Good afternoon! It's good to have the Premier League back, isn't it? The best has been saved until last on the opening weekend too, with Arsenal hosting Manchester City
at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon!
It is the start of the post-Arsene Wenger era for the Gunners and our first Premier League look at Man City's class of 2018-19 too, after they dominated the top flight in a way no other team has done last term.
Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have all already won this weekend while Liverpool are well on course for three points against West Ham, so the spotlight now turns to these two heavyweights.
Let's start with a look at the team news...
ARSENAL STARTING XI: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Guendouzi, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang
ARSENAL SUBS: Leno, Holding, Lichtsteiner, Elneny, Torreira, Iwobi, Lacazette
MAN CITY STARTING XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; Fernandinho, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling; Aguero
MAN CITY SUBS: Bravo, Kompany, De Bruyne, Sane, Otamendi, Jesus, Foden
What can we make of those two teams, then?
Well, there are one or two surprising calls from both managers, but we'll start with Unai emery's first competitive XI as Arsenal boss and he has notably picked Petr Cech as his number one ahead of summer signing Bernd Leno, who had been widely expected to get the nod.
Cech has been one of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, but he made more mistakes leading to goals than anyone else last term and was linked with an exit this summer. He has something of a point to prove this time around.
Another key decision for Emery to make for this game was who to play at left-back, with Kolasinac and Monreal both sidelined by injuries.
There was talk that Danny Welbeck could be deployed in an unfamiliar defensive position - he even trained there earlier this week in preparation - but Emery has instead gone for Maitland-Niles in that position. Bellerin, meanwhile, takes up the opposite flank ahead of summer signing Lichtsteiner.
Leno and Lichtsteiner miss out, then, but there are a couple of debutants for the hosts this afternoon with Sokratis named alongside Mustafi at the heart of the defensive and Guendouzi starting in midfield next to Xhaka.
Perhaps the most promising summer signing for Arsenal was Lucas Torreira - a combative Uruguayan midfielder who should add some much-needed steel to the team - but he has to settle for a place on the bench today.
Arsenal fans will be pleased to see Aaron Ramsey start after concerns over a calf injury, and the Welshman remains one of their key players despite entering the final year of his contract at the club.
Ramsey joins the creative duo of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the trio just behind the striker, and it is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has been chosen ahead of Lacazette to lead the line. Aubameyang did well despite Arsenal's struggles during the second half of last season, scoring 10 goals and creating four more in 13 Premier League appearances.
As for Manchester City, their headline news is that Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane - the two leading assist-makers in the Premier League last season - only make the bench today.
De Bruyne returned to training earlier this week but is available for selection, although Sane's omission is perhaps the biggest surprise considering he was left out of Germany's World Cup squad. Sane was brilliant at times last term, but both Bernardo and debutant Riyad Mahrez are preferred to him this time.
Mahrez was Man City's only major arrival during the transfer window, with the winger joining from Leicester City in a club-record £60m switch having long been linked with the club.
The City team sheet suggests that Mahrez and Sterling - who unlike De Bruyne does start despite going to the final weekend of the World Cup - will play in the wider roles, while Bernardo fills in alongside Fernandinho and Gundogan in the midfield three.
David Silva misses out due to injury, forcing him to wait for his 250th Premier League appearance, but one player who does look to be over his injury problems is Benjamin Mendy, who today makes his first Premier League start since September 2017.
Guardiola is spoilt for choice with his defensive options this season, and it is notable that he has gone for Stones and Laporte in this game ahead of Kompany and Otamendi, the latter of whom was arguably the best midfielder in the entire league last season.
Ederson has not yet featured for City in pre-season but replaces Claudio Bravo in goal today, despite Bravo keeping a clean sheet in the Community Shield triumph last time out.
at the other end of the pitch, Aguero once again leads the line having scored twice in that win at Wembley to move past 200 goals for Man City. Gabriel Jesus, meanwhile, has to make do with a place on a very strong bench.
