IF Pep Guardiola does not pay Arsenal the respect they deserve, Bukayo Saka will tear his Manchester City side apart tomorrow.
I have no idea what Pep’s trying to do with his defence this season and it’s almost as if he’s trying to throw the title away.
But I’m not convinced that’s what he’ll do, and if he continues to mess about with his formation he’ll have no one to deal with Saka, who has been brilliant all season for both Arsenal and England.
Stop Saka and you stop Arsenal. It’s as simple as that because every time an opposing left-back has a good game against them, they struggle.
But Guardiola has just allowed Joao Cancelo to leave and I don’t think he actually knows his best team any more.
He’s got the ammunition to beat every side in the country but there have been a number of times this season when he’s tried to get clever with his tactics and it backfired on him.
It’s almost as if his arrogance is saying “we don’t need a left-back, I can put Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, we can have a completely lop-sided formation and we can still win the game.”
So if I was playing against this City team I’d keep getting the ball out to Saka to tear their left- back spot to pieces and smash them for being disrespectful.
With all the talent Guardiola has at his disposal, it should be a very simple job.
Just pick your best back four, choose two wide players from Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, and the rest takes care of itself.
But if City are going to win the Premier League from here, they have to start picking up points on their travels and the only way you do that is by having a strong defensive unit.
I should know, because I won four titles playing that way.
There’s absolutely no onus on the Gunners to go for the win tomorrow, and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see a boring 0-0 draw.
What they need for this game is a bit of George Graham — defending well, keeping the opposition out of your penalty area, getting tackles in, staying in position and squeezing the lines so they can’t play through you.
Really it’s all about being resilient, dogged, professional and a bit boring. If we come off with a goalless draw, hallelujah, that’s a brilliant result and you march on from there.
But like Guardiola, Mikel Arteta is a very offensive coach and neither of them go out with the intention of keeping a clean sheet.
So it’s more likely to be 4-3 than 0-0 tomorrow.
NO PRESSURE ON GUNNERS
Obviously the chance to go six points clear at the top is a massive incentive for Arsenal but it’s not a cup final and they don’t have to throw caution to the wind.
When they beat Liverpool earlier this season, Arteta played Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back and it was a genius move because he just sat on Mo Salah and completely cut out that threat.
It was the same in the 3-2 win against Manchester United last month, when Tomi replaced Ben White at half-time and stopped Marcus Rashford in his tracks.
So tomorrow I would play Tomi at left–back instead of Oleksandr Zinchenko to take care of Mahrez because then Arsenal would have enough in midfield and up front exploit City’s weakness on the left of their defence and turn them over.
I just hope someone in the camp tells Mikel he doesn’t need to get clever for this one because Arsenal haven’t been in particularly great form recently, either, dropping points in their last two games.
I do have a bit of a concern about centre-back William Saliba after watching Ivan Toney giving him a going over at the weekend.
He’s a lovely footballer who is quick, tidies up well and doesn’t go to ground a lot.
Back in my day he might have been a central midfield player.
EARLY DOORS FOR ERLING
But the jury is still out on the Frenchman because he can get out-muscled and there is a worry whether he and Gabriel can handle Erling Haaland if the City striker is passed fit to play.
If Arsenal are going to win the league, then Haaland will be their ultimate test.
They have also been struggling for goals lately and they really need Gabriel Jesus back as soon as possible.
Striker Eddie Nketiah has done brilliantly to come in and score some goals like Christopher Wreh did for us back in 1998. But we still needed Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka to come back and get us over the line.
It’s the same now because Arsenal won’t win the title without their main man up front.
At the moment it feels like Arsenal and City are both missing some of the parts needed to be champions.
The team that corrects those issues first will go on to win it but if they don’t I can still see Manchester United coming in with a late run from behind.
They might be a long way back for now but they’re on a roll and there’s no pressure on them.
I think Arsenal will win the game tomorrow but, sadly, I still don’t see them winning the title.
I still believe City will end up as champions even though they’re doing their best to mess it up.