The final Premier League fixture before signing off for October’s international break pits Arsenal and Manchester City against each other at the Emirates Stadium.
Sunday’s mouth-watering contest in north London has all the makings of a top-table six-pointer, with a single point separating the best-ranked sides from last season.
Despite leading the way in the Premier League for a large chunk of 2022/23, the Gunners were ultimately unable to go toe-to-toe with the perennial champions down the final stretch.
Manager Mikel Arteta exacted his revenge on his mentor Pep Guardiola in August’s Community Shield showpiece as Arsenal ousted Man City on penalties after Leandro Trossard’s late equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw.
However, when the two Spaniards meet in the Premier League, it often doesn’t end well for the Gunners boss.
Guardiola has had Arteta’s number, beating him in all seven managerial duels in the top-flight, including a brace of multiple-goal margin triumphs last season.
Those wins form part of a larger pattern, with Man City responsible for inflicting the longest winless Premier League streak on Arsenal against a single opposition in history.
After going unbeaten in their last 12 league meetings, Man City should have the psychological edge here, with the feel-good factor increased after a 3-1 Champions League win at RB Leipzig on Wednesday.
By contrast, confidence could be at a premium in Arteta’s corner after losing his star winger Bukayo Saka to injury during a lacklustre 2-1 defeat at Lens on Tuesday.
As Saka has been the only Arsenal goalscorer across their last two home league encounters against the Cityzens, Arteta will hope a new hero could emerge on Sunday.
Last weekend’s 4-0 thumping of Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium rounded off Arsenal’s seven-game unbeaten start to the new Premier League campaign for the first time since 2007/08.
As one of the only two sides yet to lose a league fixture in England’s most prestigious competition this term (W5, D2), the Gunners are seemingly on course to matching our 2023/24 predictions.
But Arteta’s side cannot afford to rest on their laurels as both times they’ve dropped points this season came at the Emirates, courtesy of identical 2-2 draws against Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur.
There’s another noteworthy takeaway from Arsenal’s notorious home struggles this season, with each of their six league goals conceded thus far arriving in north London.
If there’s any side in Europe capable of pouncing on even a minimal defensive mishap, it’s Man City – the division’s third most-prolific side with 17 goals.
Keen to become the first side in Premier League history to rack up four consecutive titles, the Cityzens got their defending campaign off to a six-game winning start.
However, City’s superb domestic run ended abruptly last weekend as Wolverhampton Wanderers eked out a stunning 2-1 win over Guardiola’s depleted line-up at Molineux.
The last time Man City lost back-to-back away league games was in February, when the second defeat ominously came in north London, albeit at the hands of Arsenal’s bitter rivals Tottenham.
According to football.london, there’s an outside chance for Saka to make the cut this weekend, but Arsenal fans would be wise to refrain from harbouring high hopes.
The 22-year-old’s likely absence would give Arteta a substantial selection headache as Gabriel Martinelli remains on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring injury against Everton.
Jurrien Timber is the only remaining absentee in the home camp after Thomas Partey made the matchday squad against Lens in midweek Champions League action.
This blockbuster showdown will come too soon for Kevin De Bruyne.
Besides the Belgian magician’s long-term injury, Man City will have to deal with Rodri’s suspension, but John Stones’ return to the fold is a massive boost for Guardiola.
Arsenal potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): David Raya; Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey; Kai Havertz, Fabio Vieira, Gabriel Jesus.
Manchester City potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Ederson; Josko Gvardiol, Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker; John Stones, Mateo Kovacic; Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez, Jeremy Doku; Erling Haaland.
We Say: Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City
Every tradition needs to end sooner or later, and this could be Arteta’s moment to put the first point on the board against Guardiola.
Beating Arsenal in their backyard without two essential midfield components in Rodri and De Bruyne would unequivocally support our 2023/24 Man City preview.
However, we’ll stick with a share of the spoils instead.
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