Manchester City v Arsenal: Expect a bounce back from the champions
An improved Arsenal can test Manchester City in the Premier League on Wednesday night but Andy Schooler still expects the hosts to prevail at the Etihad.
Manchester City v Arsenal Wednesday, 19:30 Live on Sky Sports Main Event/Premier League
Mikel Arteta returns to Manchester City in the opposing dugout on Wednesday night with things looking up for his new club.
Gunners on a roll
Arsenal have lost just one of their last 13 in all competitions, while their last Premier League defeat away from home came on November 9 when Unai Emery was still in charge.
Overall, the Gunners have lost only six league matches this season - one less than City - yet they sit only ninth due to a league-high number of draws (13).
Arteta hasn't been afraid to blood upcoming youngsters - Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah have both seen a success under his tutelage - while he has certainly made the team more organised and harder to beat.
It's now five clean sheets in their last seven and if anyone knows the key to blunting City's attack, it should be Pep Guardiola's former assistant.
On Sunday, Manchester United provided a strong template for any team looking to do that, holding City to a season-low tally of just seven shots at Old Trafford. For all their possession, Guardiola's men did little with the ball and could have little complaint about the 2-0 scoreline.
Like Arsenal, United have improved defensively over recent weeks, yet I remain sceptical about the Gunners' ability to stand firm against the league's better teams. And despite their weekend defeat, second-placed City definitely remain one of those.
Arsenal's recent run of clean sheets has hardly taken in the most free-flowing opponents. Newcastle, and Burnley were among them, as well as League One Portsmouth, who actually caused some problems.
Everton did likewise - they could easily have scored more than twice at the Emirates - and it's also worth noting that Arsenal's three away defeats so far have come at Liverpool, Leicester and Sheffield United, all of whom currently reside in the top seven.
A look at the recent head-to-head record hardly makes good reading for Arsenal either - they've lost the last six, conceding three goals in five of those matches. They struggled to lay a glove on City in the reverse fixture, losing it 3-0.
The current Arsenal defence, which helped them secure a 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday, also has a makeshift look about it with Pablo Mari brought in for his debut at the weekend and the rarely-reliable Sokratis shifted over to right-back where Hector Bellerin remains injured.
While West Ham may have been unable to capitalise, a City side, from whom a reaction should be expected, will likely relish having a go at such a backline, one which also includes the still-raw Saka, whose game has been lauded for its attacking qualities, although questions remain about the youngster going the other way.
Several City changes can be expected here with the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, David Silva and Benjamin Mendy all likely starters having been on the bench at Old Trafford. Kevin de Bruyne is also fit again after a shoulder problem.
It was notable that prior to the derby game Guardiola clearly stated his priority now was cup success as he name-checked forthcoming ties against Real Madrid and Newcastle as games he was working towards.
He revealed he planned to give all of his squad game-time before those crunch clashes, a period which takes in this game and Saturday's at home to Burnley.