We preview the biggest game of the Premier League season so far between Arsenal and Manchester City, including a reveal of our pre-match prediction, as the top two in the table go head-to-head.

Arsenal vs Manchester City: The Quick Hits

  • Manchester City set to jump above Arsenal at the top of the Premier League according to the Opta supercomputer’s prediction for Wednesday’s game.
  • Just 0.01% separates the two sides in our season-long prediction, with the Gunners still slight favourites to lift the Premier League title.
  • But an 11th consecutive defeat against Manchester City blows the title race open.

Match Preview

The Perfect 10. Certainly that’s the case when it comes to Manchester City victories against Arsenal in the Premier League. It’s 10 in a row for the Citizens, the longest losing run against an opponent in the Gunners league history.

It’s not exactly the sort of stat you want to be carrying on your shoulders as you head into the biggest game of your title charge so far. But that’s the challenge which awaits Mikel Arteta, who himself has lost all five meetings with his former club as Arsenal manager. In fact, Manchester City are the only Premier League side he has failed to beat since taking over at the Emirates.

And it doesn’t make for pretty reading either when you spread it out to all competitions. City have won their last six such away games, as many as they had in their previous 61 visits to the Emirates/Highbury (D18, L37). Add in that Arsenal have suffered defeats in their last eight matches against reigning Premier League champions and have conceded at least two goals each time and it’s easy to understand why, if you look at the history books alone, things might be a little bit nervy for those of a red persuasion.

But this is a new Arsenal. One that has risen to the challenge of being league leaders for so long this campaign. One that has played with fire and flair, breaking the monotony of City and Liverpool fighting it out at the top of the table, picking up neutral admirers along the way. Surely, surely, this could be their time – right?

Previous Meeting

Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal: 27 January 2023 (English FA Cup)

Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal: shot map from their English FA Cup encounter in January 2023

This won’t be the first time the two sides have clashed this season as they met in the FA Cup less than a month ago. But quite how much we can read from that occasion is unknown.

Arteta clearly laid his cards on the table with his squad selection at the Etihad Stadium. Six regulars including the likes of Martin Odegaard, William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli dropped to the bench for this game with the Spaniard seeming to announce to the world that his focus, this season at least, is on Premier League success.

Even so, in the face of strong opposition, the Gunners acquainted themselves well. Erling Haaland found himself closely marked by Rob Holding during a physical first-half encounter that resulted in the centre-half having to be removed from the action at half-time after been cautioned but, vitally, without their goal being breached.

Eventually it would be Nathan Ake who proved the difference, making the most of some neat trickery from Jack Grealish to net the game’s only goal. But victory came at a cost with John Stones forced off with a hamstring problem which will rule the England international out of Wednesday’s game and maybe another two weeks.

John Stones goes off injured during Manchester City's 1-0 victory over Arsenal in the English FA Cup

Recent Form

The loss of Stones was acutely felt in Manchester City’s following Premier League game against Arsenal’s north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, where Harry Kane’s 200th Premier League proved the difference. It was their second successive away defeat in the competition (having lost against Man Utd a few weeks before) having previously lost just one between September 2021 and January 2023.  

Pep Guardiola has been critical of his side’s application in recent weeks, so would have been pleased with the comfortable manner of their 3-1 triumph over Aston Villa at the weekend thanks to goals from Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez. But again, this might have come at some cost. Top scorer Erling Haaland was forced off at half-time after taking a kick to his thigh so expect a few days of ‘will he, won’t he’ psychodrama to play out.

Maybe Arsenal can consider themselves unlucky not to have walked away from their latest game with Brentford as victors. Ivan Toney’s equaliser was allowed to stand after a VAR decision that has since brought an apology from referee’s chief Howard Webb.

The draw meant Arsenal have failed to win consecutive Premier League matches for the first time this season, having suffered defeat on the road against Everton in the game before that. However, they are unbeaten in their last 13 home league games having made the Emirates somewhat of a fortress this season.

