This would ordinarily have been a game even the neutrals would tune in to watch. Given, Arsenal are not exactly what they used to be and Manchester City, while being arguably the Premier League’s best team over the last five years, have had an underwhelming campaign and currently trail Liverpool by 25 points.
But all of that would mean nothing when both sides take to the Etihad pitch tonight with the Premier League having been on a hiatus since March, as a result of the coronavirus and it is that wait that will confer on this game, more attention than it probably would have gotten especially considering the title is all but won.
The anticipation toward the game is made all the more palpable as Pep Guardiola will come face-to-face with his managerial protégé Mikel Arteta for the first time since the latter left his role at the Etihad as assistant manager to become the Gunners’ boss.
As we build up to the game, here are 5 things to look out for.
Rusty, rusty, rustiness!
Football will only be coming back to England for the first time since March and teams have hardly had adequate training sessions before Project Restart given the two-month break occasioned by the coronavirus. Even when training resumed a couple of weeks ago, contact was limited as players only initially trained in batches. So, while we are all excited that the Premier League is back, you might want to have a measured level of expectation.
Eyes on the prize
While we do not expect a great level of intensity from the players, but do not think it will have the feel of a training match, as there are still prizes up for grabs for both sides. While City are second on the table, Champions League qualification is not guaranteed as only 12 points separate them from fifth-placed Manchester United with nine rounds of games remaining. For Arsenal, they are only eight points away from fourth place so, expect to see both sides give it a go.
Pep vs Mikel
We were always going to get to this part; master versus apprentice. Earlier in the season, both men worked together as Manchester City coaches with Arteta serving as Guardiola’s assistant before the former replaced Unai Emery at the Emirates. This is certainly one aspect of the game everyone would be looking to see. Would Guardiola show his protégé he’s still the master or will Arteta show he has learnt enough to outwit his former boss?