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A rare clean sheet against Watford couldn’t have been timed any better
City looked solid throughout, restricting Watford to just one genuine scoring chance when Odion Ighalo should have levelled late on.
The 4-1-4-1 formation looked much more solid than the 3-5-2 adopted in several games this season and most recently at Leicester.
Whether Aleks Kolarov will again get the nod against Arsenal on Sunday to partner Nicolas Otamendi remains to be seen, but there was a touch of non- nonsense about the Blues’ defence against Watford with no hesitation in clearing the ball upfield when the occasion demanded.
There was also less playing from the back – partly due to the visitors rarely troubling the home defence until the later stages of the game, but also perhaps because City needed to take three points and get back to winning ways. Don't expect the Blues to suddenly become a long-ball side, though!
Arsenal have pace to burn with Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to be a handful from start to finish.
Another more direct approach may be adopted on Sunday given the speed of the opposition forwards and ability to close down quickly.
There’s no disguising the fact that Pep Guardiola faces a selection headache on Sunday.
With Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero still suspended, the loss of Ilkay Gundogan for perhaps several months means the Blues will be without two of the regular midfield starters plus our leading goal-scorer.
The Gunners will believe they are facing City at a great time, so how will the Blues line-up?
It seems certain that Yaya Toure will be included against the Gunners but it is also likely Pep will employ two holding midfielders – if so, Fernando could also start.
The final piece of the puzzle is up front – Kelechi Iheanacho will hope to get the nod over Nolito and his prolific goals-to-games record may just give the Nigerian the edge.
The Blues’ coaching staff will have no doubt watched Everton’s 2-1 win over Arsenal with great interest.
The Gunners appeared to be cruising towards victory until the Toffees players decided to get ‘in amongst it’. The pressing, full-blooded challenges and energy roused the Goodison Park crowd and rattled clearly Arsenal.
A similar energetic press and full throttle approach is needed on Sunday – and the Etihad needs to be loud and proud if the Blues are to win this game.
The roar that greeted Pablo Zabaleta’s goal against Watford tells you all you need to know about how the City fans feel about their Argentine warrior.
In the summer, speculation was rife that Zaba would leave City with Italy a likely destination, bringing the end of one of the Club’s most popular defenders of all time.
Instead, Zaba was told he was very much part of this season's plans and has been a regular fixture in Guardiola’s team, making 16 appearances already this season.
Better still, in the eyes of City fans, no-one deserves to wear the captain’s armband in Vincent Kompany’s absence more than Pablo, now in NINTH season with the Blues.
Nobody has spilled more blood for the cause and few have worn the shirt with greater pride and when Pep acknowledges his legendary status at the Club, it’s high praise indeed, though thoroughly merited.
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