Gunners look to fire past Haaland's unbeatables

Can Arsenal clutch the league title?

Dan Balliston
6th May 2023
Image: Twitter @FabrizioRomano
Offer an Arsenal fan a Premier League title showdown away at Manchester City at the end of April back in August 2022 and every one of them will snap your hand off. As the Gunners prepare for their biggest game since the Arsene Wenger era, they find themselves in the title race for the first time in over a decade. Lingering hopes of a top two finish have seemed to fade away by the Christmas for Arsenal fans in recent years, however Mikel Arteta’s side have led the Premier League table since the opening night of the season and as they edge towards their final six games, they still hold the conch in this thrilling title race.

This game, though, must not deceive both neutral viewers and fans. An Arsenal victory at the Etihad Stadium tonight will certainly strengthen their grip on the trophy, however taking a potentially two-point lead to Newcastle away and when in-form Brighton visit will only increase the intense pressure on this excellent yet inexperienced squad. A defeat for Manchester City tonight will not be in Pep Guardiola’s plans, however winning the two games in hand that they hold over Arsenal forces the North London club into perfection and an inescapable reality of needing to secure fifteen points out of their last five games regardless of the result on Wednesday evening.

As Arsenal sit five points better off than their rivals, albeit having played two games more, Arteta’s red and white army will go into this game knowing that they have made their fans proud since that summer’s evening at Selhurst Park back in August when they kick-started this memorable season. Whether or not they do overcome this irresistible machine that Manchester City have proven to be under Guardiola, a second placed league finish is an overwhelming improvement compared with their fifth-place outcome last May.

Analysing the two sides ahead of the game, the significant team news is the continued absence of Arsenal defender, William Saliba. The Frenchman has been side-lined for several weeks now and, with his side winless in their last three games and conceding seven goals in that time, his absence has created a noticeable in their side. Rob Holding has stepped in as an admirable understudy alongside Gabriel, however the prospect of Erling Haaland leading the line for City does appear to be a mismatch without the presence of Saliba. If Holding’s performance prevents the Norwegian from scoring, then it will go some way to ensuring his side leave Manchester with the spoils, yet containing Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez simultaneously looks to be a frightening task even if their striker is kept quiet.

It must be remembered, though, that Arsenal lead City in the race for good reason. The exceptional Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Jesus will spearhead their attack with Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard offering capable support. Haaland’s fellow countryman and Arsenal captain, Odegaard, has been sensational for the Gunners this season and will play an essential role of dictating the play when the away side do get hold of the ball. Thomas Partey and the much-improved Granit Xhaka will look to overcome City in midfield when the chance comes for them to get on the ball but the prospect of outplaying a side who look nailed on to complete the coveted treble may just be a step too far for this Arsenal side who by simply being where they are now, have already been miraculous.

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