MAN CITY take on Arsenal on Saturday. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up.
Manchester City vs Arsenal | Saturday 28th August 2021, 12:30 | Sky Sports
Manchester City began their EPL 2021/22 home campaign in the exact same fashion as they ended their title winning one of last season – picking up where they left off with a crushing 5-0 win – replacing Everton with newly promoted Norwich, who they only allowed five touches inside their penalty area and one off target attempt at goal.
They welcome an Arsenal side who they have beaten on their last five visits to the Etihad scoring 12 and conceding just three – with both the last two seasons seeing the hosts win-to-nil and in total now have emerged victorious in 10 of their last 11 head to heads in all competitions.
The Gunners season could not have gotten off to a worse start with not so much the fact they have suffered back-to-back defeats to nil – including against newly promoted Brentford, it would be more of a concern in the manner of those losses which saw them bullied by both the Championship play off winners as well as a Romelu Lukaku inspired Chelsea at the Emirates.
Last term, Mikel Arteta’s side actually won more points (47) from Christmas than any other side apart from their opponents here (63) winning 14 drawing five and losing 5 of their 24 fixtures – certainly giving their fans hope that trusting the process was going to pay off.
However, the embryonic stages of the new campaign have seen Arsenal return to type despite a summer window outlay of around £130m, with their 4.2 xGA worsened only by the one side currently below them in the league, Norwich, while only four clubs have an inferior xG than their 1.80 – in comparison Pep Guardiola’s men have a xG of 4.6 and a xGA of 1.4.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned this midweek to plunder a confidence boosting hat-trick against West Brom in the EFL Cup – albeit a very youthful Baggies line up and his side hang on to any positives they can as they aim to prevent a ninth consecutive EPL loss to Manchester City – which would make it the longest run versus any one club.
We of course shouldn’t expect this City side to attempt to bully their way to a victory over Arsenal, but will instead present a whole host of other problems, despite the news this week confirming that Harry Kane will not be one of them.
All of which meaning City will have to make do with the squad that won the title by 12 points last season, some 25 ahead of Arsenal, scoring 83 goals, 28 more than their visitors, so with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne both likely absentees, that leaves the responsibility resting firmly on the shoulders of Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Bernado Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torres and oh yes…£100m new boy Jack Grealish.
At an unbackable, although justifiable, 1/5 to win, Manchester City as always prove some kind of conundrum to get on side – however I think I have found a way and at much more palatable odds of 10/11.
The last 23 competitive matches between these two sides have seen a first half goal scored in an incredible 22, with the Citizens winning at half time AND full time in nine of the last 11, given they were 2-0 at half time last weekend and Arsenal have been trailing after 45 minutes in both fixtures so far, this looks a cracking price with Mansion Bet – with many other firms pricing slightly lower and still a play at 5/6 or better.
Manchester City having a full week of rest and Pep prep time cannot be stated enough with a decent strength Arsenal side playing late on Wednesday evening having a very quick turnaround to fulfil their lunchtime date up in the North West.
To offer some juicier odds I have delved in to the various player markets with a couple catching my eye in particular.
Three of the five goals in last week's Norwich annihilation came in close to identical manner.
Rather than pushing high and wide in to the final third Kyle Walker played in a slightly deeper, narrow position allowing Gabriel Jesus to offer the width with all but three of the right-backs 25 passes to the Brazilian being from inside to out – directly leading to goals two (Grealish) and four (Sterling) – with Jesus also latching on to a Rodri pass to cross for a Norwich own goal to open the scoring.
One day later and Arsenal’s downfall came from exactly the same area of the field, their left back position with both goals coming as Reece James was afforded the freedom of the Emirates to firstly slide rule a cross for a Lukaku conversion, before adding a second himself rifling past an exposed Bernd Leno.
To see Gabriel Jesus priced up at 4/1 with Betfair to claim another assist here looks incredible value and is a bet I cannot overlook.
Finally, one of the other Manchester City goals last week came from a corner after what resembled some very Arsenal-like defending from the Canaries – Aymeric Laporte the beneficiary on this occasion.
People have asked what Jack Grealish will add to the already frightening array of talent at Guardiola's disposal – well not ignoring the small matter of 16 direct goal involvements last season for Aston Villa it is common knowledge that the 25-year-old was the most fouled player in the league last season, amassing a huge 110 fouls against in his 26 appearances.
Given the shambolic nature of the Gunners defending against a variety of set pieces from the Bees on the opening night it may well be the case here we see the home side more prepared to put their wide free kicks and corners directly in to the box for the likes of Laporte and Ruben Dias to attack.
Given Laporte found the net from his two efforts at goal against the Canaries I’m taking two gambles, firstly the hard part – second guessing that Pep will include him in the starting eleven and secondly – that he gets on the scoresheet again, but at odds of 10/1 with Unibet (any Kambi book) it’s a gamble I think is worth taking.