Arsenal and Manchester City will do battle in the semi-finals of the FA Cup this weekend. These were the same two teams that reintroduced football post-lockdown to the nation, now they will put on another spectacle for us.
A lot has happened since these two last met, Manchester City have lost their title and thrashed the Champions within the same week while Arsenal have gone a mini unbeaten streak, lost a derby and also beaten the Champions.
With nothing left to play for in the league, this game offers both teams a chance at precious silverware. Due to the amount of world-class quality on the pitch, this will be game will be decided by the finest of margins.
Here are the key battles that will take place in Arsenal vs. Manchester City.
Dani Ceballos vs. David Silva
The apprentice versus the master. Dani Ceballos matching up against David Silva will be a key battle at the heart of the midfield. In recent weeks, Ceballos has emerged as Arsenal’s most creative source, averaging 1.1 key passes a game. In a pivot, Ceballos has tried his best to be the link between midfield and the front three. The main flaw of the 3-4-3 system is the distance between midfield and attack, often allowing opponents to block those passing lanes.
At the same time, the 23-year-old has been incredibly hard-working, trying to cause as many turnovers as possible. If he’s to win the ball back on Saturday, he’s going to have to get it off David Silva first.
The experienced Spaniard will as normal be dictating all things in the final third and if he’s not man-marked, he’ll wreak havoc. Whichever Spaniard can average the most key passes in the game, will certainly win the game for their team as each have clinical forwards to supply.
Kyle Walker vs. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang
If their recent encounters are anything to go by, Arsenal will be spending most of this match without the ball. That means the club’s top scorer will have to continuously track the overlapping runs of Kyle Walker. Much of City’s attacking play is reliant on the width provided by their full-backs, as they look to stretch their opponents thus creating holes in their backline. This season, no Arsenal player has blocked more passes (36) than Aubameyang.
Under Arteta, the striker has been diligent in his defensive work often tracking back into his own box. He will have to once again be disciplined against City as Walker averages 66 passes a game. On the flip side, City must be wary of Arsenal’s counter-attack and Aubameyang’s runs in behind have often been an outlet for the team in transition. The two speedsters will be chasing each other all game and whoever gets the better of the other, will certainly impact the game.
Alexandre Lacazette vs. Aymeric Laporte
How much of the game Arsenal are to play in City’s third will be dependent on how well Alexandre Lacazette can hold up play. The Frenchman has been in scintillating form recently and will have to be at his best to bring his teammates into the game. As we mentioned earlier, the gap between midfield and attack is notable in a 3-4-3, to compensate for this Lacazette has been seen to drop deep imitating the role of a false 9. This in turn forces centre-backs to come out and meet him, thus creating space in behind them.
Aymeric Laporte’s marking of Lacazette will be key to penning the Gunners into their own half. If the Frenchman stops all service to the Arsenal striker, Manchester City will conclusively nullify the Gunners attacking threat.