The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Man City v Arsenal preview

We are back in Premier League action on Sunday when we travel to the Etihad to take on Manchester City.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke examine our opponents in detail.

MC: Pep Guardiola won the title in his first season with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but seemed to find the Premier League tougher than he expected first time around, with Manchester City fading badly after a great start. But 28 points from 10 matches this season is a record only two Premier League sides have ever achieved, and his City side have impressed with their intricate passing combinations in the final third.

AC: Manchester City look nailed on to win the title in October! It’s been so, so good and it’s all clicking for Guardiola now. I was critical of him last season because I think he messed around with the team and his formations. It was almost like he used it as an experimentation year, but now the players are familiar with his methods. They are now looking majestic and all the forward players are in ridiculous form. This is the ultimate test.
MC: Guardiola tries to keep the opposition guessing. He started the campaign with a 3-5-2 system, and at various points within games his team has looked like a 3-4-3 or 3-3-1-3 system. However, the base formation this weekend should be a relatively standard 4-3-3.
MC: City form triangles in the final third thanks to David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne pushing forward from midfield, with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling remaining wide until the final moment, and Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Aguero up front. It’s an all-star front five which can overwhelm opponents.
MC: De Bruyne and Silva are the players that make Manchester City tick - but Sane is arguably the main threat, considering he scored against Arsenal both home and away last season. Stretching the play from an advanced wide-left position, he times his runs into goalscoring positions excellently.

AC: Kevin de Bruyne is Footballer of the Year in waiting, the way it’s currently going. He has been absolutely sublime. Arsenal need to compete with him. Shape-wise it could be quite tricky, and I think Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka have got their hands full here. You’ve got Fernandinho who’s going to prop up De Bruyne and David Silva, and that worries me. Aaron Ramsey is in good form, is getting about the pitch and is doing very well. He will push on, but when he pushes on, Kevin de Bruyne could make him and Arsenal pay.
MC: City conceded two similar goals last weekend in a 3-2 win at West Brom, when Gareth Barry chipped hopeful balls over the top of defence - Arsenal might be able to exploit a weakness in that respect.

AC: City will swarm us with possession, but you need a threat on the counter. You need to penetrate, you need to threaten on the counter, you need to keep them interested when you get the ball. They will leave gaps. I still don’t really rate Otamendi and Stones as a partnership, so if we can get the ball up to Lacazette and Alexis, I think we can score goals. It’s how much of the ball we get in the final third, that’s the question.

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