City have been quiet, but they explode into life here. Mahrez spins away from Tierney out on the right. He slips inside for Aguero, who drives forward before slipping Foden into the box on the left. Foden drops a shoulder to pass Bellerin with ease, and shoots. Leno parries, but only to Sterling, who steers the rebound cleverly into a gap at the bottom left. Brilliant sweeping move!
21 min: Tierney and Saka combine niftily down the left, the latter crossing for Bellerin, bowling in from the other flank. Bellerin wins his header, but he’s put too much pressure on Cancelo and the whistle blows.
20 min: “Why aren’t Arsenal wearing their first kit?” wonders Damian Durrant. “Is it a special kit in honour of something? Did I miss the memo?” Yep: it said that the results were in, rampant capitalism had won at the expense of culture and dignity, everything’s over, and it’s all been rubber-stamped by The Man.
18 min: City could easily have had two goals already, with both Aguero and Mahrez going close, yet otherwise they’ve been a little unnerved by Arsenal’s breezy start. The hosts are struggling to put it together at the minute.
14 min: Now the card does come out. Rodri is the recipient, a result of a cynical tug on Saka’s shirt. Arsenal look really lively every time they move forward, though none of their moves have yet to click … or been allowed to click.
13 min: City mess up the corner, and Arsenal try to break en masse. Mahrez grabs Pepe by the arm, slowing the counter down to a halt. He really should be booked for that, but it’s just a free kick. Arsenal aren’t happy, and they’ve got something of a point.
11 min:Arsenal look up for this, attempting to flood forward on the counter every time they intercept. An approach that should lead to a lively game. “Mahrez looked lively and scored for Algeria last week in a friendly against Mexico on Dutch soil. It looks like he has maintained that spark into today’s match, with the intent of ruining Arsenal’s Partey atmosphere.” Peter Oh bringing the puns there, so I don’t have to.
9 min: Aubameyang’s flick down the left allows Saka to tear off down the flank. Rodri does extremely well to get over and ease him off the ball, just as it looked as though the Arsenal youngster was preparing to bear down on goal.
7 min: Mahrez teases Tierney, Gabriel and Saka, drawing all three towards him on the right, before chipping infield for Aguero, who flashes a close-range header over the bar. Close. But for a few inches here and there, City would already be two up.
2 min: Arsenal play it out from the back crisply and neatly … though there’s a fair chance quite a few of their fans had their hearts in their mouths, as the defence just about worked their way through City’s press. Say what you like, you can’t call them out for a lack of bravery.
The teams are out!Manchester City are in their sky blue shirts. Arsenal, who play in red, and whose second shirt is white, change into third-choice blue. There’s no point fighting against the tide armed with nothing but a pointed stick, you may as well let modernity wash over you. We’ll be off in a minute.
Mikel Arteta’s turn. “We were tempted to start Partey but he had a day and a half of training, so we need to be a little bit patient. We have tried to put the best game together. A lot will depend on individual performance, quality performance. It’s the moment, it’s the occasion, and it is today.”
Pep talk. “It is good for us that Aguero is back. It has been a long time, we don’t know his condition but it is better to start than come from the bench. It’s good. There will be high pressing from both sides and quality up front. We will watch a good game, like we have seen so far all games in the Premier League.” He also reports that Laporte and Mendy are both out injured: “Laporte not much, but Mendy a little bit longer.”
The big news for Manchester City: Sergio Aguero is back! He’s one of four changes to the team that drew 1-1 at Leeds before the international break. Nathan Ake, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva also return; Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, Ferran Torres and the injured Kevin De Bruyne make way.
Arsenal’s deadline-day signing Thomas Partey is named on the bench. The Gunners meanwhile make three changes to the team that won 2-1 over Sheffield United a fortnight ago. Rob Holding, Granit Xhaka and Nicolas Pepe replace David Luiz, Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah.
Manchester City have won their last six Premier League matches against Arsenal to the aggregate tune of 17-2. That should make this evening’s match easy to predict … except Arsenal beat City fairly easily in last season’s semi-finals, they’ve got a new superstar signing in Thomas Partey, and the hosts will have to do without their injured genius Kevin De Bruyne. Factor in Arsenal’s fast start to the season, and City’s uncharacteristically slow one, and is set up rather deliciously. Another City romp? Or will Arsenal’s resurgence continue apace? We find out soon. It’s on!