Arsenal's Starting XI for the game against Brentford - the 6th time in succession they've named the same starting XI in a Premier League game

Will we see Arteta pick the same starting XI for a club-record seventh Premier League game in succession? Continuity has been a key for the Gunners this campaign. They’ve only made 14 changes to their starting XI in the competition this season, by far the fewest with Newcastle (23) their nearest rivals. Some of these have been forced by injuries to the likes of Mohamed Elneny and Gabriel Jesus, and while continuity is of course a good thing, it’s come with the fear that the side might be beginning to suffer from burnout. Martinelli in particular has come in for a little criticism amongst the fanbase for a recent drop in form and there are some calls for him to be dropped for this crunch clash.

Players to Watch

Arsenal – Leandro Trossard

With five points dropped out of a possible six, it does feel like Arsenal need a spark to climb out of, what for them this season, has been a slump in results. But maybe the answer comes from former Brighton star Leandro Trossard, who needed just six minutes to make an impact from off the bench against Brentford.

Leandro Trossard Goal sequence for Arsenal vs Brentford in the Premier League

In many ways, his strike epitomises the style of play that Arsenal have sought this season. From a set-piece, a free-flowing move saw Odegaard and Bukayo Saka link up in their most optimum positions before Saka’s dangerous cross (an unofficial metric there) was turned in.

Trossard has already experienced some joy again City this season, netting in Brighton’s 3-1 defeat at the Etihad in October. He could join Andy Carroll (Liverpool and Newcastle) and Darren Bent (Aston Villa and Sunderland) as the only players to score for two different clubs in the same Premier League campaign against City. It might have to come from off the bench if Arteta decides to stick with consistency but don’t be surprised if the 28-year-old gets his first league start alongside Saka and Eddie Nketiah in this one.

Manchester City – Julian Alvarez

Pep Guardiola has been keen to play down any concerns about whether Haaland will be fit to play on Wednesday. But like all good tacticians and masters of the dark arts of media relations, there’s no doubt he will be wargaming a scenario where he is without the Norwegian.

Argentinian World Cup winner Alvarez seems to be the most obvious option to replace Haaland – to the point that he came off the bench against Aston Villa to fill the number nine role. And whilst this has been a first season of adapting to the Premier League following his move from River Plate, it hasn’t helped that he’s found himself playing a variety of attacking midfield positions as Guardiola looks to make all the pieces of his puzzle fit. Although we doubt that anyone would begrudge him having to find a solution to getting the likes of Haaland, Alvarez, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden into the same line-up.

Julian Alvarez touch zones and map for the 2022-2023 Premier League season so far

One thing Alvarez has been tasked with is making more of an impact in the final third of the field. So far in his Premier League career, just 14% of his open-play touches have come inside the penalty box. When you compare this to Haaland’s 31%, there’s no doubt that Alvarez will relish the opportunity to demonstrate he is more than a mere understudy to Haaland.

Arsenal vs. Manchester City Prediction

Arsenal vs Manchester City Opta Match Prediction for their Premier League clash

Haaland or no Haaland – the Opta supercomputer is laser focused on its prediction that yet another victory over Arsenal will be heading Manchester City’s way. Win here and Pep Guardiola’s side will vault themselves into top spot in the league table, albeit it on goal difference and having played a game more.

We’ve already presented you with plenty of reasons why this might be the case, but the supercomputer has been flashing away in the corner to point out one more nugget of information. The last 22 Premier League games that Man City have played on a Wednesday… they’ve won – it’s the longest winning run of a specific day of the week in the competition’s history. Perhaps that’s really why it’s giving City a near 50% chance of taking the victory at the Emirates Stadium.

And with the game taking place the day after Valentine’s Day (a good reminder there’s still time to nip out to the garage and grab that card if you haven’t already), don’t be surprised if there’s no love lost between the two sides either. Arsenal had a player sent off in both of their Premier League meetings vs Manchester City last season (Granit Xhaka and Gabriel) and could match the record of three successive games like they did against Newcastle between 2010 and 2011.

Opta Premier League Predictions Season Feb 13

This game couldn’t come at a more crucial time for either side (especially with Manchester City also having to battle on the Champions League front soon, although it’s Chelsea and Liverpool who will take to the European stage first). Our supercomputer’s season-long prediction has whipped itself up into a frenzy with just 0.01% separating the two sides. Arsenal, still, are slight favourites at present but that could all change come full-time on Wednesday, especially with Manchester United lurking following their victory over Leeds United.

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