Pep Guardiola speaks highly of new Gunners boss Unai Emery but won’t be pulling any punches at the Emirates Stadium.
The encounter is shaping up to be a mouth-watering contest.
A new Arsenal approach
Arsene Wenger’s credentials as a brilliant coach was never disputed but when it came to encounters against top opposition, his idealistic approach could often translate to tactical naivety. Emery has a long way to go until he can be held in the same high regard as the Frenchman but he’s always proven to be tactically proficient.
The Spaniard is capable of tweaking and manipulating different systems to mould his team into a force that can best threaten the opposition. For years, how Arsenal set up and played in fixtures of such magnitude was largely predictable and when it all clicked, it produced some stellar performances but with all their cards laid on the table prior to the contest, it became easy to work around their strategy.
Emery on the other hand will have a few tricks up his sleeve and can be an innovative tactician. It’s fascinating then that his first competitive fixture as Arsenal boss brings with it a battle of wits with Pep Guardiola – a revolutionary mastermind.
The encounter serves up an intriguing contest on the touchline and it will be interesting to see if Emery can challenge the Catalan, perhaps relinquishing City’s air of invincibility early on in the campaign.
Mahrez v Maitland-Niles
With Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal both expected to miss the encounter through injury, young Ainsely Maitland-Niles is set to start at left-back. The youngster has shown plenty of promise but City will no doubt target him with the wily Riyad Mahrez operating down his side.
The full-back has pace and may have been more comfortable dealing with a flying winger but it’s the Algerian’s ingenuity that could leave him exposed. Mahrez will also have the benefit of linking up with Bernardo Silva playing on the right side of central midfield. With Kyle Walker getting forward from his full-back role as well, there’s plenty for Mahrez to work with.
Meanwhile, Maitland-Niles is unlikely to receive much support from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who could feature on the left flank to accommodate Alexander Lacazette up front. Sokratis Papastathopoulos will also struggle to help out the youngster with the lively Sergio Aguero buzzing about in and around the box. Instead, the 20-year-old will have to look to Lucas Torreira for a bit of help.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
“We want to start well, we want to play and we want to show our quality, our work in this month tactically and with our spirit.”
“The target is to win on Sunday and then, after that, (against) Huddersfield and then Wolves. At the end we will see our level. I am focused on that, not focused on back-to-back (titles).”
WHAT WE THINK
Arsenal 2-3 Manchester City
There are plenty of goals in this one and Arsenal should run City close with a full pre-season for most of their first-choice players behind them. The Citizens – lead by the in-form Aguero up front – have enough about them though as they showed in the Community Shield.
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri was delighted to start Premier League life with a comprehensive victory at Huddersfield, although the difference in physicality and refereeing is going to take some getting used to.
Just 28 days after being belatedly confirmed as Antonio Conte’s successor, the Italian got his first taste of the English top-flight in West Yorkshire.
Chelsea had to dig deep early on against Huddersfield but went in at the break with a two-goal cushion thanks to N’Golo Kante and summer signing Jorginho.
Pedro wrapped up a 3-0 opening-day win after star turn Eden Hazard came off the bench as Sarri’s men made a confident start to the campaign, looking far stronger than last weekend’s Community Shield loss to Manchester City.
“I am really very happy because in the first part of the season I think that for us it is not easy to gain points,” the Chelsea boss said.
“The first half was hard. If you look at the result, you can think about an easy game, but in the first half we were in trouble for 15 minutes against a very physical team.
“We are not a physical team and I think the best of the game is the capacity of suffering for 15 minutes.
“Then I think in the second half the opponents were a bit tired and it was easier.”
Huddersfield could have been a baptism of fire for Sarri and the likes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, who this week became the most expensive goalkeeper in history.
“From the physical point of view, it’s different,” the Chelsea boss said, comparing the Premier League to Serie A.
“For the referees, it is different. Really different.
“Today with an Italian referee maybe there were 15 fouls more than with this referee.”
Asked if he can replicate Napoli’s style at Chelsea, Sarri added: “No, I have to know the characteristics of the players because I think I don’t want to do another Naples.
“I want to do a good Chelsea.
“I have to respect the characteristics of the players, I have to adapt myself to the characteristics of the championship and of the players, so now I am studying my players.”
Mauricio Pochettino is confident Harry Kane will hit the goals trail once again despite drawing a blank in Tottenham’s 2-1 Premier League victory at Newcastle.
Remarkably, the prolific England captain has never found the back of the net in the top flight in August, a run which now stretches to 14 games, although his club boss is certain it will only be a matter of time before Kane shakes off his World Cup fatigue to set his tally ticking over once again.
Asked if the striker was still to return to his best form, Pochettino said: “For me, he is in his best form whether he scores or doesn’t score. I don’t have any doubt that he’s in his best form. He worked a lot for the team and I’m sure that he’s going to score.
“But he can’t score three goals in every game.”
Kane, who became a father for the second time on Wednesday, Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli all started at St James’ Park despite only returning to training on Monday following their endeavours in Russia.
Vertonghen and Alli both scored either side of Joselu’s equaliser – the Goal Decision System showed the defender’s header was nine millimetres over the line – with all the goals coming inside the opening 18 minutes.
Pochettino has warned his international stars they are not guaranteed a place in his team.
He said: “It’s not because they were at the World Cup, they are sure to play in the team. That is the most important thing: if we want to win something, if we want to challenge for big things, we all need to put our minds and energy into the collective and understand that the collective is the most important thing.
“If individual goals and targets are the priority for them, it’s sure that they are not going to help the team and that is why they are going to be out of the squad.”