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Three key battles that’ll decide Arsenal FA Cup semi-final tie against Manchester City


Three key battles that’ll decide Arsenal FA Cup semi-final tie against Manchester City

The second FA Cup semi-final will be played on Sunday afternoon to decide who will meet Chelsea in the final.

Arsenal and Manchester City have both had underwhelming seasons for different reasons, but they each have a good opportunity to win the much coveted cup competition.

City had the better of the league fixture this campaign, winning 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium. However, the return fixture ended in a draw and Arsenal will take great confidence from their performance that day.

There is no reason why the Gunners can’t win this at Wembley, but they will need to play a lot better than they have been in recent weeks.

Here are three key battles that could play an important role on Sunday…

Petr Cech vs Sergio Aguero

Throughout the years, Aguero has scored four goals against Arsenal and he will be keen to improve that record this weekend.

The Argentine may not be in Pep Guardiola’s long-term plans, but he is likely to start at Wembley and he will be City’s primary goal threat during the match.

His intelligent movement coupled with Arsenal’s inability to keep it tight at the back mean that he will get chances on Sunday.

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This is why Petr Cech needs to be on form for the Gunners.

He has been inconsistent this season, but he remains one of the best goalkeepers in the world on his day. His reach and reflexes will come under the microscope at Wembley, as Aguero is excellent at picking up the ball and quickly releasing a shot on goal.

The Arsenal goalkeeper will need to play well if he is to prevent City’s Argentine striker from being the star.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Hector Bellerin vs Leroy Sane

It is unknown how Arsenal will line-up to start the game, as they did switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation on Monday night.

This was the first time that Arsene Wenger has used such a system and, although there were issues with the performance, the Gunners managed to pick up an important three points and he may be willing to start with it against Manchester City.

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The main problem with the system that City will look to exploit are the Gunners’ wing-backs.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nacho Monreal both lack experience playing in such a role, while Pep Guardiola’s men possess real quality down the flanks.

Leroy Sane has been a revelation during the second half of the season and he has a big-match quality about him. The German will be looking to deliver another match-winning performance and he has the quality to terrorise Oxlade-Chamberlain if Wenger opts to use the Englishman as a wing back again.

If Wenger chooses to revert back to 4-2-3-1 and select Hector Bellerin at right-back, it will still be an area that City look to exploit, as the Spaniard hasn’t impressed defensively this season. He frequently gets caught out of position and this will give the opportunity for Sane to cause problems.

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil vs Fernandinho and Yaya Toure

Regardless of the system that Arsenal choose to play, their two most important players are Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

They both fare better when they take up central areas and it is important that the Manchester City midfield don’t let them have too much space in front of the back four.

Ozil can be deadly when he takes up positions between the lines, as he possesses the vision that few other players have in world football.

He can play defence-splitting balls with ease and it is important that Fernandinho or Toure gets tight to the German whenever he picks up the ball.

The Arsenal playmaker can get frustrated in matches and if City are aggressive in defence for the first 20-30 minutes, they can nullify the threat he poses.

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Although Ozil is the most creative player in the Arsenal side, Sanchez is more likely to win matches on his own and he will be determined to deliver a good performance at Wembley.

His attitude has been questioned at late, but he is a fierce competitor and it important that City keep a close eye on him.

The Chilean will roam across the front-line and the two City holding midfielders need to afford him as little time on the ball as possible.

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Featured image: All rights reserved by Stuart MacFarlane

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