After an early, largely unwanted, break for international matches, the Premier League returns with a bang on Saturday with a heavyweight contest between champions Manchester City and title hopefuls Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The new season may be just three matches old, but neither team will want to countenance a defeat after already dropping unwanted points.
The two sides met just a month ago when Arsenal won 3-0 at Wembley in the Community Shield with a triumph that inspired much confidence for the season ahead for Arsene Wenger’s men. But things have not gone smoothly since.
Arsenal’s early season suffered a real blow when key striker Olivier Giroud was ruled out for the rest of 2014 with an ankle injury. His presence was clearly missed at the King Power Stadium, increasing the pressure on Wenger to add to his striking options before the close of the transfer window. In the dying hours he responded with the £16 million signing of Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. His debut is now set to come against the local rivals of his boyhood club. With Yaya Sanogo still looking extremely raw and the side struggling with Alexis Sanchez as an unorthodox leader of the line, Welbeck currently looks the best bet.
In contrast to Arsenal, Manchester City trimmed their attacking contingent on deadline day when allowing Alvaro Negredo to go on loan to Valencia in a deal that is likely to be made permanent. And the forward options for Manuel Pellgrini could be further diminished at the Emirates with Stevan Jovetic being forced to miss Montenegro’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Moldova after suffering a hamstring injury in training. After being plagued by injuries in his first season at the Etihad, Jovetic had made a strong start to the campaign, particularly when scoring twice in a 3-1 over Liverpool. If Jovetic is ruled out on Saturday, Pellegrini will be left with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero as his only fit forwards.
Neither side has hit top gear this season, but must perform in what is already an important match. If City are at their best, and Yaya Toure is tuned in, then they can overpower Arsenal in the center of midfield. Arsenal will also face a challenge to keep tabs on David Silva, who can drift between the lines and really make his side tick. But on home soil and boosted by a debut for Welbeck, Arsenal could battle to secure a point as they did in the same fixture last season.
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City
At the time of this post, NaijaBet odd or Arsenal to win is 2.76, Manchester City to win is 2.33 to end in draw is 3.25