Arsenal v Manchester City: Premier League's top two go head to head

Wed, Feb 15, 2023
By editor


TOP two Arsenal and Manchester City go head to head on Wednesday in one of the most eagerly anticipated Premier League games of the season.

Defending champions City would go top with a victory, having trailed the Gunners by eight points a month ago – although they have played a game more.

The sides met in the FA Cup at Etihad Stadium on 27 January, with Nathan Ake scoring as City won 1-0.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are bidding for their first title since 2003-04.

If Arsenal want to be top going into next weekend, they will have to do something they have not managed since 2017 – and pick up at least a point from a league game with City.

City have won their past 10 Premier League encounters and Arsenal’s only wins since 2015 have come in the FA Cup.

Has title momentum shifted?

Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Tottenham on 15 January took them eight points clear of City at the top of the Premier League table.

The following week, Eddie Nketiah’s 90th-minute winner to make it 3-2 against Manchester United felt like a pivotal moment.

But since then, they have failed to win in three games – the cup defeat by City, a Premier League loss to relegation battlers Everton and then a 1-1 draw with Brentford on Saturday.

They had only lost three games in all competitions this season before then.

The latest game was riddled with controversy after it emerged video assistant referee operator Lee Mason did not draw the guidelines to check for offside on Ivan Toney’s equaliser for Brentford.

City’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday was their fourth win in their past five games.

After last month’s defeat by Manchester United, their last game before their recent upturn in form, Guardiola said: “I don’t care if we win the Premier League.”

In another January interview, he said: “If Arsenal continue this way, we will not catch them. We have to be almost perfect to the end of the season – and hope they drop a little bit in their performance.”

But City, who have won six Premier League titles since Arsenal last lifted the trophy in 2004, would go top on goal difference if they win.

The Gunners, for their part, have a chance to make a big statement – a win would take them six points clear with a game in hand.

The sides meet again at Etihad Stadium on 26 April.

Will Haaland play?

Erling Haaland
Erling Haaland has yet to fully pick up his pre-World Cup goalscoring form

Erling Haaland, who is Manchester City’s runaway top scorer this season with 31 goals, faces a fitness test before the game, having gone off at half-time on Sunday as they led Villa 3-0.

“Erling has a kick and we will assess in the next days what he can do,” said Guardiola.

“At half-time, I spoke with the doctors. They said at 3-0, ‘maybe don’t take risks’.

“Hopefully he can be in for Wednesday but if he is not ready, or there is some risk, he is not going to play.”

Haaland is the Premier League’s top scorer with 25 goals, which have come in his first 21 games in England’s top flight. Captain Martin Odegaard is the Gunners’ leading league scorer with eight goals.

What they say

“We need to move on really quickly in the league,” said Arteta after Saturday’s draw with Brentford.

“It will be a completely different game against City.

“We need to move to the next page, ask our people to be with us because we’re going to need them, and we’re going to have to create an incredible atmosphere on Wednesday.”

Guardiola said: “Arsenal have a game in hand. We will see after all the games when the Premier League is finished.

“But we are going to London to try to get a win. When one team has made 50 points in the first leg it is because they are very good.”

City midfielder Rodri added: “We have the chance to go top, go there and show our personality, the team that we are.

“They are playing at an incredible level. It is going to be an incredible fight and an incredible battle.”

Anything else?

Arsenal boss Arteta was Guardiola’s assistant boss at City from 2016 to 2019 and the two remain friends.

City fans booed the Premier League anthem before Sunday’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa after the league charged the club with more than 100 breaches of its financial rules between 2009 and 2018 last week.

During that time, City won three Premier League titles, one under Guardiola.

The Gunners’ line-up might be easy to predict. They have named the same starting XI in each of their past six Premier League games.

BBC Sport.