It is a daunting Man City squad which makes the journey to the Emirates Stadium today, but Arsenal fans will at least hope that they can put up a better fight than they did against Man City last season.
There is certainly an increased air of optimism around the club ahead of the new campaign following the anger and then apathy which defined the latter stages of Arsene Wenger's reign, with Gunners fans hopeful that Unai Emery can bring about the change they have demanded for so long now.
This is the first time Arsenal will have played a competitive match without Arsene Wenger at the helm since a 2-0 win over Sunderland under caretaker boss Pat Rice in September 1996, though, so Emery must be given time to implement those changes.
It can often be very difficult to take over from such a long-serving manager whose habits perhaps became ingrained in the club itself, but Emery brings with him a winning track record, with three successive Europa League triumphs at Sevilla and a domestic treble with PSG last season the defining highlights on his CV.
That said, the Spaniard could not have asked for a much harder start to his competitive Arsenal career.
The visit of the champions will be difficult enough, particularly when we can assume the players are still getting to grips with the new manager's system, but after that they travel to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their second game.
It is perfectly feasible that Arsenal could find themselves six points behind some of their top-six rivals after only two games, though, but improvement is the main aim of the game this season for the Gunners following a dreadful campaign last term.
Arsenal recorded their lowest finish since 1994-95 by ending the season in sixth place, missing out on a place in the top four for the second year in a row following 20 successive top-four finishes. Breaking back into the Champions League will be priority number one for Emery, but to do that he must bridge a 12-point gap from last season.
A title challenge is surely a step too far for the Gunners considering they ended last season a whopping 37 points adrift of Man City, although we should get some idea of where they are at under the new boss this afternoon.
Top of the agenda for Emery to sort out from last season must surely be the team's defensive record, with Arsenal conceded 51 times in the Premier League last season - the most they have let in throughout a top-flight campaign since 1983-84.
Arsenal's away form must also improve markedly this term, with the Gunners losing 11 times and winning just four matches on the road last season.
It was that away record which really let them down, as here at the Emirates they were impressive. Indeed, if only home form counted Arsenal would have finished second in the table, only three points adrift of Man City, while only the champions scored more in front of their own fans too.
Arsenal won their final five Premier League home games last season, scoring 18 goals in the process, although their only defeat in their last eight such matches came at the hands of today's opponents.
This is the seventh successive season in which Arsenal have begun the campaign at home, and their last two opening games have each ended in a 4-3 scoreline, so hopefully we should be in for a cracker today!
It is the first time the Gunners have begun their season against the reigning top-flight champions since the 1970-71 campaign, when they drew 2-2 with Everton.
The Everton of 1970-71 were not quite as imposing a challenge as this Manchester City outfit, though, and perhaps the biggest question ahead of the 2018-19 season is just whether Pep Guardiola
's side can be as good as they were in 2017-18.
Arsenal's Invincibles, Jose Mourinho's first Chelsea side and various incarnations of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United may argue, but last season's Man City side are surely the greatest the Premier League has ever seen. The challenge now is to create a dynasty, and they certainly looked capable of doing that with their performances last term.
has continually stressed that his side will need to be even better than they were last season if they are to retain the title, and history suggests he has a point, with the last three title winners going on to finish outside the top four in each of the last three seasons.
Indeed, no team has retained the Premier League title since Manchester United made it three in a row in 2008-09, with Chelsea, City, United and Leicester sharing it between themselves since then.
City are unsurprisingly overwhelming favourites to end that era of hot potato, though, and while Liverpool laid down a marker with the manner of their victory over West Ham earlier today, Pep Guardiola's side are still the outstanding team in the division.
There are a raft of stats which show just how impressive City were last term, but even they do not do justice to just how pleasing on the eye they were for the vast majority of the campaign.
