Arsenal v Manchester City: how the Gunners should line up to face the league leaders

Written by Edward Pitt

February 21, 2021

After going full strength against Benfica in the week and not really getting the job done, Arteta finds himself with a bit of a selection headache against Manchester City. Should he field his best players again and try and get one over on his former boss, or should he save some of his key assets for what will be a crucial second leg against Benfica on Thursday? I think, he should probably opt for the latter. Even with our strongest 11 out there, Manchester City is always going to be perhaps the toughest game of the season. Meanwhile, defeat in our game against Benfica will leave us with very little to play for this season considering our poor league form. Here is how I think we should line up.

RYAN: In goal, I don’t really mind who we pick. I don’t think goalkeepers tend to need much rest, however there is of course a slight chance of an injury to Leno that perhaps just isn’t worth risking. Ryan is a very good keeper, especially in games where he is always involved. He will be kept on his toes for most of the game I’m sure, like in the match against Villa where he was quite impressive

BELLERIN: I’d love to afford Bellerin a rest but we just don’t have enough options to rotate him with, considering Cedric could be covering at LB again

HOLDING: Holding is the best defender at the club when it comes to backs-to-the-wall defending. What I mean by this, is that we are going to be camped in our box for large periods of the game. His aerial ability and no-nonsense defending might just be enough to keep us a clean sheet. If we’re lucky…

LUIZ: This might seem like a strange inclusion considering how much he has played recently. However, I think much like Holding he is very good when he has to constantly concentrate all game long. It’s the games where the opposition tries to catch us on the counter where he is perhaps most shaky. He often thrives in games where he has a lot of responsibility

CEDRIC: Tierney got a few minutes against Benfica, and I’d probably be ready to bring him on in this one to see the game out and just build up some match fitness. However, I don’t see a need in risking starting him. He has only just returned and I don’t feel like this is the appropriate game to give him his first start in. I’ll happily stick with Cedric for one more game

ELNENY: Rumour has it Partey might be fit for this game, but I wouldn’t risk it. Twice already this season we have brought Partey back before he’s properly recovered and twice already it has cost us. If we can get Elneny pumped up like he was in our 1-0 win against United earlier this season, he will be crucial in protecting the defence and aiding us in transition from high press to back behind the ball

CEBALLOS: I was so unsure whether to go with Ceballos or Xhaka. Xhaka will be more disciplined at just sitting in, but I think that Ceballos’ mobility in midfield compared to Xhaka will help him win those crucial duels with City’s quick, tricky players. Also, he will be able to carry the ball forward better and relieve some pressure by starting some counter attacks

PEPE: Pepe has not really put a foot wrong recently; I think Arteta has been harsh to not include him more recently. Therefore, in the name of giving him a chance and giving Saka some rest, I’d play Pepe on the right

SMITH ROWE: As much as I do want to rest Smith Rowe, he is so efficient in games where we want to play on the counter attack. His desire to play with just one or two touches, is so helpful to us playing quickly on the counter. If we are going to come away with some points in this game, I think our counter-attacking efficiency needs to be on top form

MARTINELLI: This is the perfect game for Martinelli. He will sit in and protect Cedric when required and when we want to press he will be crucial in stretching Manchester City with his pace and his energy

AUBAMEYANG: I’d play Auba in this one with the intention of playing Lacazette in the second leg against Benfica. Auba would be perfect in a game where we need to play on the counter attack. Cancelo is likely to be playing effectively as a right winger; Aubameyang’s tendency to drift out to the left channel should cause City a bit of a headache when we attempt to counter-attack them

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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