We’re back in Emirates FA Cup action this Sunday when we face Manchester City in the semi-final at Wembley Stadium.
Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke assess our opponents to find out about their strengths and areas that we can exploit.
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MC: Arsenal have already faced Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City twice this season, so should be well-accustomed to the nature of his side. However, Guardiola is a tactical chameleon intent on surprising opposing managers, and while his formational experiments haven’t always proved effective this season, he often has a trick up his sleeve ahead of big matches.
AC: You never know what Pep Guardiola’s going to do though. He’s a real deep thinker and he likes to do the unexpected. He’ll formulate a game plan which he believes will pray on the weaknesses of us playing three at the back.
MC: The more innovative systems have generally taken a back seat in recent weeks, and Guardiola has now settled on 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are the key midfielders – both can play at No 10 or in a deeper midfield role, and sometimes the two combine effectively when playing alongside one another in a 4-3-3. Arsenal must watch both carefully.
AC: In this match, because of City’s power up front, particularly in the wide areas, having an extra defender on the pitch will leave Arsenal less vulnerable, certainly to counter-attacks. It will also allow the centre backs to engage with Sergio Aguero when he does drop deep, which he loves to do. Somebody like Laurent Koscielny can get touch-tight knowing that he’s got two centre backs on the cover. I think we need to be brave here and go with it.
MC: City play with tremendous width. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane should start on either flank here, stretching the play and creating gaps for team-mates to pass through. Their combination play is sometimes mesmeric, particularly when Silva commands play from between the lines.
AC: I remember for that first goal in the Premier League game, it was impressive how City clipped the ball up to the front to play out from the back. The one-touch pass from De Bruyne and the early run from Sane really caught Bellerin out in that particular situation. Arsenal’s players all over the pitch need to be mentally sharp in this game, and expect the unexpected.
MC: Sergio Aguero remains a truly outstanding centre forward, and his combination of lightning pace and sudden finishes have caused Arsenal constant problems over the past few seasons. Playing high up the pitch can be extremely dangerous against Aguero, although he can find space in tighter situations too.
AC: I think Vincent Kompany will probably play and that’s a boost for Manchester City. He’s their best defender so that’s an upgrade from the league counter in their perspective.
AREAS TO TARGET
MC: Winger Jesus Navas has been deployed as a makeshift right-back in recent weeks, and struggled in the first half against Alexis recently. Meanwhile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been criticised for his shot-stopping ability, and Arsenal should test him from the outset here.
AC: I’d certainly stick with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in that wide role. I thought he was excellent and when I look at Clichy or Kolorov at left back, that’s a definite weakness. I don’t think either is having a particularly good season. Providing he starts again and Arsenal can get a lot of the ball to him, he could be our big weapon in this match. He’s got the pace, the athleticism and I’m not too worried about him defensively because he’ll have cover on the inside from one of our centre backs.
More polls and quizzes to follow soon