Numerous records were broken en route to lifting the trophy, including but not limited to the following:
Most points in a season (100)
Most goals (106)
Biggest title-winning margin (19 points)
Most Premier League wins in a row (18)
Most wins in a season (32)
Most away wins (16)
Most away points (50)
Best goal difference (+79)
It is tough to find any areas in which City can improve, then, although away from the Premier League they will want to do better in the Champions League, where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Liverpool last season.
Guardiola's side memorably got off to a brilliant start last season, and the fixture lists suggests the same could be true this time around. This is a difficult test away to what may be a rejuvenated Arsenal side, but after this they face Huddersfield, Wolves, Newcastle, Fulham, Cardiff and Brighton in their next six, meaning that they will take on all three newly-promoted sides in their opening six games.
Incredibly, City were just as good away from home as they were at the Etihad last season, with their 100-point haul evenly split up into 50 points apiece, losing just once in front of their own fans and once on the road.
It was that away form which really set them apart; had only home form counted then City would have won the title by just three points, but they picked up 16 more points than the next best away team last term, also scoring the most goals (45) and conceded the fewest (13) on their travels.
City are unbeaten in their last nine opening Premier League fixtures, winning eight of those including each of the last seven, although they haven't often faced one as challenging as today's first up.
Guardiola's side will also hope of break a hoodoo which has seen the reigning champions lose their opening game in the past two campaigns - something which has never happened three seasons in a row in English top-flight history.
The Citizens have already picked up their first piece of silverware this season courtesy of their victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield last Sunday, and the manner of that Wembley win suggested that no complacency has crept in over the summer.
It has been a fairly quiet post-season, though, with fewer pre-season games than most and just the one major signing. City went on tour to the United States for the ICC, where they suffered mixed results with defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool before beating Bayern Munich.
Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at the Emirates Stadium, which means that it is time for a prediction!
This is a difficult one to call as Arsenal should be right up for it, and Man City are missing a couple of key players such as De Bruyne and David Silva. I expect Arsenal to be a lot more difficult to beat under Emery, but this City side is on another level to everyone else in England at the moment so I am going to back an away win - but not by much!
SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City
These two sides met on three occasions last season, and Man City ran out comfortable winners in all three of those, scoring exactly three goals in each game including the EFL Cup final.
The most recent of those was a 3-0 win for Man City here when they scored all of their goals inside the opening 33 minutes, just days after winning by the same scoreline in that EFL Cup final at Wembley.
Arsenal are now without a win in their last five league meetings with Man City and have won only two of their last 12, with five draws and five defeats in that time too.
The reverse fixture last season came in May, and once again City ran out victorious with a 3-1 triumph courtesy of goals from De Bruyne, Aguero and Jesus, with Lacazette responding for Arsenal.
Arsenal have only won one of their last six league meetings with City here at the Emirates Stadium, and a victory for the visitors this afternoon would see them record back-to-back top-flight away wins against the Gunners for the first time since 1936.
However, the last time these two met on the opening day of the season came in 1994, when George Graham's Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners at Highbury.
Right, the players are out and we're just about ready to go at the Emirates. Let's have a reminder of the team news before we do get started...
ARSENAL STARTING XI: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Guendouzi, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang
MAN CITY STARTING XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; Fernandinho, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling; Aguero
KICKOFF: Here we go, then! Arsenal get us underway at the Emirates!
SHOT! Sokratis wins a towering header to get the ball quickly back forward and Ramsey picks up the loose ball in a bit of space outside the area. However, he tries to hit it with the outside of his right boot and doesn't get the power on it to trouble the keeper.
YELLOW CARD! Less than four minutes into the new season and Sterling picks up a yellow card for a late challenge on Guendouzi, having seen the ball get away from him.
City make their first attacking thrust forward as Walker takes over from Mahrez and shows his electric pace to reach the byline, but his cross is too high for those in the middle.
