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Arsenal and Manchester City drew 2-2 at the Emirates earlier this month, but with Arsene Wenger’s side in a particularly poor run of form, Pep Guardiola’s City start as strong favourites.

The major tactical interest here, unusually, concerns Wenger. Rarely a manager to surprise opponents with an unusual formation, for Monday night’s trip to Middlesbrough he selected a 3-4-2-1 formation, at least partly inspired by Antonio Conte’s formation at Chelsea. This was the first time for 20 years that Wenger had used a three-man defence.

The experiment had mixed success – it seemed designed to fight against the possibility of Middlesbrough using two target men, but instead they used one upfront and Wenger spoke about needing to ‘adjust’ even before kick-off. The system worked reasonably well, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil getting into dangerous positions between the lines, but overall there’s little to think that Wenger will continue with that shape here.

Instead, we’re likely to see a return to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Hector Bellerin coming into the side as the right-back. Shkodran Mustafi is out, so Gabriel will play alongside Laurent Koscielny.

In midfield, Granit Xhaka has been playing well, and will probably be supported with the presence of a second holding player here. Mohamed Elneny is a solid, neat and tidy player who could work well against City’s playmaking duo of Davild Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

Out wide, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves to keep his place after a decent run of form. On the left, Wenger will surely look to deploy a direct attacker considering Jesus Navas may again be fielded at right-back, and he struggled in the first half of the clubs’ recent 2-2 draw against Sanchez, who is the obvious bet to be fielded there again.

With Mesut Ozil as the number 10, Wenger then has a decision to make upfront. Olivier Giroud will hope to lead the line, but a speedier striker makes sense against a high line. Danny Welbeck could be used to run the channels, while Theo Walcott is another option but hasn’t started upfront all season.

Guardiola’s team selection seems comparatively straightforward. At the back, Navas is likely to continue at right-back and Vincent Kompany has re-established himself as a regular.

 

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