Arsenal vs Manchester City: Three key players to watch out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can have a major influence in the mammoth clash between Arsenal and Manchester City on Sunday.

If Mikel Arteta starts counting his best moments as an Arsenal player, he will fondly remember the clash with Manchester City at the Emirates. The then-Gunners midfielder was first on to a loose ball in midfield and then, driving it forward, hit a long ranger beyond Joe Hart’s reach to land Arsenal all three points.

For Arsenal, they need that character of a player on the pitch on Sunday when they take on arch-rivals Manchester City at the Emirates. Not only did the Gunners benefit from last weekend’s result, but they also closed the gap to a single point with Pep Guardiola’s side, as some see this game as a brilliant opportunity to show their mettle.

With Manchester City without influential midfielders Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne, Arsenal will feel this is a game they must win at all costs. The absence of the duo does make Manchester City a tad bit weaker in certain areas. But Guardiola will have a plan to offset those shortcomings.

Arsenal are a serious team this season, but Manchester City have the experience of winning games like this one, irrespective of where they play. Last season, Guardiola totally outclassed Arteta in their three games played over the campaign. However, the Arsenal boss will feel optimistic heading into Sunday.

After receiving Bukayo Saka’s fitness boost, Arsenal can rely on their young winger to produce the goods, while Declan Rice will have a key role to play to win the midfield battle. For Manchester City they have numerous players in every position that can turn things around. But Guardiola will rely on the form of Julian Alvarez in the absence of De Bruyne.

Those are the three players that can have an influential say in the direction of this game’s result. Saka and Rice will have to show their best version on Sunday, while Guardiola will be forced to hope individuals in his team make the best of their in-game moments, like Alvarez.

Julian Alvarez

Losing Kevin De Bruyne to an early season injury must have made Pep Guardiola rethink his plans for the season. The big blow came when the assessments revealed the Belgian playmaker was set for a lengthy time on the sidelines. And his absence showed in the team’s early displays.

Luckily for Guardiola, he had Alvarez stepping up to fill the big shoes of De Bruyne, and the Argentine has done a stellar job so far. While Erling Haaland somewhat continues to struggle, Alvarez has been the shining light in this Manchester City squad and has managed to offset some collective shortcomings through individual brilliance.

The latter is what makes him a special player, and Guardiola will hope the Argentine takes his chances wisely and changes the course of the game. For Manchester City to have the upper hand, they must look to take an early advantage, and the surprise element of Alvarez will prove key in that aspect.

Declan Rice

In games of this magnitude, often, the team that wins the midfield battles tends to take all three points. With Manchester City already showing vulnerability last weekend with a Rodri-less midfield setup, the spotlight will fall on Rice to dominate the game through his style.

Arsenal have a dominating midfielder on their hands, which is what Arteta likes in that role. Rice tends to win all his duels and confronts the opponent to dominate the central areas. The Gunners boss will hope the England star will give everything he has on the pitch on Sunday to make some favourable circumstances count in Arsenal’s direction.

If Rice has Thomas Partey alongside him in that Arsenal midfield, the duo could surely dominate and get the upper hand. Moreover, they can also act as a great protective shield for their backline, which will seem necessary given the quality of the opposition. The midfield area will be where this game will have its dictator, and Rice ought to be that.

Bukayo Saka

If someone observed a change in how Arsenal plays, they must have noticed how reliant Arteta has been on Saka to produce the goods in the attacking third. The winger already has five goals and as many assists in all competitions, including four goals in the Premier League.

That number could have been much higher had he taken all their penalties so far this season. Saka gave up on three of those, which shows how much of a high-volume contributor he’s turning out to be this term. That said, it is a massive boost for Arsenal if he starts, which he might, given the credibility of all the reports stating the same.

If he doesn’t, then it is a massive boost for Manchester City. Arteta will once again devise his attacking plans around Saka, and the winger must bring his A-game to the Emirates on Sunday. He can keep defences on their toes and will cause havoc at the back with his trickery and decisiveness.

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