Arsenal visit Manchester City this weekend and will be hoping to pile more misery on the reigning Premier League champions while subsequently reducing the gap on London rivals Spurs – the Gunners, though, are thin in defence due to a number of injuries but this may be a blessing in disguise.
Unai Emery will surely be scratching his head over how he can approach Saturday’s clash with City; Sokratis Papasthathopolous, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding are completely out of the picture, while Laurent Koscielny is being assessed (per Arsenal’s official club website).
The former Sevilla boss has chopped and changed frequently in a bid to find the right blend in his Arsenal side, but the lengthy list of wounded means his options are limited.
However, the lack of defenders may mean Emery is forced into a three-at-the-back approach, particularly due to the lack of pace now that Bellerin is sidelined. If the Gunners’ honchos tuned in for City’s defeat to Newcastle on Wednesday night, they would see that this is the key to besting Pep Guardiola’s men.
City have lost four Premier League games this season, three of which have come against teams in the bottom half. Crystal Palace got the better of the Etihad Stadium outfit before Christmas and the Magpies ran out 2-1 winners on Wednesday night – Palace played with five men in midfield while Newcastle’s wing-backs offered their men in the middle plenty of support, which is crucial to thwarting the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
Nacho Monreal’s lack of pace would surely leave him exposed on the counter by Raheem Sterling or Riyad Mahrez and so tucking the Spaniard into a back-three might be the best option, with Sead Kolasinac providing cover at left-wing-back. At the same time, the Bosnian and (most likely) Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the opposite flank can push up to support the engine room and help congest the middle of the park.
With Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top, the Gunners still possess plenty of attacking talent to upset the Cityzens – playing with three-at-the-back enables both to start and Emery to play the five-man midfield which is becoming City’s kryptonite.