City can make light work of vulnerable Arsenal at Wembley
Gunners could pay for defensive frailties in Cup semi
FA Cup semi-final
BT Sport 1, 3pm Sunday
Pep Guardiola will be hoping Arsene Wenger is at sixes and sevens with his three or his four, and that he can win the tactical battle which will send Manchester City into the FA Cup final.
For the first time in 20 years Wenger sent out a team on Monday with a back three rather than his trusted back four and the result was a 2-1 win at Middlesbrough.
However, and despite what the Arsenal boss said, it wasn’t a convincing performance with protection from the midfield flaky and anyway, Boro are the most toothless side in the top flight.
Wenger was coy about possibly repeating the exercise in the biggest game of Arsenal’s season but it has certainly given Guardiola something extra to consider as he mulls over his own tactics for this Wembley showdown.
The fact is that Arsenal’s defensive shortcomings are such that even the immovable Wenger saw the need to experiment, and however the Gunners line up they still seem vulnerable and City look the bet.
City go into the game on the back of arguably their most complete display of the Premier League season, a 3-0 romp at Southampton which was pretty much faultless.
Defensively they looked that much more assured with Vincent Kompany on the pitch as they chalked up a first clean sheet in six, while they were irresistible in attack. Saints went into that match having conceded fewer goals than Arsenal this season but were taken apart.
That made it two wins in a row for City who are taking on Arsenal at a good time amid all the debate over the boss’s future.
Since the end of January, Arsenal have played 13 and lost seven of them. The five wins have come against a pair of non-league sides plus Hull, West Ham and Boro. They have conceded goals in nine of those 13 matches.
City have been outstanding on the road this season with 11 away wins in the Premier League plus three more against top-flight opposition in this cup.
Arsenal’s problem has been protecting their back four and gaps appear when their full-backs go forward. If they commit such offences against City, the pace of the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sane will cause them real grief.
Goals are commonplace in FA Cup semis. Since 2009-10 when Spurs and Portsmouth drew their semis 0-0, there have been 12 ties producing 41 goals at 3.4 goals per game.
And goals are commonplace between these sides. Each of the last 11 competitive matches between Arsenal and City has produced two goals or more with the most recent fixture, a 2-2 draw, played out at the Emirates three weeks ago. Both teams scoring for the fifth match between them in a row is a 1-2 chance.
2pts 10-11 BetBright, Hills, Ladbrokes
Shkodran Mustafi is out and Danny Welbeck a doubt. Lucas Perez is missing and Santi Cazorla is out for the season.
John Stones is crocked but Gabriel Jesus travels with the squad after a lay-off. Bacary Sagna remains a doubt.
Both teams have scored in seven of the last eight league meetings between the sides