Morning all.

Happy Easter one and all.

It’s a big day for Arsenal. The women play Chelsea in the League Cup Final at Molineux, kick off at 3pm and then the men take on Man City at The Etihad, kick off at 4-30pm.

A basket of chocolate eggs or 3 points later this afternoon, there’s only one winner. This is a big game in terms of the title race. A big game in terms of maintaining confidence too because in 2024, Mikel Arteta’s team are yet to experience domestic defeat.

At The Etihad, City are a strong. It feels like they’ve not lost a home fixture since man stepped foot on the moon. Their home fans, like so many, make a difference, unless they’re silenced of course.  Arsenal need to do at the earliest opportunity. Easy to say, hard to do I know. Guardiola’s side will want to play possession football, it’s what they do. Personally, I find it boring but there you go. Their last home game was a 3-1 defeat of Man Utd at the beginning of the month. Utd went ahead before Foden scored 2 and Haaland added another late in the game. 70% possession of the game went to the home team. The last time we went to The Etihad, the result was awful, the entire situation was awful

KdB opened the scoring 7 minutes in, John Stones added a 2nd just before half-time, de Bruyne scored again after the break to make it 3-0. Rob Holding scored Arsenal’s only goal of the game but by then, we’d been battered. Haaland put a 4th past Aaron Ramsdale right at the end of the game. A horrid result for Mikel Arteta’s team. A team quite different to the one we could see up against Man City today. Declan Rice, David Raya, Kai Havertz and Jakub Kiwior are yet to face City at The Etihad wearing an Arsenal kit. William Saliba will be fit for to play too which he wasn’t last season but there is doubts over the fitness of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel, none of whom have taken part in training this week. However, as Mikel Arteta said in his Friday press conference:

There is a chance. They haven’t trained but tomorrow we have another session so there is a chance that they can be available.

Speaking at his pre-Arsenal press conference on Friday, Guardiola said:

Injuries. Ederson is much, much better. Kyle and John are out. It is what it is.

I suspect we’ve all watched enough of Man City to know what to expect from them today but here is Arsenal’s Adrian Clarke’s view:

Guardiola has turned to a 3-2-4-1 in key games so far in 2024, but he prefers a back four in games against us meaning he will likely set up in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. On home turf and knowing how strong our spine is, I expect City to stretch play by targeting our full-back areas. Tricky winger Jeremy Doku will be stationed wide on the left, with Phil Foden sliding inside from the right to wreak havoc. How we handle those two slippery dangermen will have a huge impact on the outcome.

Rodri versus Declan Rice is another fascinating battleground. While they may not directly contest too many duels against one another, the midfield titan that shines brightest is unlikely to end up on the losing side. However, if our shape remains robust, we have the strength, pace and quality to hurt Guardiola’s side from turnover situations. In big games this term, City have been susceptible to direct attacks. Tottenham, Aston Villa and Liverpool all scored from quick counters against them, and our winner at Emirates Stadium stemmed from one long pass.

Staying in the contest will be of critical importance. In games against the top five this season City have had a habit of fading from half-time onwards, conceding six goals and scoring just once. Like our two previous meetings this season, our substitutes could have a big say late on.

If Mikel Arteta doesn’t have Gabriel, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka available today, not only will our first eleven be less strong, but also our bench. Yes, it’s the same for City if their ‘doubtful’s’ turn out to be missing but I think their squad is stronger and deeper than ours meaning Guardiola’s substitute options will be better. Bringing on Alvarez is a bit different to Eddie Nketiah coming on for us. The latter has barely kicked a competitive football this year. It’s the same for ESR, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson, Thomas Partey and Takehiro Tomiyasu too.

The questions on my mind relate to the ex City players. Oleksandr Zinchenko gives us something extra going forward but his free roaming licence, throws the defence out. If he’s not back in defence when Foden is on the ball, we could be in trouble. Will Gabriel Jesus start now he’s fit or will Mikel Arteta stick with what and who has worked so well to get us in this position? There’s a reason the saying ‘if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ exists. If Martinelli is ruled out I suppose there’s a space for Jesus to fill but is he a better option against City than Trossard? Kai Havertz dropping to the bench just isn’t going to happen in my opinion. I think Jorginho is a certainty to start because he and Declan Rice has worked so well. If Gabriel misses out, will Kiwior shift into the centre or will Tomiyasu come in to fill the gap? We’ll have to wait and see.

On paper, this game should be a cracker but it could quite easily be drab too as the cat and mouse game between both teams and managers plays out. Outside of the Arsenal ‘family’ I doubt anyone truly believes we can win. We’re underdogs that’s for sure but underdogs can spring a surprise. We’re a young team/squad with no experience of winning at The Etihad but that doesn’t matter either because one day we will.

Maybe, just maybe, that day will be today.

Catch up in the comments….