Scouting Report: Manchester City vs Arsenal
I’ve said it prior to the last fixture against City, I’ll say it once again and it will always apply as long as they are able to spend freely: Manchester City are probably the most unpredictable team in the league simply due to the staff at their disposal. When you can have the individual talent that they do, tactics barely seem to matter.
So much so that Roberto Mancini has opted for a rather odd 3 man backline in an attempt to actually contribute something to this team. Since City are a tactical anomaly at times we’re going to head to some of the brilliant data provided by Ravi.
The most important of which is: City had a season low 53 successful passes in the final third in the game at Emirates (season average : 135). Even at the game in Etihad, City only managed 105 successful passes.
Over the last few meetings between the teams Arsenal have dominated possession – which is why Arsenal have allowed the least touches of the ball by the opposition in the final third – regardless of the final outcome of the match. And between Cazorla and Arteta, both of whom have pass completion rates of over 90%, that could be even more prominent this Sunday. The best way to defend City is to keep the ball away from them.
As a result, City haven’t had much of a chance to threaten the Arsenal defence whether at the Emirates or at the Etihad in recent years. The goals have eventually come out of counter attacks which should be easier to stop this time around with a more defensive set up.
We could expect either City’s regular 4-4-1-1 formation or the more experimental 3-5-2. Although considering that Arsenal are more likely to be in control of the game Mancini might have to stick with the former, pushing his wingers back to defend. The way Arsenal are set up, a 3-5-2 would be easy to exploit in any case.
City are a very explosive team. They can be passing the ball squarely one moment and suddenly spring a pass in behind the defence the next. In that sense, both teams are very similar so it will come down to who takes their chances. In the three matches last season, including the two that they won, City had a grand total of 8 shots on goal while Arsenal had 18 yet they were able to score 2 to our 1. Fortunately, this time around we have more players who can get into goal scoring positions so the likelihood of all those shots on target being converted is a lot higher.
City also scored the most goals from corners last season so those battles will be another interesting aspect of this match. Their ability to bother the opposition from corners really stood out against QPR where Robert Green, unsurprisingly, failed to clear the relatively predictable delivery by David Silva on multiple occasions. It led to a goal, during which Yaya Toure, like so many other times, happily cleaned up the mess left in the goalkeeper’s wake. Fortunately, our defending at the near post has been solid so far which is where we face the biggest threat.
They’ve scored the most goals from outside the box last season as well, which means unlike the previous four matches, we really need to see more pressure in the final third.
Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure are the obvious dangermen for City. Tevez is the complete package, able to singlehandedly drive an entire attack with his pace, power and skill. When off the ball he tends to patrol the edge of the box before exploding in behind the defence, mostly likely to get on the end of a David Silva pass.
Yaya offers much of the same in attack. His powerful runs from deep can cause a lot of problems and it’s exactly that that catches defenders off guard as they aren’t set up to track the extra man. Here’s where I would’ve been a bit worried about Song in the side but Arteta is far more responsible in his role and should hopefully be able to keep Toure at bay.
It’s definitely a battle of team vs individual here and either can win it. Like so many past meetings between the two, this could well be decided by a single goal.