The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Manchester City

Unai Emery
Which system will Unai Emery use for his Premier League debut?

It's this weekend's biggest game - Unai Emery makes his League debut on the Arsenal bench. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown.

"After years of Arsenal largely playing the same way regardless of the opposition, Emery’s approach at the Emirates will be somewhat more reactive."

Arsenal v Manchester City
Sunday 16:00, Sky Sports Main Event.
Match Odds: Arsenal 4.1, Man City 1.9720/21, The Draw 4.03/1.

Arsenal start their post-Wenger period with a serious test at home to the Premier League champions, so the Gunners must be up to speed with Unai Emery's tactical approach very quickly.

Emery and Guardiola reunited

Emery faced Pep Guardiola regularly when they were in charge of Valencia and Barcelona respectively. Although Emery failed to record a victory against Guardiola during that four-year period, his tactical approach often caused serious problems in the first halves of matches. After years of Arsenal largely playing the same way regardless of the opposition, Emery's approach at the Emirates will be somewhat more reactive.

Whereas other sides are struggling to find 11 fit players because of injuries and World Cup hangovers, Arsenal seem in decent shape for the new campaign. The major issue is at left-back, where Sead Kolasinac is definitely out and Nacho Monreal is considered doubtful, which may mean Ainsley Maitland-Niles starting.

Maitland-Niles isn't a natural left-back, although was deployed there on various occasions last season, and his right-footedness might help if Guardiola deploys Riyad Mahrez on the right flank, as the Algerian is always attempting to drift inside onto his left.

Arsenal likely to field two debutants

With Laurent Koscielny out for the foreseeable future, Sokratis Papastathopoulos is likely to make his Arsenal debut alongside Shkodran Mustafi at the heart of the defence.

The Greek international is excellent in the air but often struggles against speed, so the threat of Sergio Aguero is something of a concern - especially as the Argentine has such a fine record against the Gunners. Hector Bellerin, meanwhile, will need all his speed against Leroy Sane. Bernd Leno seems set to start ahead of Petr Cech in goal.

It's likely to be three against three in midfield. Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and a Silva - either David or Bernardo - is a familiar trio for the away side. Arsenal are likely to welcome another debutant, the feisty but creative Lucas Torreira, in their deepest role.

Aaron Ramsey is an injury doubt but could start, and against such a creative opposition Emery may push Granit Xhaka into a slightly more advanced role to the left of a 4-3-3. Emery tends to shift between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, but probably needs three solid midfielders against this City side.

Selection decisions for Emery

That would mean leaving out one of Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette - with the Frenchman seemingly the most likely to get the chop. If not, Aubameyang is likely to start from the left flank, although he may the lead the line here.

If it's a 4-3-3 Ozil will play from the right, although won't relish the prospect of tracking back with Benjamin Mendy. City's left-back missed almost the entirety of last season through injury, and his overlapping will bring an extra dimension to City's attacking play.

Guardiola's side might become more technical at the back this season, with Aymeric Laporte and John Stones seemingly his first-choice combination, with the more rugged Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi back-ups. Kyle Walker will overlap more for City than for England, where he was shifted inside into a back three.

Arsenal are likely to press in the early stages, if Emery's approach against Guardiola in the past is anything to go by. Arsenal must watch long balls over the top, however - Aguero has punished them in that manner in the past, particularly in this year's Carabao Cup final. Ederson, meanwhile, has a very long kick he's not afraid to showcase, despite City's focus on possession.

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

I fancy Arsenal to make a fast start, but for City to eventually overcome them. I can't back City at odds-on, so I'll go for Draw / Man City in the Half Time / Full Time market at 5.85/1.

Manchester City have only won two of their last nine visits to the Emirates, one of those wins though was last season’s 3-0 victory where the Citizens were three goals ahead in the first 33 minutes.

Unai Emery’s first game is charge is certainly a daunting one and his record in Spain against Pep Guardiola isn’t one that will inspire the Arsenal faithful, Emery is 0 from 10 against Guardiola. That said though this is still a tricky opener for the Champions.

This should be an entertaining Sunday afternoon game, the Gunners only failed to score once at home last season, but it was against today’s opponents and City only failed to score once on the road (0-0 Crystal Palace) so it’s really no surprise to see both teams to score and Over 2.5 goals trading at short odds on around the 1.51/2 mark.

I will be using half my stake backing Over 3.5 goals before the game starts at around 2.56/4 and also placing the other half on Over 2.5 goals with a keep bet should it reach 2.01/1 in running.

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