Sunday might just be when the real soccer gets going.
Oh, nothing against some of the “pukka” lead-off matches put together by the Premier League, especially the well-booked David vs Goliath match on Friday. But consider the potential lineup United is looking at. British tabloids have been running captions like “World Cup heroes back with team, coaches say perfect timing” implying that Lukaku will simply waltz out on the field and play 90 minutes against Leicester. That’s not quite the reality.
In fact, Friday’s opener may feel like part of an extended preseason. The underdog’s World Cup athletes seem a little more keen to go out and play, but a pair are still ailing with injuries.
Whether it’s the 2 extra days’ time away from Russia ’18, an awareness that the match could go either way, or plain luck, the lineups being tossed-around for Manchester City vs Arsenal on Sunday are considerably stronger in nature. City’s Bernardo Silva has already shined on the pitch against Chelsea, and Riyad Mahrez may line up opposite Leroy Sane for the defending EPL champs.
Lucas Torreira is likely to debut for Arsenal, an up-and-coming defensive midfielder who impressed with Uruguay in the World Cup.
But Torreira is not the Gunner getting the biggest grassroots buzz.
City vs Arsenal: Top EPL Players Finally Showing Up
Preseason handicapping was a fun novelty while it lasted, but it’s nice to have the Premier League finally shaping up with the best talent available. Matchday 1 often winds up being full of exciting matches, but I am endlessly surprised at how in-stride managers take the absence or malaise of their side’s stalwarts.
The EPL is headed into an era of Big money – capital B intended. Its athletes have the potential to become rock stars, billionaires, philanthropists. As a result, players are treated less like soldiers and more like commodities. Clubs are as grateful to have the superstar performer as he or she is grateful to the club.
Perhaps if there’s a preseason vibe to the lineups at Old Trafford on Friday, it will be due to the overriding common sense of management. Leicester City is not supposed to beat Manchester United, even with a few Red Devils sitting out. Skipper Claude Puel could choose to pretend as though the opening match is everything and that Manchester is making a fatal mistake by playing reserves, but his common sense allows precious goods Vardy and McGuire to carefully work into shape instead.
Where I come from, if a league has everybody play each other twice and the team with the most success in those matches wins the grail, then the biggest names should be prepared to play from the start. 38 is less than half the number of games in an NHL season. A losing streak at the outset could devastate a side’s chances, so from a competitive standpoint a lot of “tired” FIFA footballers would be well-advised to go ahead and get back into it.
Man City and Arsenal each seem to have gotten the memo. Even so, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are not expected to play for the league champions, while the absences of Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal will give the Gunners a thin backline.
Don’t ask Arsenal club representatives about defense, though. They’re too excited about the return of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the other end of the formation.
Will Aubameyang Score His Usual Goal?
There is only one reason Aubameyang isn’t more of an international star and FIFA hero. He was born in France to a Gabonese father who had captained Gabon’s national squad. The infant would grow into a tall, speedy striker who developed slowly with Italian and French clubs before taking Bundesliga by storm. 2 seasons ago as a 27 year-old, he scored 31 goals in 32 apps for Dortmund.
But he has never played for France in the World Cup, choosing instead to play qualifying rounds with the Gabon National Team. Despite controversially rejecting a call-up for a crucial WCQ vs the Ivory Coast in 2015, Aubameyang has been faithful to the “Panthers” at every turn and has even followed in his Dad’s footsteps by captaining the squad.
Not that he wouldn’t fit right in next to Mbappe. (Let’s all stop and just daydream a moment.) The transfer to the Premier League has not slowed down the 29 year-old’s sprinting nor bedeviled his in-step. Goals came quickly and often in last year’s 13-match Arsenal debut.
A few other reasons for the hype around Aubameyang are clear from the first 15 seconds of that highlight reel – the striker is dapper and dashing, and often dances in celebration of goals. Away from sports, he’s a well-known hot rod collector.
But there’s nothing shallow about his production – 10 goals in 13 apps means the player is on pace for a 30-goal EPL season. Which would have tied Harry Kane and Muhammad Salah in the race for the Golden Boot.
Manchester City vs Arsenal: Odds and Match Analysis
Bet Online’s odds for Sunday’s fixture are pretty standard, with City enjoying a (-111) favorite’s moneyline. Soccer moneylines run 3 ways, so when you see that “-“ you already know that the opponent is a sizable underdog without even looking at their moneyline.
The sportsbook thinks that the chances of a 90+ minute draw are almost as slender as Arsenal’s winning chances, placing the moneyline on each at (+250) and (+270) respectively.
Those are definitely attractive numbers, considering that Matchday 1 (like Week 1 or Opening Day in any sport) is filled with mystery and unknown variables. How crucial is Sterling’s speed and elusiveness with the ball to City’s winning formula? Don’t the Sky Blues depend on De Bruyne’s tenacity and technical skill in midfield?
A slightly-weakened City midfield can still defend well on set-pieces and help hold-off the Arsenal attack. But if the only scoring for the underdogs is a Aubameyang hat trick, then the (+270) bet likely wins. If the only Arsenal scoring is a pair by the superstar, then that draw bet at 2.5-to-1 is looking pretty good.
The goal spread at Bet Online is also worked around the possibility of a draw. Arsenal is getting exactly ½ of a goal (+ ½) and the vig is even at (-110) on both sides of the wager.
Will Manchester City take advantage of Arsenal’s backline deficiency more often than the Gunners are able to get their dangerous new weapon into the box?
We’d better take a glance at the backlines.
Ederson Helps Turn on the Light for City
Manchester City’s Ederson has not been able to crack the Brazil National Team in his mid-20s, and is not generally considered the finest keeper from Brazil. But quietly, the big and brave GK has made as much of a difference for a Premier League club as anyone from any nation.
City’s purse string-holders knew Ederson’s true value when they signed him for 35 million euros in 2017. They were rewarded with a Premier League title.
Can a rusty backline unit keep his visits with Aubameyang short and harmless? John Stones is expected to get some minutes, but we’ll see what type of shape he is in. On his side will be Aymeric Laporte, though, an imposing French center-back who has gotten looks from Les Bleus senior team. Laporte is an ideal athlete for a Matchday 1 situation, 24 years of age, fresh-legged and raring to go. Silva won’t want a short appearance, but if he makes one, the favorites should be fine.
Arsenal has invested in a fantastic veteran goalkeeper of its own, 26-year-old Bundesliga mainstay Bernd Leno. But with Sane and Mahrez potentially teaming-up on a forward line for City, it will take more than excellent keeping to prevent goals-against.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the question mark, an inexperienced backliner who may have to shoulder a load this Sunday despite having more junior FIFA apps than appearances in the Premier League.
Manchester City vs Arsenal Predictions
I’m thinking Sunday’s match will be well-played and populated by elite attackers – just what we’ve been missing in club soccer over the past few weeks.
If you fancy the underdog, the best way to bet on Arsenal is ATS. The 2 keepers might just decide to have a duel, or a circus of goals could erupt ala Spain vs Portugal.
The favorites will find a way to wear down the Arsenal reserves and expose players like Maitland-Niles, who could also have problems communicating with a new goalkeeper when things get hairy.
But don’t count out the Gunners when these sides meet again.