City come forward again and Walker once again gets into a good position down the right flank, but his low ball into the box is cut out by Walker. Man City are just starting to flex their muscles a bit here.
CHANCE! Ominous signs for Arsenal already, with City starting to look very good. Aguero collects a throw-in and pokes a clever pass into the path of Sterling, who darts into the box, turns Mustafi inside out and then sees his powerful effort from a tight angle well saved by Cech.
There is a lot of noise inside the Emirates Stadium in these opening stages - a far cry from the latter days of the Arsene Wenger era. The hosts are being pinned back at the moment, with City getting joy down the right especially.
This time it is Mahrez who gets to the byline down the right flank, but once more Cech is there to cut out the cross. City have certainly identified Maitland-Niles as a point of weakness here.
GOAL! ARSENAL 0-1 MANCHESTER CITY (RAHEEM STERLING)
Well, we're 14 minutes in but this has certainly been coming. City have dominated the last 10 minutes or so, and they have a deserved lead through Raheem Sterling
The England winger picks the ball up on the left flank and is allowed to dip inside across the edge of the box and get a shot away. Cech is unsighted but should still do better as Sterling blasts his effort in from 20 yards.
A dream start for Man City, but a worrying one for Arsenal!
City are looking very slick at the moment. Arsenal actually started quickly brightly, full of energy in the opening five minutes or so, but it didn't take long for City to assert their superiority here.
City come forward again and this time they attack down the left flank, but Mendy's low cross is pushed behind by Cech, who has been busy cutting out those deliveries so far.
A significant milestone for Raheem Sterling. Can he match last season's numbers?
CHANCE! Much better from Arsenal as they are finally able to break out and launch a meaningful attack of their own. The ball is played out to Bellerin, who skips past his marker and then drills an effort towards goal which Ederson saves. The full-back should have probably done better there.
CLOSE! Cech has not exactly covered himself in glory during the past season-and-a-bit. He tries to play out from the back and soon gets the ball back at his feet, but his next attempt to find a defender almost sees him kick the ball into his own net, sending it inches past the post.
Here is that goal from Sterling, which is all that separates the two sides midway through this first half...
Sterling is causing all sorts of problems at the moment. He wriggles into the box again and Maitland-Niles initially seems to have made a good challenge, but Sterling bounces right back up, wins the ball back inside the box and sees a pass deflected into the arms of Cech.
YELLOW CARD! Another swashbuckling Man City attack is finally halted by a scything Sokratis challenge to bring down Aguero right on the edge of the box. The debutant picks up a yellow card for his troubles, and he has no complaints.
SAVE! Crucial double save from Cech to keep his side in this game - although the second was as a result of him spilling the first. Mahrez goes low with his free kick on the goalkeeper's side and Cech gets down low smartly, but pushes it out into a dangerous area. Laporte is following in, but Cech recovers well to make a really good second stop from point-blank range.
CHANCE! The resulting corner is met by Laporte, who has been left in space, but he cannot steer it on target.
There is concern for Arsenal over Maitland-Niles here, with the makeshift full-back staying down after a tangle with Walker. The youngster is in pain, but looks as though he will try to carry on here. More problems at left-back for the Gunners!
Sure enough, Maitland-Niles does come back on, but he is still not moving freely at all and that could be dangerous considering he was already being targeted by Man City.
Arsenal string together their best move of the half as Ramsey drives forward before finding Ozil, who in turns moves it on for Mkhitaryan. The Armenian is crowded out in the box, though, and a promising position goes begging.
ARSENAL SUB: Maitland-Niles tried to battle on, but he will not be able to here. He is replaced by Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose debut will come in an unfamiliar position.
Man City have looked very good today, but they still only have that one-goal lead and there have been a few occasions where they have not made the most of promising positions. Guardiola will want to see his side be more clinical.
What has happened to Petr Cech? He looks like a shadow of his Chelsea self, almost giving the ball again here with a dodgy pass which Guendouzi does well to make something out of.
