Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Arsenal Vs Manchester City: Best time to play the best

Arsenal host Manchester City on the first weekend of the season. It may not seem like an ideal start to Unai Emery’s tenure, but it could be the best time to play the best. Here’s why.

Unai Emery was not handed the easiest start to life at Arsenal by the Premier League fixture machine. Ultimately, you have to play every team twice so it doesn’t really matter what the fixtures are. But I am sure that Emery would have chosen a re-run if he could when he saw what his opening couple of games are.

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The Gunners will host Manchester City on the first day of the season, perhaps the best team of the Premier League era. Pep Guardiola’s side waltzed to the title last year, threatening to go the whole season unbeaten and rewriting the expectations of a title-winning team.

The World Cup has thrown all of the summer preparations into disarray. Any summer international competition does. And there will be many players who will not return to their domestic clubs until shortly before the new season commences, meaning they could lack match sharpness and fitness during the early weeks of the season.They then travel to Chelsea, the champions from the season before, in another game that will be extremely difficult. It’s not the easiest start for Emery. Not at all. But there is some reason for hope, especially when it comes to the first of those two matches against City.
For City, that is a more pertinent issue than for some other teams. They sent 17 players to the World Cup, which is a record for any domestic club in the history of the competition, and had 11 at the quarter-final stage, another record. Many of their starring players will return to Manchester late in the summer.
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Kevin de Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Fabian Delph and Benjamin Mendy will all not return to the club until the weekend of the Community Shield, August 5th. City’s trip to the Emirates is exactly a week later.

But more than just those players who featured in the semi-finals and finals, the Brazilian quartet of Gabriel Jesus, Danilo, Ederson and Fernandinho are not set to return to the City Football Academy until shortly before the Community Shield against Chelsea. That would give them approximately ten days to prepare themselves for the Arsenal match. Even if they are able to start, it’s unlikely that they’ll be at their sharpest.It would, therefore, be surprising if any of these players feature in that match. They may be fit enough to make the bench and perhaps come on late in the game, but it would be surprising to see any in the starting XI.
For Arsenal, then, while playing the best in the league on the first day of the season may not seem ideal, it could actually be the best time to play them. You’ve got to face them at some point, so why not while they are at their weakest.

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