The talking points before the City v Arsenal game were that Özil was missing due to a supposed tactical change and Arsenal decided to flog another shirt in a blatant commercial decision on another wet Manchester evening instead of wearing the traditional red and white.
Expectations would be swept aside with the rain and this would be seen as a game to forget whatever Arsenal shirt fans wore.
It took Manchester City a full 30 minutes to shake off the cobwebs and dominate the Gunners, with their chief tormentor Kevin De Bruyne picking up where he left off before the season’s premature end. It was clear that Arsenal presented a zero threat rating when Guardiola decided to extract the best player in the Premier League and give him some well-earned rest.
Once City saw that Arteta planned to shackle Bellerin and Tierney into an ambitionless back four, Manchester City began to go through the gears and they could have been 3 goals to the good by the end of the first 45, but for the athletic and diligent performance of Bernd Leno.
The deflating final score of 3-0 could have been 7 or 8 had the finishing been better and the German been less resistant, what a pity he had little or no assistance.
Arsenal’s problems were obvious and the gulf between the sides in terms of quality was enormous. Arsenal lacked heart and creativity, they looked clueless and toothless as City strangled the game. They were well worth their 1-0 lead courtesy of Raheem Sterling (45 + 2), after an exhilarating 15 minutes and you felt more goals were inevitable in the City v Arsenal game.
Arsenal didn’t have the best of luck with Xhaka departing after 4 mins with an ankle issue and the loss of Pablo Mari after around 20 minutes. The on-loan centre-back had looked extremely promising before pulling up abruptly in his own area with a possible hamstring issue.
Ceballos came on for the Swiss defensive midfielder but was unable to exert any influence and David Luiz, who surprisingly didn’t make the line-up, was called upon to fill the defensive void.
What happened from then on would justify the calls from fans to jettison the Brazilian in the summer after a series of costly errors. He gifted Sterling the first with a clumsy intervention to a De Bruyne pass. To cut out the pass, he stretched out a leg and the ball span off his thigh into the path of the advancing predator.
You sensed then that the contract that Luiz was seeking was slowly being withdrawn by a hand in a suit, only to be placed in a drawer but worse was to come.
Ederson punted a precise ball forward for Mahrez, the former Leicester City man put his foot on the gas and accelerated into the box chased by the heavy legs and clumsy nature of David Luiz. What happened next was beyond words with the Brazilian desperately wrapping himself around the Algerian with every available limb.
Had the police had been present, the Arsenal man would have been charged with malicious assault but as it was, he received a justifiable red card. De Bruyne stepped up and put the ball firmly in Leno’s net (51) and had there been a crowd, Luiz would have heard his name included in several unflattering sentences.
Phil Foden added a third to round off City’s masterclass to the opposition side that once wrote the manual for free-flowing, entertaining football and it was poignant that the two coaches, who are still great friends, were experiencing contrasting emotions during the City v Arsenal game.
If Arteta had planned to contain Manchester City and hit them on the counter straight down the middle, it showed promise for about 10 minutes, as Nketiah tried to split the centre-backs.
Arsenal were simply dreadful. They offered nothing and looked incapable of changing the state of the game or by scoring. When Leno, Tierney, and Mustafi are the standout players, you know that you’ve got problems.
I lost count of the attempts Manchester City had on goal, but it was in double figures. Arsenal managed 2 but I couldn’t recall what they were to be fair. Both probably belonged to Nketiah who looked lively but lacked the experience and touch to befuddle the City defence.
Arsenal had no one in the middle to link and orchestrate and worse still, Aubameyang had lost both his smile and touch by turning into a version of Mesut Ozil as he went missing in action. Not that there was much action from an Arsenal perspective. I recall him touching the ball about four times with any purpose. One-touch went the width of a goal wide and looked like the type a defender might take when attempting a shot.
Altogether, the City v Arsenal fixture was a massively disappointing evening and one which meant Arteta has to go back to the drawing board. The players he has at his disposal aren’t good enough and the young prospects he wants to develop and promote aren’t ready.
The only concern for Manchester City was the condition of Eric Garcia, who needed several minutes of intense treatment after a horrible collision with his own goalkeeper and was carried off on a stretcher on oxygen. It soured what had been a good evening for the Manchester side, but one that Arsenal will be keen to distance themselves from.