Arsenal face Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, looking to finally put an end to their terrible recent record against their opponents.
Ever since Arsenal’s 2-1 win over City in the 2017 FA Cup final, they haven’t even come close to beating Pep Guardiola’s side. In seven consecutive defeats, they conceded three goals six times, and only scored two overall.
It’s an atrocious record, even if the latest 3-0 defeat can go down largely to a David Luiz horror show and two first-half injuries.
But after the win over Premier League champions Liverpool on Wednesday, Arsenal will hope to turn things around for the semi-final. They’ll go into the game with nothing to lose, at least.
Let’s have a look at our predicted Arsenal lineup for the match.
Arsenal have often needed Bernd Leno on top form just to keep City to three goals, but this time they don’t have him available. Despite the German goalkeeper’s positive recent injury progress, Emi Martinez is the one fit and likely to start.
That’s not a problem, however, given Martinez’s current form. The goalkeeper has arguably never played better, and he was fantastic in the win over Liverpool. Another display like that would be very welcome.
It’s hard to justify Sead Kolasinac returning to the back three when Kieran Tierney was so good against Liverpool. With Bukayo Saka available to play at left-wing-back, there’s no necessity to use Tierney further forward either.
Instead, Tierney can partner David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi, who are both very likely to start. Mustafi got a rest against Liverpool in midweek, but that’s the only game he hasn’t played since football’s return.
Sokratis will continue his wait for his first start since recovering from injury. Kolasinac will probably drop to the bench along with Rob Holding, who played well against Liverpool but doesn’t seem entirely in favour under Arteta.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
As mentioned, Bukayo Saka should get another game on the left, with Tierney in the back-three. Hector Bellerin will start on the other side, with Cedric Soares cup-tied. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is also an option, on either side, but he’ll probably make the bench.
In the middle, Granit Xhaka will continue his run of playing every single game recently. Dani Ceballos should partner the midfielder after dropping out for Lucas Torreira against Liverpool. Torreira and Joe Willock will make the squad, but probably not the starting XI.
Mesut Özil appears to be back available at last, but I can’t see him starting this one.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dropped to the bench against Liverpool on Wednesday, presumably to give him a rest ahead of this one. Alexandre Lacazette is in good form and should start as well.
Much as Reiss Nelson did play well in midweek too, I think Nicolas Pepe will start on the right. It’s a system the Arsenal front three are more used to playing, and it allows both inside forwards to combine with their respective overlapping wing-backs whilst they’re able to cut inside onto their strong foot.