Manchester City are not quite sure what to expect when they rock up at the Grove to get their Premier League title defence underway and I, for one, couldn’t be happier with that.
For far too long teams knew exactly how to play against Arsenal and fans knew what they were going to get.
In their pre-match build-up, the official Manchester City website writes, “With sweeping changes to both coaching and playing staff at the Emirates this summer, it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect from Arsenal.
“Unai Emery is a manager known for attention to detail. His training sessions are often long and hard, and he places heavy focus on video analysis.
“He demands plenty, both physically and tactically, but it’s a process that helped him deliver three consecutive Europa League titles while in charge of Seville, as well as seven trophies in two seasons at Paris Saint-Germain. Why change now.
“The Arsenal players are likely to have been worked harder this summer than they did under Arsene Wenger. Emery, known for creating well-drilled sides, will have impressed on them the importance of pressing high and hard and then counter-attacking swiftly.
“The expression and artistry of the Wenger era won’t have been lost completely but will have been replaced, in large parts, by pragmatism and organisation.
“Emery is likely to set his side up not to lose. He knows City possess quality in abundance and is huge admirer of Guardiola. It would be suicide for him to open up and take the game to the champions.
“It may be a case of City having to be far more patient than on our last trip to the Emirates.”
City certainly didn’t need any patience the last time they came to N5. Running out 3-0 winners in a game that sealed Arsene Wenger’s fate as Arsenal boss, Pep Guardiola’s men gave Wenger’s a footballing lesson.
It was the second 3-0 defeat at the hands of City in only a few days but the two matches couldn’t have been more different. While Arsenal embarrassed themselves at Wembley in the League Cup final by losing 3-0 to a City side that were far from their best, in the Premier League match that followed Arsenal actually played quite well. The problem was City played really well.
It’s impossible to know how this match will go. Arsenal are far from favourites – almost 3-1 with some bookies to win, remarkable odds for a top side at home.
What we do know is that it will be different than we’ve seen for the last decade and for that, most Arsenal fans are eternally grateful.
We’ll deal with whatever happens after that…