“Physicality is something that you need in the League,” said Arteta. “They (City) are one of the most powerful teams in the League, that’s for sure, and you need to match that up.”
Arsenal tried to address that problem in the summer by signing three powerful players in Declan Rice, Jurrien Timber and Kai Havertz.
Rice and Havertz have given the Gunners an edge, but their ability to be even more physical during the run-in is set to be given a significant boost by the return of Thomas Partey.
The Ghanaian has been out since October with a thigh injury but is back training with the rest of the squad and there is a chance that he makes Tuesday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.
That prospect is an exciting one for Arteta as it would allow him to play a midfield trio of Martin Odegaard, Partey and Rice for the first time since August.
Arteta experimented with that combination during pre-season and also used it in the Community Shield, which Arsenal won by beating Manchester City on penalties.
In games against City in the past, the Gunners have been overpowered, especially by the imposing Rodri. But in Partey and Rice, they have the perfect antidote.
“When we want a game to become more physical we have the options to be very, very physical,” Arteta said in pre-season.
Given Arsenal still have to play all of their title rivals in the second half of this season, the chance for Arteta to change up how the team plays is vital.
Arteta has spoken about the need for his team to be unpredictable and the ability to parachute Partey into midfield in place of someone like Havertz allows that.
The plan would be for Partey to play at the base of midfield and Rice to be pushed further forward into a No8 role.
That would give the England midfielder the licence to get forward and win the ball higher up the pitch.
Partey’s strength in midfield has been a miss, but so has his ability in possession. Comfortable receiving the ball off the defence, he is able to turn and get Arsenal up the pitch quickly.
"There are questions over Partey's Arsenal future, but for now he has a big role to play in the title race"
Partey has the quality to open up defences from deep with his passing, and his understanding with Odegaard was key to Arsenal’s fine form at the start of last season.
Long-term, there are questions marks around Partey’s future. He has constantly battled injuries during his time at Arsenal since joining for £45million from Atletico Madrid in 2020.
Partey will have just one year left on his contract come the summer and, as Arsenal look to evolve their midfield, the 30-year-old could be sold.
There has previously been interest in him from Juventus and clubs in Saudi Arabia. For now, though, Partey could have a big role to play as Arsenal try to keep pace in the title race.