Will City squeeze a win from Arsenal to level them in points and edge them in goal difference tally? Or are we getting a stalemate which keeps the point gap the same? Guess we’ll know come Wednesday evening, 20:30 GMT +1.

Peter Adeyemo

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