After 22 years of Arsene Wenger in the Premier League, Arsenal begin their fresh era under the leadership of Unai Emery when they take on Manchester City on Sunday.
Emery’s first Premier League clash in charge of Arsenal couldn’t be any harder against the record-breaking reigning champions but he will be desperate to make his mark immediately.
The question is how will Arsenal line-up against Pep Guardiola’s side on Sunday afternoon at the Emirates? What changes to the formation or tactics will we see from Emery?
Emery mixed formations up during pre-season, playing 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 most regularly, but with City’s frightening attack, Emery may opt for a more defensive minded set-up.
Petr Cech and new signing Bernd Leno both were handed starts in pre-season but Emery is expected to start the latter after bringing him in for £20million from Bayer Leverkusen. The Spaniard will look to give the German goalkeeper his confidence early on.
Despite the arrival of Stephan Lichtsteiner, Hector Bellerin is likely to start at right back due to his experience playing in the Arsenal backline and pace to deal with City’s blistering wingers.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi appear the safe option to start alongside each other in the heart of defence. With only youngsters Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos in extra supply, Emery will want experience and leadership at the back.
Due to injuries to Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal a big doubt, Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be tasked with dealing with City’s attacks down the left. While not his natural position, the young Englishman impressed despite playing their at times under Wenger last season.
Moving on to midfield and Emery is likely to use two midfielders sitting in front of the back four. Lucas Torreira may be given his Arsenal debut in the Premier League, with Granit Xhaka also helping to provide a defensive shield against a City side capable of running riot.
Aaron Ramsey goes into the game as a doubt as well with a calf injury but he is back training and would be a massive addition to the side. The Welshman – deploying the central position of the middle three – can offer his ever-reliable bursting runs forward in behind the defence, knowing Xhaka and Torreira are covering him.
Arsenal will be confident they can hurt City’s defence, especially those coming back from World Cup duty. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will start on the right of the three and use his trickery and clever passing to unlock Guardiola’s backline.
Mesut Ozil will start on the left and can inter-change with Mkhitaryan. With these two in the team, Arsenal have creativity in abundance, especially with their pacey strikers making runs in behind City’s defence.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will lead the line for the Gunners, with Alexandre Lacazette a very useful tool for the side off the bench.
With Aubameyang’s pace and deadly finishing in front of goal, he can cause a City defence, full of players just back from the World Cup, plenty of problems.