The Emirates Stadium hosts the headline Premier League fixture of the opening weekend on Sunday at 4pm BST. Reigning champions Manchester City head to north London to face an Arsenal side managed by someone other than Arsene Wenger for the first time since 1996.
Unai Emery steps into the dugout with expectations high. Wenger, unlike Alex Ferguson, left at a low point. Emery, with just a few tweaks, can take this team beyond the level that Wenger had them playing at.
The summer window has been solid, if a little underwhelming, but there’s expected to be a fresh sense of optimism at the Emirates despite the news this week that Stan Kroenke will be increasing his stake in the club.
It’s a case of picking up where they left off for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s had a quiet window compared to the last two, but new signing Riyad Mahrez is expected to start the season opener.
Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are all doubts after World Cup involvement, which could see Phil Foden get minutes after a solid performance in the Community Shield last weekend.
Aaron Ramsey, Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal are all fitness concerns for Emery. Kolasinac is ruled out, while the other two could yet miss the match. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is likely to fill in at left-back if Nacho cannot start.
Ramsey’s absence should see summer acquisition Lucas Torreira and Grant Xhaka pair up in midfield. Torreira is a decent price at 13/4 to get a card.
The hosts will set up in a 4-2-3-1 with Mesut Ozil playing off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Alexandre Lacazette is expected to start on the wing, meaning a lot of defensive responsibility to track the runs of Kyle Walker.
Ozil will need to drop into midfield to help Torreira and Xhaka out of possession against City’s midfield three.
Just as it was for the majority of last season, City will be in a 4-3-3. Mahrez and Leroy Sane will play either side of Sergio Aguero, who looks a great price at 6/1 to score at least two goals.
Sane and Hector Bellerin are two of the fastest players on the planet, without being able to use his pace to compensate for errors, the German international could give the Spaniard a difficult afternoon. Bellerin at 13/4 to get booked is good value.
Arsenal’s team looks unbalanced this season. Emery might find a way to make it work perfectly, but shoehorning Lacazette onto the wing doesn’t bring the best out of him.
It’s even more of a concern when facing a team with full-backs who will fly down the wing like City. Mahrez, who could benefit from any Lacazette error out of possession, is at 3/1 to give an assist.
The superhumanly quick Aubameyang gives Arsenal’s strikeforce a fear factor that it has lacked since Robin van Perise departed, though. Across the Bundesliga and Premier League last season, Aubameyang scored 23 goals in just 28 starts.
He should feed off Mesut Ozil’s through balls, he is the perfect striker to exploit Manchester City’s high line. The 5/1 price on Aubameyang to open the scoring is a cracker.
Given the chasm between the teams last season (37 points to be exact) it’s impossible to see beyond a City win here. Arsenal are going to be interesting to watch this season – and their 2/1 price to make the top four looks good – but City were unstoppable for much of last term.
It will be an impressive feat if Emery has managed to implement his ideas sufficiently for Arsenal to look a properly different team already after two decades of Wengerball.
Goals and an away win is the way to go.
TIP: Over 3.5 goals @ 7/5
PREDICTED SCORE: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester City (Priced at 22/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*