A Tactical Look At Manchester City vs Arsenal

This Saturday’s encounter between Manchester City and Arsenal is likely to prove a fascinating tactical battle between two astute managers. Have Arsenal learnt their lessons from their draw against Everton? Will Theo Walcott be given a start? What will be City’s shape up front?

Arsenal must keep it tighter between the lines

In their 1-1 draw against Everton Arsenal struggled to protect space in front of the back four. Everton had Steven Pienaar drifting inside from the left, Kevin Mirallas spending much time centrally and, most crucially, Ross Barkley in the no. 10 position.

The gifted youngster constantly got the better of Mikel Arteta and positioned himself brilliantly to find pockets of space in dangerous zones throughout the contest. But it was not only the Spaniard who was guilty of Arsenal conceding those vital areas. Aaron Ramsey’s positioning was too advanced at times and he did not offer Arteta enough protection.

Arsene Wenger realised the problem bringing on Mathieu Flamini for the Welshman on 67 minutes. In the game against Napoli on Wednesday he opted for the Arteta-Flamini partnership from the very beginning. Wenger will hardly drop the in-form Ramsey again, but he will definitely instruct him to sit deeper and we will see a rather cautious Arsenal side.

What will City look like up front?

The partnership between Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo is unique. When fielded together, Negredo’s average position is slightly deeper than Aguero’s and you rarely see such a powerful forward in these positions. The Spaniard’s link-up play is very good indeed and his willingness to drop deeper allows Aguero to stay higher up and use his incredible acceleration in behind.

Had David Silva still been injured, Manuel Pellegrini would surely select the duo that had worked brilliantly in big games against Manchester United and Tottenham this season. But with the Spanish playmaker fit again, the City manager might play Silva in the no. 10 role trying to enhance Arsenal’s above-mentioned troubles in that zone. Then, James Milner would be used on the right to provide balance.

It might be wise to hand Theo Walcott a start

City are extremely dangerous down their left where Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri form an intelligent partnership. Nasri drifts inside to create overloads in the middle vacating space for the full-back who times his runs perfectly. They are as dangerous down they right too, but Arsenal have an ideal weapon to disrupt the Kolarov-Nasri connection in the figure of Theo Walcott.

The England winger would either pin Kolarov back or exploit the space he left behind on the counter attack. Besides, City proved vulnerable to simple balls over the top recently, which was particularly visible in the second half of their match against Southampton last Saturday – nearly all chances the Saints created came after long simple balls. Not only Walcott could profit from this, Olivier Giroud also thrives in these kinds of situations being able to latch onto them and lay it off neatly.