Arsenal vs Manchester City: 2-0 (Aubameyang 19, 71)
Arsenal Line-up Against City:
Martínez; Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Tierney; Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland Niles, Pepe, Lacazette; Aubameyang.
A quite incredible result on an incredibly memorable evening, one that no one expected, no one that is except for Mikel Arteta. The man constantly derided in social media for his tactics, choices, and inexperience has opened the door to a possible trophy and Europe. It’s more than fans could have hoped at the beginning of the season after Emery’s disastrous adventure, inevitable sacking, and Arteta’s appointment.
The Arsenal vs Manchester City game was thought to be even tougher when you consider that Arsenal had lost their last seven games against the same opposition and that they had beaten Liverpool comprehensively. This win ended City’s hopes of a treble at the hands of an Arsenal side that has discovered how to ride their luck and win against the odds.
From the first whistle, it was no surprise to anyone that Manchester City came out of the starting blocks as if the game was going to last 15 minutes. Nor was it a surprise to see City with so much of the ball with Arsenal having to repel them frequently.
12 minutes into the Arsenal vs Manchester City game, City could have had at least two goals, the clearest chance falling to Sterling who benefited from some good old fashion Arsenal confusion between who else? Mustafi and Luiz. The normally reliable Sterling fluffed his line at a crucial stage in the proceedings and Arsenal drew a breath. This type of defending would, one felt, lead to a goal, and Arsenal fans could only hope for a ‘something out of nothing’ moment.
Then around the 14-minute mark, Lacazette thought he’d done it again after collecting a delightful through ball that ended up in the back of the net, only for it to be ruled offside. It was, but only just.
Two minutes later and Aubameyang should have put the Gunners ahead after receiving a peach of a ball from David Luiz. He may not be the best defender but he can pick a pass worthy of any Brazilian. Aubameyang’s decision to blast it was a poor one and Ederson looked the most relieved man in the empty stadium.
The Arsenal skipper didn’t look too disappointed, more irritated but when his second chance came (19), he made sure his foot connected perfectly with the Pepe cross to make it 1-0. It was essentially a textbook Arsenal goal that was built from the back and covered both flanks on the way to the goal. Sublime, one-touch football that included 19 perfect and precise passes. Wonderful!
Suddenly, City looked how Liverpool felt on a baffling evening at the Emirates, but Arsenal had to knuckle down quickly with Arteta reminding them that there was a long road ahead from the touchline. The truth is that City should have paid attention to the extremely obvious plan of long balls and peppered crosses into the box to feed the strikers but, they just left Aubameyang to his own devices. Massive mistake.
29 minutes and Arsenal nearly shot themselves in the head with Bellerin playing the role of Kolasinac with a pass straight to the feet of Jesus, which in turn went to De Bruyne, who crashed a shot into Xhaka’s folded legs. It was a crucial interception and had the number 34 not made it, the complexion of the Arsenal vs Manchester City game could have changed quite quickly.
Arteta’s plan seemed to be working well. They posed a threat going forward, had converted a chance, defended well, and were functional down the left in particular, with the ‘Tiernado’ working well with Maitland-Niles. Is he leaving? Not sure about that. AMN looked to be a completely different player, full of running and urgency.
The big bonus at this point was that Kevin De Bruyne, the best player in the Premier League, looked slightly off his usual game, perhaps due to Arsenal’s appetite for closing off space around him. However, the Belgium international is not the kind of player to remain anonymous for an entire 90 minutes. He and City would come again.
At the start of the second half, it was clear that Guardiola had got at his players in the break and they took the game to Arsenal. De Bruyne suddenly remembered that he was Arsenal’s main tormentor and at the same time, Sterling looked like the menace he has become. 49 minutes and both City players lined up, with De Bruyne cutting back for Sterling only to drag it wide of the Arsenal left post and Martinez.
From that moment, it was one-way traffic again and it was left to Arsenal’s new goalkeeping hero to keep Mahrez out. At this rate, City were going to muscle their way back into this contest, even from a dubious penalty shout when the ball appeared to hit Xhaka. The appeal was dismissed, rightly so.
The Arsenal vs Manchester City contest was becoming more open and even though the Citizens were vastly improved, they could overstretch and end up conceding another goal. That would be fatal.
Arsenal had to remain solid and shut City down at every opportunity. The game certainly had more goals in it and it was just a question of who found the net. Would we witness an equaliser or a winner?
De Bruyne hit the side netting from a free-kick (62). Sterling claimed a penalty for a Mustafi challenge (63), followed by chances for Sterling again and Silva. I thought that it would be a miracle if Arsenal could keep this up but then in the 71st minute, Aubameyang turned the game on its head by sliding the ball under the City keeper after a superb pass over the top from Kieran Tierney.
Arteta has indeed found a system that works, sometimes it’s hard on the nerves and the stomach. At other times, it’s incredibly pleasing on the eye and harks back to a more determined and defense-minded Arsenal. City continued to rampage forward and in the 83rd minute, Laporte smashed his shot goalward, only to watch it narrowly fly past the post.
Arteta reinforced the defence and by the end, had six players shielding the Arsenal goal. Holding replaced the injured Mustafi, Torriera came on for Lacazette and Kolasinac for Ceballos and Xhaka also settled in for the final five minutes.
Arsenal have had their disappointments but within a week, they have managed to beat the Premier League champions and the runners-up. Both teams with bigger squads, more money, and more quality, yet somehow Arteta has seen his side beat them both.
They’ve scored four and conceded one, the terrible defence has creaked and groaned but this time, it’s held firm against all odds. This sends a message to the Arsenal board that money needs to be invested to support a gifted young manager in his mission to revive the once-great North London club.
If he wins the FA Cup, his case becomes even stronger. Arsenal’s board and the owner will have no choice but to invest in the team … surely. Arteta and the team deserve the praise after endless criticism. They have had a massive turnaround in fortunes but, it’s all down to old fashioned graft and team spirit.
Arsenal’s current team doesn’t have as much quality as the top two sides but they worked hard for each other, showed desire, and delivered an exceptional performance. The type of performance that is normally used against them by clubs considered to be smaller.
August’s FA Cup final awaits and it’s going to be another strange affair without the fans, but Arsenal have somehow managed to form their own support network sensing that this season could eventually yield something for them. Arteta must have the final word on the Arsenal vs Manchester City game which could prove pivotal to the club:
“I am extremely happy and glad for our players. I am sad we can’t enjoy this moment with our fans.
You have to try to give your best, take your opportunities, and put everybody on the line.
For me, they are the best team in Europe, the way they play, but we did our job.
There is a great chemistry between our players and they deserved it.
I wasn’t on the pitch, so congratulations!”