Will the real Arsenal please stand up?
The fragilities that surfaced during Arsenal’s shock defeat to Everton this week have sparked an impromptu identity crisis in North London.
Worried by what they saw on Merseyside – even though it was their first away loss in nine months – Gunners fans are now arguing among themselves over the answer to one straightforward question…
Are Arsene Wenger’s class of 2016-17 the real deal, or not?
By the time we’re done and dusted at the Etihad on Sunday evening, they should have a far better idea.
If it’s ‘same old Arsenal’ and those doom mongers who claim they haven’t firmed up their soft underbelly are proved right, Pep Guardiola’s imperfect but talented side will swot them aside.
In the shape of on-song playmakers Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva they have players that can run amok. Those two are 49/20 and 41/10 to get on the score sheet.
However, if Tuesday night was a one-off blip and the Gunners really are as ‘different’ as the players’ claim they are, Arsenal will attack this contest with relish. They will put an experimental Manchester City side to the sword, just as comprehensively as Chelsea did at the Etihad.
Based on what I’ve seen, I genuinely sit on that side of the fence. I make Arsenal favourites and expect them to play for the win. (5/2)
Led by the irrepressible Alexis Sanchez, the Gunners are quicker, stronger and more determined than I have seen for some time. They’ve come from behind to save matches, and also led from the front with confidence.
City’s weaknesses also happen to play into their hands
Flimsy when pressed or attacked at pace on the counter, Arsenal’s super-quick front men have a wonderful opportunity to make a statement. The absence of defensive midfielders Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan also means protection for the defence is a little thin on the ground.
I’ll be amazed if the Gunners don’t score.
In fact, the 29/10 on offer for Arsenal to notch in both halves looks rather appealing. It’s a feat they have managed in five of their last seven matches, which includes the EFL Cup loss to Southampton, when Wenger fielded a reserve side.
Yes, they did under perform in big matches against Spurs and Manchester United (both 1-1 draws) but let’s not forget Arsenal also scored three apiece against Liverpool and Chelsea.
When contemplating first scorers I can’t look past Sanchez, who has broken the deadlock six times already this season. He’s priced up at 27/5, but don’t ignore the value in his understudy Olivier Giroud either.
Known as a ‘super sub’ the Frenchman came on to net the equaliser at Manchester United, and is adept at hitting the ground running. Netting in four of his last five games against Man City, he’s available at a generous 6/1 to grab the last goal.
I don’t want to dismiss City completely. If De Bruyne hadn’t missed an open goal when 1-0 up against Chelsea they would surely have won that contest, and even without the suspended Sergio Aguero they pose plenty of menace.
It’s just that right now I think Arsenal have more strengths, and there are a greater number of weaknesses in Guardiola’s side.
There’s not a lot of value in the 11/20 for both teams to score (which I think is a given), so I’d be looking at over 3.5 goals (8/5) or an exact score forecast to bring home the bacon.
When Pep and Arsene lock horns its always worth having a watch. This tete-a-tete – their first in the Premier League – could be a lot of fun.