With the Premier League now set to return to pitches up and down England and Wales, this long summer is drawing to a close. We did of course have the World Cup in Russia to tide us over, but nothing quite beats the few months of the year where you can turn out and watch your favoured club in action each and every weekend – though some people tend to enjoy more happy afternoons at local grounds than others do of course! With that in mind, it’s time to take a quick look ahead and see just which ground will have the most neutral eyes on it, and there can be few contenders to come anywhere close to Man City travelling to Arsenal on what must be one of the earliest Super Sunday fixtures in living memory!
On the one hand, both sides are getting one of the “tougher” fixtures out of the way nice and early – but on the other hand something has to give, and we could be given a relatively rare example of one of these two dwindling near the bottom of the table by the end of play on Sunday. Even if that fails to materialise and we witness a draw – there’s two midtable title contenders right there! The season is, of course, a long one and both sides will surely be looking for honours in some form or another by the end of the campaign, but does having such a stern test so early on really benefit either side? If there is a victor then of course it does – the confidence and psychological effects of winning such a game will bode well and could be carried through some tricky early-season matches.
In much the same manner, a defeat will likely mean little other than a brief nuisance. There will be an air of uncertainty looming over the Emirates on Sunday, of course – the Gunners face their first Premier League game with a new manager for the first time in 22 years. Unai Emery will become only the fourth man to manage Arsenal in the Premier League since the competition’s inception in 1992, but with the added lack of security surrounding the club’s ownership things may prove tricky on the pitch. OK, there have been some high profile signings of course (these were detailed in a piece about the purchase of the club here) but Emery’s management style will still be under scrutiny.
Aside from that, he has failed to beat either Pep Guardiola or Man Utd manager Jose Mourinho in 15 attempts so far, and if he is to upset that apple cart and grab a win over one of them this season he will have done well given the circumstances – extremely well in the case of winning a match against Guardiola! The game will surely be entertaining, but with Riyad Mahrez flying down the flanks for Man City (having previously been heavily linked with Arsenal) the reigning champions could well have too much for their hosts. Then again, Arsenal fans will be treated to seeing new faces such as Lucas Torreira and Stephan Lichtsteiner pulling on the red shirt for the first time in the Premier League and so who can truly say what will happen?
On the managerial front, history suggests Guardiola’s Man City should trump Emery’s Arsenal. Tactically it’s anyone’s guess, but given City’s dominance last season they should have enough to snag the points here. Home advantage may prove a factor of course, but losing the first game of the season would be utterly unacceptable for either side, regardless of the identity of the opposition. This one is certainly the Premier League’s game to watch this weekend.
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