Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are still on their quest of a treble of League Cup [already won], FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League while their opponents on Saturday are just clutching at straws under former City assistant manager, Mikel Arteta.
In the first match after the restart, City put the Gunners to the sword in a 3-0 capitulation, where we saw the worst of David Luiz. The Brazilian is one of many Arsenal players, who have a lot to prove at Wembley.
Arsenal were the last team to beat City at Wembley, in 2017, the first season under Guardiola, but he has since led his team to seven straight victories at the iconic stadium. City are also buoyed by the reprieve received from Court of Arbitration for Sports, quashing their two-year ban from UEFA.
But here are the key battles to watch out for ahead of the FA Cup Semifinal between Arsenal and City.
- Shkodran Mustafi v Raheem Sterling
Mustafi looked to have played his last game under departed manager, Unai Emery, but the German defender’s stock has risen under Arteta, but he will have his hands full with the speed and trickery of Sterling, who has already plundered 27 goals in all competitions – five since the league restarted in June. Mustafi is rugged, but Arteta will count on his international experience to help keep Sterling at bay.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang v Kyle Walker
With 23 goals, Aubameyang leads the Gunners as captain and consistent goal scorer, but he will be up against the very rapid Walker, who can also go walkabout. The speed of transition between midfield and attack will be key for Arsenal as they will hope to get the Gabonese in one-on-one situations with the England defender, who can be impulsive in his positioning and tackling.
- David Silva v Granit Xhaka
Silva is the great exponent of finding space in between the lines and passing the ball to feet in the opposition’s third, which gives Arteta a major headache. Should Xhaka be given the job–it will be an afternoon of prayer because the Switzerland captain has a penchant for losing concentration and diving into tackles.
- Kevin De Bruyne v Dani Ceballos
De Bruyne is undoubtedly one of the finest midfielders in the world – capable of everything – passing, shooting, crossing the ball and breaking through the lines. Against Ceballos, who dictates the rhythm of the Arsenal possession and operates from deep, De Bruyne will be up against an opponent who can be said to be as wily as the Belgian. With 18 assists already in the EPL, De Bruyne can find a needle in a haystack with his passes and does not need so much space to produce, which means almost a man-marking job on Ceballos’ part if Arsenal are to have any hope of victory.
What the Managers Say;
Mike Arterta (Arsenal): “Like any other team, they have some weaknesses as you mentioned, and as well, it’s about stopping their strengths, which they have a lot of.”
Pep Guardiola ( Manchester City): “These games are about the mentality, not the tactics. It will be a good test to see if we are ready to play against Madrid. But it’s now a semifinal, and there are a lot of factors.”
Head to Head
17/06/20 PRL Man. City 3 – 0 Arsenal
15/12/19 PRL Arsenal 0 – 3 Man. City
03/02/19 PRL Man. City 3 – 1 Arsenal
12/08/18 PRL Arsenal 0 – 2 Man. City
01/03/18 PRL Arsenal 0 – 3 Man. City
Arsenal [3-4-3]: Martinez; Kolasinac, Luiz, Mustafi; Bellerin; Ceballos, Xhaka; Tierney; Aubameyang, Lacazette; Saka.
Manchester City [4-3-3]: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, David Silva; Rodrigo, Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez.