Pepe to start: How Arsenal can line up to beat Manchester City on Sunday


Arsenal face the near-impossible task of trying to beat a Manchester City team that is on a massive 17 game-winning run. So how can they possibly do it?

It’s difficult to outplay Manchester City at any time, let alone when they are in this form. Arteta will have to go back to set his team up with extreme defensive discipline and look to play on the counter-attack. With a Europa League knockout tie in the balance, Arteta also has to be mindful of some players who have played a lot recently.

The young inspiring midfield duo of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, have become essential parts of this Arsenal team. But with big games against Benfica and Leicester City next week, Mikel Arteta will know he cannot afford to play the duo every minute of every game, with such a short break in-between. These two players have helped Arsenal dominate games more and create more chances, but in games last season where the Gunners managed to win against the big teams, Smith Rowe wasn’t even at the club and Saka was in and out of the team, used as a wing-back.

Arteta should turn back the clock a little in search of a result against his former club.

Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno

Defence: Cedric Soares, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhaes, Kieran Tierney

Tierney had 30 minutes against Benfica and if fit, should come back into this one fresh. Cedric has been more impressive than Bellerin in recent games, so deserves a chance in his favoured right-back berth. I’d like to see Holding come in for David Luiz, with the Englishman always turning in top performances against the big boys.

Midfield: Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Nicolas Pepe, Martin Odegaard, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Pepe has been left out in the last couple of games, but the Ivorian had been showing some top form in games before that. His pace and directness make him a dangerous weapon against City on the break. If he is on it, his finishing is also capable of making the difference. With Saka and Smith Rowe rested, Odegaard has played less frequently so should have the legs to start this one and aim to be the springboard of Arsenal’s counters. Aubameyang, like he did in the FA Cup semi-final last season, can really punish Manchester City on the break from that left attacking channel. Thomas Partey is still not match fit following his latest injury setback, so you’d expect Ceballos and Xhaka to remain at the heart of midfield, though Mohammed Elneny is another option. Arteta could opt for a more defensive central trio and select Elneny ahead of Odegaard, giving Arsenal a flat midfield three and placing more creative burden on the number 9…

Striker: Alexandre Lacazette

Lacazette had played a big part in Arsenal’s resurgence but after struggling against Wolves and Aston Villa, the Frenchman looked out of energy. After completely sitting out the Leeds and Benfica games, Alex should be fresh and ready to play a vital role in this game. His energy and hold-up play will be vital to help spring Arsenal’s counters.

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