This is it- the closest thing to a championship game you’ll see in Premier League football. It’s the top two teams in the table, separated by a razor’s edge, as Manchester City host Arsenal with just a handful of games to go in the season. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this enormous clash.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal Odds
At home, City are -185 favorites in this pivotal match compared to +360 for the draw and a staggering +475 for Arsenal. With a goalscoring line of 2.5, the over is favored at -145 and the under is -110
Manchester City vs. Arsenal Prediction & Pick
Things have unraveled extremely quickly for Mikel Arteta’s promising side. After righting the ship in late February and then March, they’ve drawn each of their last 3 league matches, while City have been surging.
As things currently stand, the Gunners are 5 points ahead of City, but they’ve played two extra games. That means that in the event of a draw in this match, City alone would control their own destiny going forward.
Of course, a theoretical one-point lead with 7 more games for City to play is far from a foregone conclusion. But based on how Guardiola’s squad has closed out previous close Prem races, it’s fair to imagine that Arsenal might need to take all three points if they want to lift the trophy.
The big news heading into this game is the status of breakout star William Saliba, who has anchored Arsenal’s defense all season. He’s missed about a month of action with a back injury, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be active against City.
As much as I don’t want it to be a new year and the same story, I do think the tides have shifted towards Pep’s City squad once again, and they will do what needs to be done to win the Prem. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll make it pretty; I have Arsenal’s epic draw streak continuing with another stalemate at the Etihad, which would put the Sky Blues in pole position for yet another domestic title.
The scoring total is a tough one, but especially with Saliba out, it’s hard to bet against these two attacks, unquestionably the Prem’s best this year. It’s not what I’d call a lock, but the over is the clear play in this matchup.
Picks: Draw (+360), o2.5 (-180)
It’s not easy to know exactly what formation Pep Guardiola is going to whip out, especially in a big match like this. Nevertheless, there are some matchups up and down the field that will take place in some form or another; let’s discuss how they could affect the game’s outcome.
The Midfield Battle
As good as all units have been for Arsenal this year, the focus has to be on their up-and-coming midfield, where many Gunner fans will tell you their best players reside. The anchor, in many ways, is club mainstay Granit Xhaka, who after some tough times is having probably his best season in North London.
He’s joined by Thomas Partey, whose full-pitch contributions are also being recognized more and more, and of course the youngster who took the captain’s armband from him, Martin Ødegaard. The Norweigan CAM has broken out in a huge way this season, as he’s third on the squad in league goals and second in assists.
Man City’s midfield is as nebulous as it is excellent, and it is very much so both. There’s a couple relative fixtures, however, one of course being Kevin De Bruyne, the man behind so much of City’s success in this competition. I’ve more or less run out of superlatives to describe his essentially-unparalleled greatness, but he should be the #1 focus for any opponent- yes, even more so than Erling Haaland.
The other is Rodri, most often a CDM, and like De Bruyne he has a legitimate claim as the best in the World at his position. The rest of the group is a bit hazier. Will we see Ilkay Gündogan? Maybe Phil Foden or Bernardo Silva dropped back, or even John Stones slid up to the middle of the park? It’s hard to know, but one thing is for sure; it will be a ball-possessing juggernaut, and watching them go up against Arsenal’s own formidable unit will be a real treat.
Arsenal Attack vs. Man City Defense
When it comes to winning on the road, the biggest hurdle is often scoring goals- let’s take a look at how Arsenal can overcome that challenge.
A big part of the gameplan could be a former City player, Gabriel Jesus. After taking a moment to regain his footing after missing a spell with injury, he’s bagged four goals in his past four matches, and is ready to fire one past his old club.
In addition to Ødegaard in the midfield, Arsenal features a pair of forwards whose are in double-figures when it comes to Prem goalscoring. There’s the Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli, the team leader with 15 league goals, and of course homegrown star Bukayo Saka, also the team’s leader with 11 Prem assists.
Off the bench, there’s a few options, perhaps most notably Leandro Trossard. The Belgian forward came in the January window, but is already tied for second on the team with 7 assists in Premier League play in just 14 matches (7 starts) for Arsenal.
Naturally, as is the case up and down the lineup, City’s defense is a bit of a moving target. Of course, one thing never changes; Ederson is in the net, and the Brazilian shot-stopper is equally capable of a spectacular pass as he is a massive save, or a crushing blunder.
Other than Stones, the defense pivots around centre-back Rúben Dias, who is putting together a very nice season at the Etihad. Around him could be any combination of the versatile Nathaniel Aké, Swiss international Manuel Akanji, who is having a strong year, or even Kyle Walker or youngster Rico Lewis, both of whom can be deployed in an outside role.
It’s hard to say what the lineup will look like- or how tightly the players will adhere to the way it looks on paper- but it’ll likely be a fresh, creative look full of talented players, and they’ll be well-equipped to defend their home field against Arsenal’s arsenal of great attackers.