Arsenal vs Manchester City Preview: Unai Emery faces tough start to life in England

Arsenal vs Manchester City Preview: Unai Emery faces tough start to life in England

Arsenal's new chapter starts with the greatest test possible.

Matt Dawson

The opening weekend of the new Premier League season has served up a delicious treat. 

Just a month after the World Cup ended in Russia, it's back to domestic action as two of England's heavyweights meet at the Emirates on Sunday with Arsenal welcoming Manchester City to North London. 

It's an incredibly difficult start for Unai Emery as the Gunners new chapter starts against a team tipped for more superiority after their exploits last season. 

Pep Guardiola's team are fancied once more, and who'd put it past them to be lifting the title again in May. 

A new beginning for Arsenal

Arsenal go into a Premier League season without Arsene Wenger for the first time since 1996. 

The Frenchman left the club after 22 years of service earlier in the year, and with his replacement, the Gunners are aiming to bring back the good times.

Games against Man City and Chelsea in the opening two weeks of the new season are strong tests for Emery and his players but it will be a good chance to get an early glimpse of what his team will be made of this campaign. 

It's a fresh start for everyone at the club and what better way to continue the new found positivity surrounding Arsenal than with an opening day win against City.

Arsenal are an unknown quantity going into the new campaign, something which should excite and also intrigue fans. A title challenge is very unlikely, but a top-four place isn't out of the equation. 

Arsenal finished sixth last season as they completed their campaign in dismal fashion. They won just once on the road in the league after the turn of the year and they were knocked out of the Europa League in the semi-finals.

Emery has European pedigree in that competition though and that could remain their best chance of getting back into the Champions League.

However, if Emery can sort out Arsenal's defensive problems then they could be a force to be reckoned with, such is the quality they possess in attacking positions. 

City the favourites

Unlike Arsenal, Guardiola's team are a force all over the pitch. Their defence will be even stronger this season too, especially after the World Cup campaign's Kyle Walker and John Stones had. Benjamin Mendy is meanwhile fit again and will provide more consistency on the left. 

That coupled with their exceptional midfield and options in forward areas mean they'll be favourites again this season.

Sergio Aguero is already among the goals whilst Leroy Sane is fresh after surprisingly not being included in Germany's World Cup squad. 

City made just one signing over the summer as Riyad Mahrez arrived from Leicester, but despite their lack of acquisitions, it would be difficult to bet against City being even better in 2018/19. 

Guardiola had his side playing a special brand of football last term which no one came close to, and it's hard to see Arsenal getting near to them on Sunday and over the course of the season too. 

However, this could be a good time to play them. The likes of Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva are not expected to be up to speed yet but City still looked a class apart without them when they beat Chelsea in the Community Shield last weekend. 

City have great depth, though, and the Gunners could be in for a difficult afternoon as they try to welcome their new era in with a win on Sunday.

Team news

Arsenal's main concern going into the weekend will be the fitness of Aaron Ramsey. He was due to play against Chelsea in the club's penultimate pre-season friendly match but was injured in the warm-up.

He has returned to training this week but it's unclear as to whether he'll start the match or be among the substitutes. 

The Gunners are expected to start with Ainsley Maitland-Niles at left back. Bosnian Sead Kolasinac is out for two months with a knee injury and Nacho Monreal isn't yet match fit. 

Other absentees include Laurent Koscielny who is still nursing a long-term Achilles injury whilst Danny Welbeck is unlikely to be in the squad due to a lack of match fitness. 

Bernd Leno is expected to be preferred in goal to Petr Cech, with Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis the centre-back pairing. 

Manchester City have no injury concerns but there are questions over a few squad members match fitness following their late returns to pre-season training. 

Walker, Kompany and Stones should be fit after playing a part in the Community Shield but the likes of Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne and Silva may have to settle for places on the bench.

Bernardo Silva has earned huge praise from Guardiola in pre-season and is expected to play a key role for City.

He'll be among the players Arsenal will have to keep a close eye on if they're to stand any chance of getting a result. 


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