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The Big Match Tactical View: Manchester City v Arsenal

Kevin De Bruyne may drift to the right flank
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Manchester City seem unstoppable at the moment - will Arsene Wenger's Arsenal be able to cause them problems? Michael Cox has the tactical lowdown and Alan Thompson provides the betting angle.

"Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin will have to retreat and form a back five."

Manchester City v Arsenal
Sunday 14:15, Sky Sports Main Event.
Match Odds: Man City [1.45], Arsenal [8.0], The Draw [5.3].


Sane and Sterling will cause problems

Manchester City have only won one of their previous nine matches against Arsenal, but are strong favourites to defeat the Gunners on Sunday.

That sole victory came in the corresponding fixture last season, when goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling allowed Pep Guardiola's side to come back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 - and that duo will surely be crucial again here.

Guardiola's use of two high, wide wingers caused Antonio Conte's Chelsea serious problems in City's dominant 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge last month, and they're likely to cause Arsenal's similar system problems here. Arsenal's back three simply won't be able to defend three-against-three, and therefore Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin will have to retreat and form a back five.

Five-against-three shouldn't cause Arsenal too many problems, but the knock-on effect may - they'll be overloaded in midfield. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey isn't the most defensively solid pairing, and they'll be tasked with stopping Kevin De Bruyne, likely to drift right and swing in devilish crosses, and David Silva, who will slalom forward in behind Ramsey and play one-twos on the edge of the box.

It remains to be seen who deals with Fernandinho, who is instrumental in starting City's passing moves, while Kyle Walker is likely to fly forward from right-back past Alexis Sanchez. On the opposite side, Fabian Delph will probably tuck inside more, almost becoming an extra central midfielder to stop Arsenal's counter-attacks.

Arsenal to play on the break?

Arsene Wenger has made it clear that Arsenal will not sit back and only defend this weekend. "When we go there, we want to defend well," he said in his Thursday press conference. "But you cannot go there only focused on defending, we want as well to play with the ball and create dangerous situations. Sometimes the best way to defend is to attack."

But with City likely to dominate possession, Arsenal's counter-attacks might be their best chance of getting something from this game. Mesut Ozil has shown flashes of his best form and should be largely spared from defensive duties, with Delph unlikely to overlap regularly. If Ozil can collect the ball on the run he could cause serious damage, but he needs Alexandre Lacazette to make runs in behind rather than continually coming short towards the ball.

Longer spells of possession play will tempt Ramsey forward into attack, but he must be careful not to expose Arsenal to counter-attacks through Silva and De Bruyne. A more promising route might be on the outside, where Arsenal can work five-versus-four situations if they can push Bellerin and Kolasinac forward. The latter, in particular, has been a constant goal threat - but again, this will invite counter-attacks like the one finished by Aguero at Napoli in midweek.

City set-piece threat

Often the way to trouble Guardiola sides is through set-pieces - but with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi both constant goalscoring threats in recent weeks, perhaps it's City more likely to get something from dead-ball situations.

In truth, it's difficult to see how Arsenal will stop City here - their record of 28 points from the opening 10 games has only been achieved twice before in the Premier League era. Both Chelsea in 2005/06 and City in 2011/12 went onto win the Premier League, and few would bet against City replicating that on current form.

I think City will win this game relatively comfortably, probably sealing it before half-time. I'll therefore back City to be ahead at half-time and full-time, at [1.8]

The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson


The Gunners don’t have a bad record at the Etihad. They have scored 14 goals from their last eight trips to the stadium, only failing to find the back of the net in one of those games and they have only lost half of those fixtures.

However, the market doesn’t really reflect that history and has the hosts as short as they have ever been [1.45] in any of those previous eight games. While they are plenty short enough, they are hard to oppose as they are just looking simply unstoppable at the minute.

Arsenal went to Stamford Bridge recently and got a goalless draw but I just can’t see them keeping this City side quiet and if they are to get anything out of the game then they must think they have to score. For that reason there could be a few goals here today, unfortunately that's no suprise to many people and the market has also identified that, with Over 2.5 goals trading as low as [1.45].

It’s hard to see anything but a Manchester City win and goals, backing City and over 2.5 goals is the preferred route but at the time of writing the markets haven’t been formed. But I would imagine that is still going to be very short - around a [1.85] chance. Can Arsenal score is the question - I think they can and will be backing City win/BTTS at [2.4] on the Betfair Sportsbook.

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