Arsenal v Manchester City
Saturday July 18, 19:45
Arsenal bounce back in midweek
Arsenal bounced back from their North London derby defeat to Tottenham last weekend with a 2-1 triumph at home to champions Liverpool on Wednesday night. The Gunners fell behind inside 20 minutes but Mikel Arteta's team allowed back into the game before the interval as Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson pounced on two poor defensive errors.
The second half was almost an exercise in attack against defence as Liverpool laid siege to Arsenal's goal with the Gunners existing almost entirely in their own half. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez produced another commanding display as the visitors fired in eight on-target attempts but Arteta's outfit showed resilience and determination to close out victory.
Intriguingly, whilst Arteta was understandably pleased with fight shown by his players, he said the difference between the two sides remains significant. "The gap between the two teams today is enormous. We can not improve it in two months, but the accountability, the fight is now equal and I am very proud of that. The rest will take some time."
Man City eyes on FA Cup prize
Manchester City's team selection for Wednesday night's contest with Bournemouth at The Etihad appeared to have one eye on Saturday's FA Cup semi-final, and the Citizens' performance was also below par despite the 2-1 success. For large swathes of the showdown, Pep Guardiola's group seemed short of energy, intensity and ideas in attack.
David Silva had put City ahead with a superb free-kick after just six minutes, curling in from the right-hand corner of the box via the underside of the bar. However, Bournemouth were on top thereafter and appeared full of confidence, but they were left to rue their wastefulness in front of goal when Gabriel Jesus struck the Citizens' second before half-time.
With second-place already secured and next year's Champions League appearance now certain, City had little to play for, and it showed. Guardiola conceded his side weren't at their best, although recalls for key men Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne should ensure a much more polished performance on Saturday.
City strong favourites to progress
Arsenal have lost their last seven meetings with Manchester City in all competitions, by an aggregate score of 2-20. The Citizens have scored at least three goals in six of those head-to-head encounters, although the pre-match favourites' last loss against the Gunners came at this stage of the FA Cup back in 2017, with Arsenal going on to beat Chelsea in the final.
Only three clubs have lost fewer Premier League games in 2019/20 than Arsenal (9) but the Gunners have been hindered by a league-high 14 stalemates. Arsenal 9.809/1 have triumphed just four times on their travels (W4-D8-L6) and worryingly remain winless outside of their Emirates base against Big Six clubs since visiting Manchester City back in January 2015.
Man City 1.341/3 are unbeaten in their last nine at Wembley and head to the capital in determined mood as they bid to defend their FA Cup title. The Blue Moon have dispatched Arsenal 3-0 in both Premier League meetings this term and a repeat should be well within the pre-match favourites' grasp considering their eye-catching displays since lockdown.
Gunners can keep the contest competitive
Manchester City matches are synonymous with goals. The Blue Moon have seen Over 2.5 Goals 1.548/15 bank in 27/36 (75%) league outings this season. Eight of the Citizens' 10 Premier League tussles with Big Six opposition has featured three or more goals, although only three of City's 14 against the top-nine in the division have produced Over 3.5 Goals.
Mikel Arteta has worked hard on Arsenal's shape without the ball during his seven-month stint. The Gunners still possess game-changing attackers but a more pragmatic approach against elite opposition has allowed the capital club to remain competitive for the majority of their matches. Meanwhile, just four of Arsenal's 24 games under the Spaniard saw Over 3.5 Goals land.
With that in mind, plus the occasion of an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, I like the idea of swimming slightly against the tide by siding with a Manchester City alongside Under 3.5 Goals, available at odds-against quotes of 2.30 via Betfair Sportsbook's Same Game Multi market.