Arsenal meet Manchester City in the Premier League title race
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Arsenal host Manchester City on Wednesday night as the Premier League top two do battle to determine who will end the evening at the summit.
Reigning champions City need a victory to move ahead of the Gunners, who have hit a poor run of form at just the wrong time.
Here are some of the key talking points ahead of the Emirates Stadium clash.
Master vs apprentice
City boss Pep Guardiola and Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta have been friends for years, the latter coming through the ranks of Barcelona’s fabled La Masia academy a decade after Guardiola.
Both midfielders, Arteta was often seen in a similar mould to his more senior compatriot and after hanging up his boots he took a position as assistant to Guardiola when he was appointed at City in 2016.
The Spanish duo would mastermind two Premier League title campaigns as well as lifting an FA Cup and two League Cups.
Now Arteta is out on his own looking to establish himself outside of the shadow of Guardiola and Wednesday presents a perfect opportunity to show he is moving in the right direction to do so.
Blue is the colour
Arsenal’s recent league form against City has been nothing short of woeful.
Pre-dating the arrival of Arteta and stretching back into the reign of Arsene Wenger, the Gunners have been unable to best their rivals in the Premier League.
City have not lost to Arsenal in a league meeting since 2015, winning the last 10 games by an aggregate score of 26-3 – including Rodri’s added-time winner in north London last season.
Arteta needs to address that meagre return if Arsenal are to remain at the head of the table.
Pep Guardiola (right) greets Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta before their recent FA Cup clash
Stick or twist?
The foundation of Arsenal’s fine season, which has seen them lose just twice in the league to date, certainly comes from the stability of team selection installed by Arteta.
Arsenal have made just 14 changes to his starting XI across the Premier League, nine fewer than the next club Newcastle.
In comparison, City have made 49 changes in that time as Guardiola has tweaked his teams in an attempt to find a formula that allows them to close in on the leaders.
He is likely to make more alterations at the Emirates, where Arteta may be tempted to also shuffle his pack after taking just one point from their last two games.
One potential change for Guardiola could be enforced after Erling Haaland was replaced at half-time in Sunday’s win over Aston Villa.
The Norway striker has hit 25 goals in 21 league appearances since joining City in the summer but a “major knock” could see him forced to sit out the trip to Arsenal.
Guardiola certainly has plenty of other firepower in his squad that he can turn to but he would want his main man fit and ready for what is the biggest game of the season so far for both sides.
Erling Haaland is an injury doubt
City insider trading
Arsenal’s summer transfer business has helped with their quest to return to the upper echelons of the Premier League table.
Two of the men recruited joined from City, with forward Gabriel Jesus and left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko bringing title-winning experience and elite mentalities into the Arsenal dressing room.
Jesus will miss the game on Wednesday through injury but Zinchenko’s role in Arteta’s side this season has been pivotal to the way he sets up his team and that will be no different this time out – with the added extra of learning the inside track on some of City’s key men.
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