But there would not be a better chance for Arsenal to end the seasons of City-agony than this. One match alone might not decide a season, but this game could go a long way in defining a season. For Arsenal, it could be much more.

The last time Arsenal secured full three points against Manchester City, in the Premier League, the days before the Christmas of 2015, Arsene Wenger was in charge. His side were in hunt for the title, but eventually finished 10 points behind fairytale artistes Leicester City. Pep Guardiola had not yet made up his mind to descend next season at the Etihad. The game extended City’s abysmal record at the Emirates to one win in 19 bouts. Wenger, in a profusion of optimism, said this “victory could fuel the title charge.”

Seven years and 15 meetings later, Arsenal are yet to taste a victory in the league against a club that is vaulting into the hall-of-famer territory, if they already have not. Until last year, when Arsenal demonstrated their title-contending prowess until crash-burning towards the end, their encounters were bereft of title-shaping possibilities. But higher the stakes, the more devastating City were in snuffing out Arsenal’s title-winning ambitions. But the narrative rolled itself into place—Arsenal-City clashes brim with league-deciding potential. And they meet again, but at a cagier time, both teams looking to address the immediate concerns rather than shooting for the future.

The table, though early days, looks different too. Arsenal’s bitter rivals Tottenham sit atop, though having played an extra game. City are second; Arsenal third. Both have not clanked into full flow. Smooth-flowing football has flickered only sporadically for Arsenal. Injuries have knocked them at the most inappropriate time. Two key members are on the injury table—Thomas Partey and Jurrien Timber. Three others are doubtful racing against time to https://www.ngilngof.com/ clear fitness —which includes talisman Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard. Even if they return, a bigger question would be, if theirs would be a hampered influence. Worse still, all three are reliable sources of goals in big games. Not that City are without their own injury woes. Kevin de Bruyne, John Stones would be long-term absentees; Rodri, meanwhile, is suspended. A host of other key players had departed at the end of the year, most notably Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gündogan.

None of these of course would dilute the enormity of the game, or any less of a spectacle. But it no doubt would have a bearing on their strategies. Without the Belgian totem, and without the services of Rodri, Mahrez and Gundogan, City have quickened up the pace of the game. The rapidness had become thrilling to watch a times, but that is not City’s game. They like to slow the game down, then turn on the pace, then mix it up and control the game. At least five of them could do that last season. Rodri and de Bruyne sufficed, but their departure has changed City’s approach in the last few games, including the shocking defeat against Wolves. To put Rodri’s value in perspective, City have lost 33 per cent of the Premier League games he has missed since his debut, as opposed to just 13 per cent of games when he has featured.

All their replacements are high-class too, Jack Grealish is an excellent tempo-setter as well. But they are far more direct to Guardiola’s liking. He admitted as much recently after beating RB Leipzig . “Always I have the feeling that when you take 15, 20 touches, passes in every action in attack, something good is going to happen, In every action, if Jack touches the ball, then Bernardo, then with Jack, then with Bernardo, when that happens in the same action, many good things are going to happen well.”