Arsenal face Manchester City in the competition most likely to provide silverware to either club.
Arsene Wenger made a huge tactical change by putting three at the back against Middlesborough – the first time he had switched formation for the start of a game for over 10 years. It’s possible that he may stick with this for Sunday – and so, I will present two different analyses.
This matches up with City’s 4-1-4-1, as Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey are set to hold against the flair of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, both of who have proved devastating in this system. However, the offence in this has looked stagnant, and the double pivot can look vulnerable when either of the two goes venturing forward. However, if Wenger allows the wide players to cut inside (preferably Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott), Mesut Ozil dropping to make it a three in midfield would make the side more robust off the ball.
Tried against Middlesborough, this system looked fluid and solid at times – but against Manchester City, it doesn’t match up well. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have proved fantastic, but against Monreal on the left and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right, it would allow the two wingers to get between Arsenal’s centre-backs and wing-backs with ease.
However, this formation looks better offensively, and three at the back to smother Sergio Aguero isn’t a bad idea.
Overall, Arsenal would do well to revert to four at the back, with Ramsey and Xhaka as the double pivot. However, I would take advantage of Jesus Navas at right back with the inclusion of a marauding Kieran Gibbs, and replace the Olivier Giroud/Vincent Kompany physical duel with Danny Welbeck outpacing the latter.
In any sense, stopping City’s front five is always a monumental task, but cracks appear at the back in a slow, makeshift defence, and the Gunners must look to take advantage.