Friday, May 24, 2024

Saka and Martinelli fitness boost ahead of City

Good morning friends.

It’s Man City at home today and you don’t need me or anyone else to tell you it’s been too long since we got a result against them in the Premier League. To say it’s overdue would be something of an understatement.

From what I can gather, the team news talk this morning is that Bukayo Saka – having been ‘declared fit’ yesterday – will start, and all I can say is that I hope he is properly fit to start, and not just starting because of today’s opposition. I guess we have to trust in the medical staff and the decision making of both the manager and the player. He has to feel good enough in himself too.

There’s also some chatter about Gabriel Martinelli being available, which would be a huge boost. There was radio silence about the Brazilian in the build-up to this game, which made me think his absence was inevitable, but if he’s ready to start that would be massive for us. If Mikel Arteta has kept that quiet, it’s for good reason. The master/pupil discourse that surrounds this game is now completely tedious, but when he was asked if he had to think about whether Pep Guardiola might play a wildcard, the manager said:

Yes and he does that normally in big games and against big teams and it’s not only his decisions as well against different opponents or different things. That’s a big quality of theirs because they can they can change it, but not only before the game, I think they can do it during the game, they can do it at half-time and that’s a strength of a team that is able to dominate.

I like Leandro Trossard, but so much of what we want to do as a team goes through Saka and Martinelli. Let’s see what happens later on, but even as an option from the bench the Brazilian’s presence in the squad today could be potentially very useful. I also wonder if Thomas Partey’s availability might see him return to the starting line-up. I don’t know if he’s got 90 minutes in his legs, but a midfield of him, Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard could potentially dominate a key area of the pitch – especially in the absence of Rodri.

He is to Man City what Sergio Busquets was to Barcelona, and his suspension is a big loss for them. Of course they can replace him with expensive talent, but I don’t think they have anyone who comes close to being as influential. Football is a team game, and the collective can often come together to deal with the loss of an individual, but if you ask me if I’m happier to face them without Rodri then the answer is very much in the affirmative.

We have plenty to worry about even without him. Erling Haaland is, as we know, an incredible player, and Julian Alvarez operating behind him in the latest incarnation of the City system has been outstanding so far this season. That sort of plays into why I’d be happy to go with the midfield I mentioned above, but we’ll have to wait and see what Arteta does in that regard.

Whatever the team, we’re probably going to have to be flawless to beat them. Arteta says size and presence could be important today:

Physicality is something that you need in the league, they are one of the most powerful teams in the league, that’s for sure, and you need to match that up. I think we do have enough physicality in the back line to deal with those players and that’s something you have to prove it in a reaction on Sunday.

Let’s hope so. Beyond that we need to be clinical with the chances we get. This is not the kind of game where you have 8 or 9 bites of the cherry, so when those moments come we have to be on the top of our game. After that, it’s about being able to deal with the quality they have in the attacking areas.

As always, I’m sort of hopeful right now, but the closer we get to kick-off the more that record of theirs against us comes to fore. Hopefully the law of averages will be on our side today, on top of a good performance, because ultimately that is what we’re going to need to get a result. Fingers crossed.

As always, we’ll have live blog coverage, and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News. Until then, enjoy your Sunday.

Till later.

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