has slammed for allowing Ilkay Gundogan to leave the club, suggesting his absence could cost them the title.
to third in the table behind and Liverpool.
And the , as the league leaders are expected to win at struggling Luton Town on Tuesday, while the on Wednesday.
Victory for the Villans would see them leapfrog City in the table, and put more pressure on Pep Guardiola’s side whose inability to see out games has cost them dear recently.
The absence of key players like John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne has played a part in this, but Merson believes that Gundogan’s departure over the summer has had a very negative impact.
‘Let’s be honest – Ilkay Gundogan has been a massive miss so far,’ the Arsenal legend wrote for .
‘He’s scored so many important goals for City, and they wouldn’t have won the league without him. I thought it was phenomenal for them to let him leave on a free transfer, and it might come back to bite them.’
Gundogan was Guardiola’s very first signing for City back in 2016 and seemed to only get better and grow in stature with team, eventually captaining the club to the treble last season.
The midfielder made 100 goal contributions across 304 appearances for the Citizens and many were surprised that the club allowed him to leave on a free to Barcelona last summer.
Turning his attention to the match at Villa Park, Merson is believes that City will drop points in a tight game, adding: ‘I expect Arsenal to beat Luton, and they could go six points clear at the top of the Premier League table before this game kicks off.
‘This is a massive game for City, and it could define their season. Man City are going to the hardest place you can visit in the Premier League at the moment. Aston Villa have a brilliant record at home.
‘How many times have City been in front this season before giving away a lead? They were relentless last season – if their opponents fell behind, City used to drain the life out of them. They’re struggling to close out their games at the moment, and it’s a worry for them.
‘I know that City turn up when they need to – that’s why they’re great. There’s something missing this season, however, and Villa will cause them some problems.
‘This is a huge game for Manchester City, and I don’t see them winning it. Prediction: Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester City.’
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