Arsenal gear up for tough test at Manchester City

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Not even the most ardent of Arsenal fans will tell you that the Gunners were convincing in the 1-0 victory over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. But, as they say in football:

“The three points are all that matters”.

This was certainly the case for Mikel Arteta’s men against the lowly Hammers. Out of a performance that owed more to huff and puff than polish, Arsenal managed to nick the win — thanks to sub Alex Lacazette’s goal in the second half that needed VAR to overrule the offside originally given after Mesut Ozil had set up the chance.

Arteta would be the first to acknowledge that the display against David Moyes’ side was more stuttering than smooth; after the win he spoke about performances being related to winning or not winning matches. He added

“We have to review the game, take some outcome out of it and prepare the game well to go to Manchester and try to win again.”

But the vital three points were gathered and the north London side move on to their next Premier League game — the arguably unenviable trip to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday to face Pepe Guardiola’s wounded City side.

City might have a sting in the tail when the Gunners go to the Etihad Stadium after they were beaten 2-0 at Old Trafford in the Manchester derby on Sunday. They dominated possession but lacked real goal threat and Manchester United played with determination, sat in and took their chances when they arrived. It could go one of two ways for Arteta’s men — Guardiola’s side may suffer a setback in their confidence and allow Arsenal to take advantage of that. Or they could redouble their efforts to get back to winning ways and then the Gunners would face a tough test.

Arteta would probably consider not being so open at City but without Lucas Torreira (out with a fracture to right ankle picked up in the FA Cup win at Portsmouth) he will probably go again with the midfield pairing of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos. But for more bite in the middle of the park perhaps Mattéo Guendouzi might be employed.

At the rear he will more than likely go with the same back four that helped win over the Hammers (Bukayo Saka, David Luis, Pablo Mari and Papa Sokratis), although Hector Bellerin, with his marauding runs down the flank, may be preferred at right-back. Up front you would think that Ozil keeps his place in the playmaker role, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is guaranteed a spot in the front three. Arteta must choose between Nic Pepe, Alex Lacazette, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah to complete the starting line-up, arguably.

One way or another, Arsenal would settle for anything other than a defeat.

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