Sunday's FA Cup semi-final, available on Betfair Live Video, is a meeting between two teams desperate to rescue underwhelming campaigns so far. Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson assesses the betting...
"Guardiola has largely stopped his tactical experiments and shouldn’t need anything special to ensure City are in control of this contest."
Arsenal v Manchester City
Live on BT Sport 1
Match Odds: Arsenal 4.3100/30, Man City 1.910/11, The Draw 4.1.
Arsenal and Manchester City drew 2-2 at the Emirates earlier this month, but with Arsene Wenger's side in a particularly poor run of form, Pep Guardiola's City start as strong favourites.
The major tactical interest here, unusually, concerns Wenger. Rarely a manager to surprise opponents with an unusual formation, for Monday night's trip to Middlesbrough he selected a 3-4-2-1 formation, at least partly inspired by Antonio Conte's formation at Chelsea. This was the first time for 20 years that Wenger had used a three-man defence.
The experiment had mixed success - it seemed designed to fight against the possibility of Middlesbrough using two target men, but instead they used one upfront and Wenger spoke about needing to 'adjust' even before kick-off. The system worked reasonably well, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil getting into dangerous positions between the lines, but overall there's little to think that Wenger will continue with that shape here.
Instead, we're likely to see a return to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Hector Bellerin coming into the side as the right-back. Shkodran Mustafi is out, so Gabriel will play alongside Laurent Koscielny.
In midfield, Granit Xhaka has been playing well, and will probably be supported with the presence of a second holding player here. Mohamed Elneny is a solid, neat and tidy player who could work well against City's playmaking duo of Davild Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
Out wide, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves to keep his place after a decent run of form. On the left, Wenger will surely look to deploy a direct attacker considering Jesus Navas may again be fielded at right-back, and he struggled in the first half of the clubs' recent 2-2 draw against Sanchez, who is the obvious bet to be fielded there again.
With Mesut Ozil as the number 10, Wenger then has a decision to make upfront. Olivier Giroud will hope to lead the line, but a speedier striker makes sense against a high line. Danny Welbeck could be used to run the channels, while Theo Walcott is another option but hasn't started upfront all season.
Guardiola's team selection seems comparatively straightforward. At the back, Navas is likely to continue at right-back and Vincent Kompany has re-established himself as a regular.
In midfield, Guardiola must decide whether he wants to deploy Yaya Toure to provide extra strength in midfield alongside Fernandinho, but it's likely he'll return to the system with Silva and De Bruyne pushing forward.
City will stretch the play and use plenty of width, which is another reason to discourage Wenger from using the three-man defence. Expect Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling to start on the outside of Arsenal's centre-backs, and engage in one-against-one battles out wide. City might play more directly than usual, especially if Arsenal's full-backs push forward aggressively.
Sergio Aguero has a fine record against Arsenal and will lead the line here, running in behind rather than dropping deep to link play. Runs in behind Gabriel might be particularly useful, as Laurent Koscielny tends to cope well against speed.
Guardiola has largely stopped his surprise tactical experiments in recent weeks and shouldn't need anything special to ensure City are in control of this contest. They've quietly been in good form recently, with both Silva and De Bruyne playing excellently, and the return of Kompany making the defence more secure too. City look better value here, and I'll back them even at the surprisingly low price of 1.910/11.