Depressing as ever when Man City play Arsenal in the league.
A lot to do with investment. Will Arsenal ever get to City’s level? They need a new owner, preferably one who hasn’t put thousands of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Annoying for Arsenal fans that it was the North London club which helped City on the road to replacing them in the top four. Adebayor, Toure, Clichy, Nasril, Sagna and Taylor went to the Etihad and Arsenal received around £70m to pay for stadium debts. City, who pay minimal rents, duly reached the top four. On a management level too not forgetting Vieira and Marwood. It just emphasises the managed decline at Arsenal in the second decade of the twenty first century.
Holding, Mari and Tierney were in a back four. In midfield, Elneny came in for Ceballos and Pepe was back for Smith Rowe – no doubt with Athens in mind.
Arsenal were disadvantaged by the trip back from Rome over a day later than City’s short journey from Liverpool.
For City John Stones was back, along with Fernandinho, Gundogan and De Bruyne.
With investment in mind, in central defence it was Dias and Stones v Holding and Mari, or £111m plays £10m. And you get what you pay for – in most cases. Arsenal’s main attacks resulted in crosses, thirteen in total which were gobbled up by the Anglo-Portuguese duo. Arsenal had only one shot on target. Man City’s first cross, from a long Dias pass to Mahrez was misjudged by Holding and the 5.7ft Sterling rose above the six-footer to head home.
The North London born player should have had a hat-trick in the first five minutes, but he dribbled too much in front of Leno.
On 17 Arsenal put the first attack together when Tierney and Saka – the best source of Arsenal attacks, linked up with the latter’s shot hitting Aubameyang.
Indeed, Saka was the main hope and on 26 went on a run but couldn’t find Pepe.
Arsenal couldn’t keep possession for long enough. Most players had a defensive mindset and attacks didn’t build. And as the left side was Arsenal’s way out – so City utilised the space on that side, created overlaps against Tierney with most of their attacks in that left channel, with Cancelo prominent.
Tierney crossed on 35 but Odergaard shinned it for a goal kick.
Dias fouled Aubameyang on a breakaway a City trademark – and got away without a booking.
Tierney had a couple of good runs, but his crosses were cleared.
Pepe had a chance to something useful in the area but drove his shot wide.
After half time, City had some good chances. Zinchenko fired over after Sterling toyed with Holding and Bellerin. And De Bruyne lobbed just wide. Gundogan shot and Leno saved. And de Bruyne shot over minutes later. Then Cancelo fouled Tierney and got a yellow.
Ederson sliced a clearance and Elneny shot wide. Smith Rowe came on Odergaard who had a poor game and Lacazette for Pepe who was anonymous.
The best Arsenal chance was when Xhaka lobbed to Aubameyang who crossed for Saka who slipped in front of goal.
Jesus twisted and turned Holding and passed to Cancelo who sent it wide with the outside of his foot.
City never really got out of third gear. Although the positives include the resilience Arsenal showed under pressure, and the adaptation to turn small periods of the game in their favour.
Sterling said: “They are good side. They play under Mikel. They made it difficult. Mikel knows our strengths and weaknesses and made it difficult for us.”
Kieran Tierney said;“Yes it was tough. We didn’t start well. You can’t afford that against City.
“Something like that can happen against a top team. We need to think positive. We always believed we could get back in it. We were unlucky not to get a goal. I’m just knackered.”
Mikel Arteta said:”The start to the game cost us. It put us in a difficult situation. It puts the game where they want it. They want to drag you out and create the spaces. We reacted well. We got on top of the game and generated chances. But we lacked the quality to create a goal. They used overloads on one of the sides. If you want to win against City you can’t concede.
“We lost a tactical thing on the goal.
“They found it difficult. We were good on the ball – but lacked picking a pass to create a goal.
“We tried to use some weaknesses we could exploit.
“Within their organisation they can do a lot of different things.
“It was a demanding game for both of us.”
On Holding: “He is fine.”
Guardiola said: “We expected it not to be easy. It is difficult to play against Arsenal. It is so difficult. The last ten to fifteen was brilliant – simple. We didn’t push the action. The last 30 of the first half they were better than us. In the second we pressed Leno. The second half was better.
“Mikel is so good. I know what he does. He’s so clever. I learn a lot from him. He knows everything about football.”
Arsenal: 1Leno, 2Bellerín (Booked at 87mins), 16Holding (Substituted for David Luiz at 82’minutes), 22Marí, 3Tierney, 25Elneny (Substituted for Ceballos at 86’minutes), 34Xhaka (Booked at 53mins), 19Pépé (Substituted for Smith Rowe at 73’minutes), 11ØdegaardSubstituted for Lacazette at 73’minutes), 7Saka, 14Aubameyang
Man City: 31Ederson, 27Cancelo (Booked at 64mins), 5Stones, 3Rúben Dias, 11Zinchenko, 17De Bruyne (Substituted for Gabriel Jesus at 63’minutes),25Fernandinho, 8Gündogan, 26Mahrez, 20Bernardo Silva (Booked at 51mins), 7Sterling