CLOSE! An Arsenal attack breaks down and City are quickly on the front foot again, with Aguero spraying a diagonal ball out to Mahrez. The winger throws in a couple of trademark step-overs before trying to curl one into the far corner, but it goes just wide.
The fans are urging Arsenal to stop playing out from the back here. City are pressing so high, and Cech waving his defenders up the field to hoof the ball long has just brought one of the biggest cheers of the game.
SHOT! Arsenal have one of their best attacking moments of the half right at the end of it, with Aubameyang picking the ball up in space. However, he lets fly from range and the ball is always curling away from goal.
There will be four minutes of added time at the end of this first half.
Mendy is caught in possession and Arsenal are quick to pounce on the ball, with Mkhitaryan exchanging passes with Ramsey on their way into the box. Mkhitaryan tries to shoot from the return pass, but Mendy has recovered and does enough to deny the winger.
HALF TIME: ARSENAL 0-1 MANCHESTER CITY
The first half comes to an end at the Emirates Stadium, then, and Arsenal can consider themselves lucky to only be a goal behind at the halfway stage of this match.
Man City have been by far the better team here but have been unable to build on their 1-0 lead, so Arsenal are still in the game. They will need something to change if they are to get back into it, though.
The only goal of the game so far came from Raheem Sterling, who was one of City's best players in that first half with his pace keeping Arsenal on their toes throughout.
The England winger collected the ball on the left flank before cutting inside and blasting his finish past Cech from the edge of the box. Bellerin, Guendouzi and Cech all should have done better, but take nothing away from Sterling's effort.
City have had a number of other chances to add to their lead, with Petr Cech making a fine double save to deny Mahrez and then Laporte from point-blank range, while also denying Sterling from a tight angle.
Cech has kept the score down, then, but he has also been shaky in possession and almost passed the ball into his own net at one stage when trying to play out from the back.
Arsenal's own sights of goal have been few and far between, but the best of the first half fell to Hector Bellerin, who skipped away from Mendy to leave himself with only the keeper to beat.
The full-back needed to keep his composure, though, and instead blasted the ball straight at Ederson, who made the save.
Man City are unsurprisingly ahead on all the major stats, boasting 60% possession and double the amount of shots as Arsenal. You can see all of the match stats by clicking here.
KICKOFF: Manchester City get us back underway for the second half!
It will be interesting to see how Arsenal start this second half, and whether anything has changed from the first. Emery no doubt had plenty to say to his players at the interval, but at the same time sometimes you simply have to acknowledge that this Man City team is something special.
SHOT! Arsenal are slow to close these City players down here as first Mendy is invited to shoot, blasting his effort into a defender. The ball drops to Aguero, who also powers an effort towards goal, but it takes a deflection on its way behind.
YELLOW CARD! Granit Xhaka gets his customary yellow card for a cynical trip on Aguero.
ARSENAL SUB: Arsenal make their second change of the afternoon as Alexandre Lacazette replaces Ramsey.
CHANCE! Lacazette almost makes an immediate impact as Arsenal win the ball back inside the Man City half and work the ball to the sub striker. The Frenchman takes the ball down and tries to steer a half-volley into the far corner, but he puts it wide of the target.
Suddenly the noise levels have risen again at the Emirates! Lacazette's introduction has injected new life into the team and suddenly the fans are beginning to believe they could get something out of this game.
MAN CITY SUB: Man City had just lost a bit of control over this game in the past few minutes, so who better to bring on than Kevin De Bruyne? He replaces Mahrez.
We've had an hour of this game now, and there have just been one or two occasions of Man City timewasting, which is not something we saw much from them last term. It is a sign that Arsenal are beginning to grow into this second half, though.
CHANCE! Oh what a big moment this could be! It is suicidal defending from Arsenal as they leave their last man around five yards inside the Man City half. Guendouzi misses the ball, and suddenly Aguero is clean through on goal with the full half to run into. De Bruyne is in support and would have a simple tap-in if Aguero squares it, but the Argentine goes for goal and is denied by Cech.
