Rezzil’s Premier League Preview: Long-awaited clash of the top two will prove to be season-defining

2 min read

With over half of the season now complete, the fixture we have all been waiting for is now upon us as Arsenal and Manchester City do battle on Wednesday evening. 

The game comes rife with anticipation and expectation as first welcomes second to their abode for the first league meeting between the pair this season. 

City ran out 1-0 winners last month in an FA Cup encounter where both sides were heavily rotated and the stakes were much lower, although this week’s clash is predicted to be a much more intense affair as Arsenal look to distance themselves at the summit and City look to move level on points with Mikel Arteta’s side.

The Gunners have seen their stance at the top of the pile become a lot more precarious over recent weeks following a defeat to Everton and a 1-1 draw with Brentford on Saturday. 

Pep Guardiola’s men responded emphatically by easing past Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday afternoon and they will hope to use the momentum gained to leapfrog their north London counterparts with a victory, even if it is only on goal difference. 

A win for Arsenal will set them back on the right path and keep the Cityzens at bay, temporarily at least, while they would certainly be more accepting of a draw than the reigning champions given how the last few weeks have played out. 

One major issue for City is that they could be traveling south without star front man Erling Haaland, who limped off at half-time in the win over Villa and is a doubt for this all-important fixture. 

It remains to be seen whether the Norwegian, who has netted 25 league goals for the club since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, will indeed miss this game but his presence would certainly be missed if he does, despite the fact he has failed to score in his last three outings. 

Obviously, where Manchester City are involved star-studded replacements are never too far away and they do have the luxury of recent World Cup winner Julian Alvarez to start with up-front should Haaland remain sidelined. 

The tenacious South American would relish the chance to inflict some damage on City’s primary rivals for the title, and in many ways he could actually be a better option to lead the line as it can be argued his style of play is more aligned to the way this Guardiola team operates. 

Arsenal will continue to line up without Gabriel Jesus, who remains on the treatment table with a knee injury, while the creativity of Emile Smith Rowe cannot be called upon as the Englishman is also injured. 

The Gunners have looked flat in recent weeks and it has felt a little as though they have become too comfortable at the top of the league, perhaps failing to truly appreciate the strengths of their opponents. 

This, coupled by City’s recent form (Tottenham defeat aside), has blown the title race wide open again and there is now everything to play for as the business end of the campaign edges ever closer.

With the return of European football on the agenda for both clubs next week, things are going to start getting more complicated, squads will become tested and genuine league champions will be formed while the hopeful challengers will be cast aside. 

The result of Wednesday’s match will go a long way in telling us exactly which of these two clubs turns out to be the former, and who will ultimately be left with the feeling of what could have been.