Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Manchester City have suffered from various injury problems in recent weeks, which has changed the nature of their attacking threat. On Sunday, their approach in the final third will largely depend upon the identity of their forwards.
Sergio Aguero was unavailable for a month with a knee injury, but returned as a substitute against Everton last weekend and could be fit to start against Arsenal.
With 14 goals in 14 league games, Aguero is incredibly dangerous, and excels at shooting quickly from tight angles after a burst of pace to escape the attention of opponents. Arsenal must anticipate his movements, rather than simply respond to them - few can catch him.
Aguero's potential partner, Edin Dzeko, is a perfect foil for the Argentine - taller, less mobile and generally moving towards play to create space for Aguero to burst into. Stevan Jovetic, meanwhile, is a good all-rounder who drops into deeper positions, and is capable of creating and scoring.
City’s main creative threat is David Silva, who can start in the No 10 position, as he did in the 2-2 draw earlier this season at the Emirates. Alternatively, Silva can start wide and drift inside dangerously.
Manuel Pellegrini might prefer a more structured approach against Arsenal, however, with Silva centrally and two of James Milner, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri out wide. Navas caused serious problems at the Emirates with his pace and touchline-hugging runs down the outside.
Yaya Toure is away at the Africa Cup of Nations, meaning Fernando and Fernandinho should be the midfield combination. The former sits deeper, the latter can shuttle forward into attack, and is given more freedom without Toure. Frank Lampard is another option, and remains superb at late runs into the box.
Expect City’s full backs to overlap regularly to provide attacking width, especially if City’s wide players drift inside. At the Emirates, City’s most frequently two passing combinations were Milner passing to Gael Clichy and Navas feeding Pablo Zabaleta (see graphic), showing how City love to attack through their full backs.
City are usually defensively excellent, but Vincent Kompany can be pulled out of the backline and Martin Demichelis is much better aerially than when forced to cover ground quickly, so Arsenal’s attacking pace could cause problems.
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