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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Manchester City primed to outgun Arsenal in FA Cup

Unsteady Gunners could let Citizens run riot at Wembley

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City scores during the Premier League match at Arsenal
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FA Cup semi-final
BT Sport 1, 3pm Sunday

Wembley should be treated to a cracking semi-final on Sunday, with both Arsenal and Manchester City attempting to mask this season's defensive deficiencies through the pace and verve of their attacking play.

In trialing a 3-4-3 formation against Middlesbrough on Monday, Arsene Wenger did at least show an appetite for experimentation that has been sorely lacking in recent seasons.

However, a wobbly 2-1 victory against opponents cut adrift in the survival scrap can hardly inspire great confidence, and it was telling that the Gunners still managed to concede despite visiting the team with the weakest home attack in the Premier League.

There were moments at the Riverside on Monday when a toothless Boro attack was made to look threatening simply by exploiting Arsenal's lack of familiarity with their new system, and a few teething problems can only be expected given it was Wenger's first attempt at playing a back three in 20 years.

Perhaps after a full pre-season of practise the 3-4-3 could become a useful weapon in Arsenal's armoury, but persisting with the trial in an FA Cup semi-final against a team as fluid in attack as Manchester City would seem reckless in the extreme.

The Citizens have not been as clinical with their finishing as manager Pep Guardiola would like this season, but at their best the City front line is able to slice open even the tightest of defences even if the goals return hasn't always kept up with number of chances created.

In their Premier League trip to Arsenal earlier this month, City were left ruing a hatful of missed chances against their struggling hosts and ended up drawing 2-2 after Sergio Aguero missed a couple of sitters and Kevin De Bruyne struck the woodwork twice.

But while Guardiola will again have been frustrated by his team's profligacy he must accept a share of the blame for slowing the pace of the game with the half-time introduction of Yaya Toure. The move traded the pacy threat of Raheem Sterling for the composure of the Ivorian, but, crucially, it allowed some respite for an under-siege Arsenal defence who looked on the verge of crumbling.

The Gunners deserve credit for rallying in the second half of that match but were still fortunate to hold on for a share of the spoils on home soil. Guardiola, emboldened by the return of steadying defensive lynchpin Vincent Kompany, is unlikely to repeat his show of caution against such fragile opponents.

Recommended bet
Manchester City to win & over 2.5 goals
1pt 6-4 general

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Dan Sait is the football editor of the Racing & Football Outlook, out every Tuesday

The Citizens have not been as clinical as manager Pep Guardiola might like, but at their best City are able to slice open even the tightest defences
E.W. Terms
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