The tactical dilemma facing Mikel Arteta ahead of Manchester City / Could offence be the best defence?

Outdated clichés

The master and the apprentice. An overused metaphor to describe the relationship between Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta.

The younger is the most recent trophy winner, and under far less pressure than his former boss. Guardiola is without a Champions League medal since his Barcelona days, having taken over two top clubs in Germany and England.

Yet, Arsenal are set to travel to Manchester City remaining overwhelming underdogs. The quality throughout the Citizens’ side is considerable even when taking into account the fact that Kevin De Bruyne is unlikely to feature.

Arsenal’s record away from home against top-6 sides, meanwhile, is nothing short of deplorable. It has become the classic statistic for a broadcaster to throw up onto the television screen. Some fans have even begun timing how long it will take for the graphic to appear.

Arsenal’s last win against a ‘top-6’ side away from home was at Manchester City in 2015. A fantastic display from the Gunners included both defensive and offensive might, with a Santi Cazorla assist celebration capping off a wonderful performance.

The best defence is a good offence

The dilemma which Arteta now faces, though, is how he attempts to tackle City this time around. When Arsenal bested the Sky Blues in the FA Cup semi-final last season, a 3-4-3 formation allowed the Gunners to absorb pressure and hit on the counter.

However, City have dropped 5 points already this season, at the hands of Leicester City and Leeds United. Both teams like to play attacking-style football, and benefitted from the Manchester giants’ inconsistent defence.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: Arsenal unveil new signing Thomas Partey at London Colney on October 13, 2020 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 13: Arsenal unveil new signing Thomas Partey at London Colney on October 13, 2020 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal’s 3-4-3 defensive formation came unstuck at Anfield last month, and though they were in the game for long periods, the Gunners ultimately fell to a deserved defeat. With the addition of Thomas Partey, however, the defensive stability of the club’s midfield is significantly improved.

Therefore, the opportunity to switch to a more offensive back-4, behind a midfield-3, could enable Arsenal to be more threatening. Whether Arteta opts to throw Partey straight into the action, though, remains unclear.

Arsenal face City on Saturday the 17th of October at 17:30.

See also: Man City chief confirms Pep Guardiola stay is club’s priority

Pep Guardiola signals intent to sign new Man City contract: ‘I would love to stay longer’

This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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