The first Premier League game of 2022 is a vitally important one for both sides, for differing reasons, and for the entire English top-flight more generally.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side are already threatening to walk away with this season’s title with half of the season still to play.
The Citizens have already hit their sweet spot which makes them virtually unstoppable, and if they were to get a victory at the Emirates Stadium, it would be their 11th consecutive Premier League win.
Moreover, it would put them 12 points clear of their title rivals ahead of the other matches to be played this weekend.
As there’s still so much of the season left to play, such a lead isn’t insurmountable, but the confidence it would give City is worth an extra few points in itself.
Jack Grealish only makes the bench for the visitors again, with Gabriel Jesus leading the line as usual and Nathan Ake being handed a rare start.
From Arsenal’s perspective, they’ll be without Mikel Arteta for arguably their biggest game of the season bar the North London derby.
A win for the Gunners keeps them on the coat-tails of Liverpool and Chelsea, though they’ll have to be at their very best in order to turn over City.
With Emile Smith Rowe in fine form, an expectation that he’d be pulling the strings alongside Martin Odegaard wouldn’t have been without foundation, but he too only makes the bench.
Gab Martinelli starts and will hope to continue his own good form, in a strong looking Arsenal side that will give City a game.
Our first starting XI of 2022…
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 1, 2022
? TEAM NEWS ?
XI | Ederson, Cancelo, Dias (C), Laporte, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 1, 2022