GOAL! ARSENAL 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY (BERNARDO SILVA)
Aguero's miss is suddenly forgotten! Man City surely put this game to bed with a second goal through Bernardo Silva
, who continues his fine form from pre-season into the competitive campaign.
Mendy is the provider, smuggling a low cross into a dangerous area of the box which Bernardo meets with an emphatic first-time finish. Petr Cech had no chance.
That is a major blow for Arsenal, whose belief had been steadily growing for 10 minutes or so prior to that goal. Now they have a mountain to climb to get back into this match, and the goal should certainly settle Man City back down too.
Mendy is perhaps a little fortunate to get away with one here. It is an off-the-ball incident in the area which sees Mendy wrap his arm around the neck of Mustafi, but the referee says no.
The Arsenal fans may grow to like Guendouzi. He is all-action and, while there are certainly things to work on, he has not shied away from anything despite his tender years.
ARSENAL SUB: A third and final change for Arsenal as Lucas Torreira comes on for his debut, replacing Xhaka.
I mentioned Guendouzi has things to work on - shooting might be one of them. He tries his luck from outside the area, but slices it into row Z.
YELLOW CARD! De Bruyne goes into the book for a foul on Torreira. The Belgian actually played the ball first, but then followed through and caught the Arsenal midfielder.
Here is Bernardo's second goal, which looks to have wrapped up all three points for Man City...
Man City have not been quite as free-flowing and slick in this second half, but they are also missing a host of their best players at the moment so they will only get better. They are the ones to beat again this season.
Arsenal do have the ball in the back of the net, but the whistle has long since gone and the linesman's flag is up. Aubameyang darted in behind the defence and lifted his finish over Ederson, but he had just strayed a yard off.
MAN CITY SUB: Another change for Man City here as Gabriel Jesus replaces Aguero.
CHANCE! Guendouzi releases Lichtsteiner down the left flank and he picks out Ozil in the middle, but he gets his shot all wrong and completely fluffs his lines from a decent position.
More good football from City as Jesus stretches the defence before playing it out wide to Gundogan, although the midfielder's cross is too heavy for Sterling at the back post.
CHANCE! Ederson has got away with one here! The keeper gives the ball away and it is immediately pounced on by Ozil, but the German's touch is heavy and Ederson atones for his own mistake by gathering it.
Messy defending from Arsenal as Man City pour forward once again, but Mendy's eventual shot is deflected easily into the arms of Cech.
Arsenal have the ball in the back of the net for a second time as Ozil tucks his finish past Ederson, but he was a few yards offside.
MAN CITY SUB: A third and final change for Man City sees Leroy Sane replace Sterling.
Man City have not been at their scintillating best at times today and there are plenty of things to improve if they are to have another record-breaking season, but they have still made an away trip to Arsenal looked pretty comfortable here without many of their star players from the start.
There will be four minutes of added time at the end of this match.
CHANCE! Arsenal haven't given up on a consolation here. They keep the ball in and work it into Lacazette, but he blasts his effort over the crossbar.
FULL TIME: ARSENAL 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY
A winning start for Manchester City to their title defence, then, and a losing start for Unai Emery in charge of Arsenal - although he has warned that it will take time and there is no shame in losing to this Manchester City side.
There is indeed plenty of work to do for the Gunners if they are to get back up to the level of the very best teams in England, with City making this away trip to the Emirates look pretty comfortable today despite not being at their best themselves and missing a number of key first-team players.
Goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva separated the two sides in the end, and it looks as though City will once again be the team to beat this season.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening!
Thanks you very much for joining Sports Mole for today's match as Man City bring the curtain down on the opening weekend of the Premier League season with a 2-0 win over Unai Emery's Arsenal. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!