Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsene Wenger's side take on Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
MICHAEL COXManchester City are accustomed to splashing the cash on expensive new recruits, but their line-up for the Community Shield match will be similar to their regular XI from last season.
While the additions of Bacary Sagna, Frank Lampard and Fernando provides Manuel Pellegrini with experienced back-ups and tactical options, none are likely to command first-team places. Sagna is viewed as cover, Lampard is on a short-term deal, while Fernando offers a more defensive midfield presence but probably won’t shift Fernandinho or Yaya Toure.
The reason for the lack of upheaval, of course, is the reason Manchester City are playing in this match: they won the Premier League last season, evidence that Manuel Pellegrini found a winning formula. When they’re at their best, City are a superb football team.
Pellegrini’s formation varies according to the players used, but it’s perhaps best described as a 4-2-2-2 when everyone is fit. Sergio Aguero sprints past Edin Dzeko and in behind the defence, while David Silva and Samir Nasri drift in from wide.
With alternatives like James Milner, who offers defensive discipline, Jesus Navas, an old-school outside-right, and mobile forward Stevan Jovetic, City have a variety of attacking threats.
"Martin Demichelis improved dramatically over the course of his first season in English football and formed a solid partnership with Vincent Kompany"
The previous meeting between the sides, a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in March, saw City play frequently through Silva, who started as a central playmaker but drifted right to create overloads with his compatriot Navas (see Fig 1). Silva is superb with his positioning, always finding pockets of space between the lines.
City can also play more directly. The power of Yaya Toure is always a threat, while Dzeko plays a very useful role up front, holding the ball up and winning aerial battles. In that 1-1 draw at the Emirates, he was always the target for Joe Hart’s goal kicks (see Fig 2), drawing left to place himself up against Laurent Koscielny. Dzeko against Koscielny could be one of the game’s key battles.
City boast a mean defence too. Martin Demichelis improved dramatically over the course of his first season in English football and formed a solid partnership with Vincent Kompany. However, both are always keen to step out of the backline and shut down defenders, and can leave space in behind.
Another interesting feature of City’s defending is their reluctance to drop their back four into the penalty box - often they retreat to the edge of the 18-yard line and hold their position stubbornly.
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