I was there in Germany to follow Pep Guardiola’s team boss’s possession of the ball and the game in the 3-1 win against him RB Leipzig on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions Leagueinspired by a moment of genius Julian Alvarez when, after a period of stubborn resistance from the Bundesliga side, he scored a delicious goal to effectively win the game. The result allayed any concerns that City might be showing signs of vulnerability after consecutive defeats Newcastle And Wolves.
The defence Premier League The champions have not lost three consecutive games in a single season since 2018 and never looked like they would in Leipzig, where their possession percentage was an incredible 88% at times.
The return of the midfield anchor Rodri, who was able to play in Europe despite his current domestic ban, made a crucial difference. Manchester City lose just seven percent of games when Rodri plays, rising to 33% when he is absent.
It’s easy to argue that he’s one of the team’s most valuable players, and the good news for Arsenal is that Rodri won’t be able to play on Sunday. It’s the final game of his three-game suspension and so the key to this big game could be how effective City is in Rodri’s absence in that ‘No. 6“ can compensate.
Guardiola obviously doesn’t trust Calvin Phillips And Mateo Kovacic; Despite his class, Kovacic failed when given the job in the shock defeat to Wolves. John Stones, out since the Community Shield in August, is fit again and was on the substitutes’ bench in Germany. He has the talent and passing range to take on the anchor role if required, but will he be ready or sharp enough to start against Arsenal after seeing so little action so far this season? It’s a difficult dilemma for Guardiola, who has to improvise in a key area of the pitch.
A man who made his case in Leipzig was 18 years old Rico Lewis, who alongside Rodri was a bundle of ideas and energy. When Guardiola was asked to judge the Manchester-born youngster’s performance, he smiled broadly and said: “Wow!”
City are even more excited about returning from injury Bernardo Silvawhat means Kevin De Bruyne is the only notable name still in the treatment room. However, this is against it Jack Grealish He appeared subdued in the Champions League after returning from a serious leg injury, and against Arsenal he could lose his starting place to the quick and direct player Jérémy documentarywho scored City’s third goal in Germany.
In the meantime Erling Haaland, normally a scoring machine, is experiencing a rare dry spell. Five games without a goal is his longest drought in the Champions League and he barely got a kick against the Wolves warhorse Craig Dawson Last weekend. However, the hungry Haaland is never quiet for long and has still scored eight goals in 11 games this season.
Arsenal, for whom the title is a holy grail having not won it since the 2003/04 season, will certainly present a far tougher test than a more undemanding Leipzig. The Gunners’ approach, still smarting from the way City conquered them last season, will be intriguing in manager Mikel Arteta’s latest mind game against his old City boss and mentor Guardiola.
They suspect Arsenal’s Champions League defeat lensWhere Bukayo Saka sustained an injury could be because his thoughts were already focused on the big clash against City. It’s not in Arsenal’s DNA to sit back and play on the counterattack at home, but Wolves have shown that denying City’s playmakers those half spaces could be the most effective game plan.
The gap between the teams narrowed to just one point last weekend, with City sitting at the top of the table on 18 points, but their midweek win in Saxony was an ominous warning that City are back to winning ways. And that should worry Arsenal more than anything else.