The Premier League is back! The season returns with a relegation threatened Aston Villa vs Sheffield United who are challenging for a european qualifying place in the league.
The follow up will be a blockbuster as Manchester City take on Arsenal, a game where recent history shows this to be a favourable fixture for the hosts. City have won six straight competitive matches against Arsenal at the Etihad and the Gunners will want to do everything they can to end that run.
Build up to this match has focused heavily on the reunion of managers Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola, after they worked together for 3 years at Manchester City. They met at the Barcelona academy when Arteta was still a teenager and Guardiola was a senior player approaching the twilight of his playing career. There is a lot of history and respect between the pair, and Arteta has cited Guardiola as a strong positive influence on him.
“In my coaching career and my personal life, he has an enormous influence. If I have to talk about the person he is, his values, the way he has treated me and how he deals with the players and the staff around him, it’s phenomenal.”Mikel Arteta – June 15. 2020
Both coaches are highly professional though and their mutual respect won’t matter when the two teams go head to head. Clashes between the clubs tend to be high scoring affairs, with 8 of the last 9 Premier League games featuring 3 or more goals. Although City typically get the better of Arsenal in the recent meetings, Arsenal were in a better run of form before the league was suspended. They picked up 11 points from their previous 5 league matches, 2 more than City. They’ve also been undefeated since the turn of the year, which may give the Gunners a small psycological advantage.
A special focus should be paid to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal’s top goalscorer this season. With his future currently unclear, he will be looking to impress in this game so he can impress both Arteta and any potential suitors should he decide to leave in the summer. He’s scored 3 goals in Arsenal last 3 games, making him the most obvious threat to City’s back line – although with Laporte back from injury, penetrating the City defence will likely be much harder. Aguero has a good record himself against Arsenal, scoring 5 in the last 4 matches. Arsenal’s defence will require a steely resolve to keep the hosts quiet for 90 minutes.
Some might point to the lack of significance that comes with this match. City look certain to finish 2nd, and Arsenal need a lot of teams to falter to qualify for the Champions League next season. However, both teams have had a relatively poor season by their own respective standards and both will likely want this game to be the start of a turnaround for them. Arsenal in particular, cannot afford to drop many more points as they are still firmly in contention for a Europa league place. City will also be determined to finish the season with a credible points tally despite having little else to play for.
This has the makings of an interesting clash, especially after the break of play. All eyes will be focused on the TV screens and both managers will hope their teams have maintained their fitness during lockdown, because if they haven’t they could give the opponents a highly avoidable advantage.
How excited are you for the return of the league? Do you think Arsenal can win? Who will be man of the match?
Photo: Kieran Clarke (2014)