Result: Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 17 October 2020
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Starting lineup: Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Willian, Aubameyang, Pepe.
Subs: Runarsson, Luiz, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Partey, Nketiah, Lacazette
Raheem Sterling’s first half strike was enough to condemn Arsenal to a second Premier League defeat of the season as Manchester City ran out 1-0 winners at the Etihad.
On a night of few chances, the home side did just about enough to take the points against a Gunners side who’ll question why they couldn’t step things up in the second half.
Mikel Arteta’s decision to leave Eddie Nketiah and Alex Lacazette on the bench meant we set up in attack with an unusual look. Willian appeared to lead the line with Pepe and Aubameyang flanking him. At the back, David Luiz and Gabriel joined Kieran Tierney in a back three. Rob Holding had been selected to start but picked up an issue in the warm-up. Thomas Partey started on the bench meaning Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos anchored the midfield.
City were quick out of the blocks – Mahrez curling wide and Aguero trying his luck with his head – but by and large, both sides made a conservative start to proceedings. We did well marshalling City away from dangerous areas in the opening 20 minutes but that seemed to be the sum of our ambitions. It was chess-like.
When City did step things up, Sterling scored. On 23 minutes, the England international tucked home on the rebound after Leno had denied Foden following a slick move that had seen the ball worked from the right flank into the box. Our keeper will have been disappointed. Arteta also. (1-0)
After that, we got better. Saka stung Ederson’s palms and Pepe went wide with a diving header. It became more of an end-to-end affair, Mahrez keeping us on our toes by working Saka and firing over. Leno also had to foil Foden.
We started to dominate in the 10 minutes before the break and probably should have equalised. Tierney, Saka and Aubameyang combined to set up Saka whose shot was blocked just wide by Ederson.
You sensed Arteta had given his players a bit of a rocket at the break. We were far more positive in the opening 10 minutes after the break and Pepe capped some decent possession with a header that Ederson was forced to save.
City’s ability to manipulate a football forced us to work incredibly hard. We were pulled, pushed and tugged in every direction trying to close space and to steal the ball. Things remained cagey as the game edged past the hour mark.
Gradually, we started to improve. Nice interplay down the right nearly freed Pepe, Saka then earned a free kick which Luiz fired over. Guardiola’s players weathered the storm and again put us on the back foot. Cancelo’s dancing feet did Tierney and Luiz nearly diverted the Portugal international’s cross into his own net. It was a hearts in mouths moment for Arsenal fans.
Pepe’s last involvement was a free-kick that flashed wide. He was soon subbed for Nketiah at the same time as Partey came on for his debut in place of Xhaka. Neither replacement changed the shape of the game. City were comfortable containing us and we seemed strangely reluctant to throw caution to the wind in the final stages.