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Arsenal stand in Manchester City’s way and ahead of the Carabao Cup final we spoke to the Daily Mirror’s Chief Football Writer, John Cross, to get the inside track on Arsene Wenger’s men.
They’ve played well at times and they do reach a very good level and you start to think something might happen, but they’ve been inconsistent and there have been some poor performances.
They’ve been involved in some thrilling games and played so well at times, like against Manchester United at home and then they ended up losing.
It’s been a frustrating season for them.
I think so. Getting Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez was a good bit of business if they can get him playing well.
He’s had one outstanding game and a couple of average ones.
The Sanchez replacement and the one that has really got Arsenal fans on their feet was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who, with his pace and excitement is a much more natural successor to Sanchez.
If the aim was to come out of the window stronger, then they achieved that. I think they should have signed a centre-half, but I guess Arsene Wenger’s make up is to go for attacking players.
But they did well, particularly with Aubameyang.
There are a few issues defensively. Wenger started the season with a back three, but he’s never been particularly comfortable with that system, though the is a collection of players who are quite well suited to it.
Laurent Koscielny has not performed as well as previous years. Shkodran Mustafi is much more comfortable in a back three than with two centre-halves and Nacho Monreal has adapted well to playing on the left side of a three.
They’ve looked vulnerable with a back four, particularly as they’ve got attack minded full-backs.
The lack of a traditional holding midfielder has been an issue. Granit Xhaka is inclined to go forward.
He’s had good games but by instinct he is a box-to-box player rather than a sitting midfielder and that, when they’ve played a back four, has invited the opposition on to them.
It’s a weird one with the ‘keepers and it’s the same at City.
To keep a good number two – David Ospina and Claudio Bravo are international goalkeepers – you’ve got to offer them something.
Last year in the FA Cup final, when he played instead of Petr Cech, I thought it would come back to haunt them, whereas now I think the gap is perhaps a little narrower.
I still think Cech is the better keeper, but Ospina is a good goalkeeper. I don’t think there is too much between Ospina and Bravo and they are both very good when it comes to penalties, if it goes that far.
It’s very simplistic, but if City are at their best they will simply have far too much for Arsenal. They are a much better team.
Arsenal are massive underdogs and I think they will be hoping City have a bad day at the office and that they can really excel.
Midfield is where a lot of the damage will be done.
If you can’t pick Kevin De Bruyne up that is a massive issue and the way in which he plays behind the forward line but in front of the midfield is an area where it can potentially hurt Arsenal because they don’t have that traditional set-up.
They may try and pack the midfield. Earlier in the season they were using two midfielders and I think Wenger could do that again. He might gamble on Ramsey being fit because he has a fine record at Wembley and he is such a potent goal threat.
Even though he’s not fully fit I think he might risk him but I also think he’ll try pack that midfield to counteract City’s great strength in there. Going forward from midfield, City look irresistible to me.
Ospina; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Wilshere, Elneny; Ramsey, Ozil, Aubamayang.Score predictor:
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