Result: Arsenal 1-4 Manchester City
Competition: Carabao Cup
Date: 22 December 2020
Arsenal: Runarsson, Mustafi, Gabriel, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Ceballos, Cedric, Willock, Lacazette, Martinelli
Subs: Leno, Tierney, Mari, Smith Rowe, Pepe, Balogun, Nketiah
Pep Guardiola piled the misery on former assistant Mikel Arteta as Manchester City ended Arsenal’s Carabao Cup hopes with a 4-1 win at the Emirates.
Gabriel Jesus and Alex Lacazette traded goals in the first half before Riyad Mahrez, benefitting from a terrible mistake by Alex Runarsson, restored the visitors’ advantage.
Without having to get out of third gear, City created chances at will with Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte adding a gloss to proceedings.
Having come through a 20-minute cameo against Everton unscathed, Gabriel Martinelli was handed a first start March. His inclusion was the high-point of a heavily-rotated but pretty bland lineup that afforded minutes to the lesser spotted Shkodran Mustafi and Cedric. Emile Smith Rowe and Flo Balogun were welcome additions to a subs bench that also included Nicolas Pepe, Eddie Nketiah and Pablo Mari.
City set the tone almost immediately. Inside 3 minutes, Foden played a pass out to Zinchenko who had all the time in the world to whip a ball into the six-yard box where Jesus, darting between Mustafi and Gabriel, headed home in front of a flapping Runarsson. To say it was disastrous defending was an understatement. (0-1)
Arsenal heads were quick to drop as the visitors enjoyed almost total possession of the ball. That said, aside from a Fernandino shot from 20-yards and a Laporte header that went wide, the visitors seemed happy to toy with us rather than go for the jugular.
It has to be said, we looked very nervous. Runarsson twice played passes straight out of touch and Elneny and Mustafi both went into the book trying to deal with Jesus. It felt like only a matter of time before City doubled their lead but then, out of the blue, we grabbed an equaliser with our first attempt on target.
Out on the left, Martinelli whipped a great ball into the box which City keeper Steffen punched clear. Ceballos nudged the rebound back to our Brazilian and this time he worked the ball onto his left foot and picked out Lacazette who headed home. (1-1)
City should have restored their advantage when Jesus, thanks to a bit of pinball, found himself through on goal but Runarsson, to his credit, second-guessed what the striker was going to do and clawed away an attempt down to his right.
It looked like Martinelli might not make it to half time when he was caught by Steffen as he chased a Maitland-Niles through-ball. It was hard to tell exactly where the contact was made, possibly the shin, but he was initially in agony. Thankfully, he realised soon enough it wasn’t serious and after a bit of treatment, he hobbled back on.
Our 19-year-old Brazilian only last three minutes of the second half. After a couple of full-paced sprints, he hit the turf and this time Arteta decided enough was enough. Pepe came on in his place.
City weren’t really looking that threatening but when Gabriel clipped Mahrez’s heels on the edge of the box on 54 minutes, you sensed danger. Runarsson lined up his wall and invited the Algerian to go over it. He did the exact opposite, firing straight at the Iceland international. It should have been an easy catch but instead he palmed the ball into the roof of the net. It was wincingly bad. (1-2)
Within five minutes, Guardiola’s men had put the game to bed. Fernandinho played in Foden down the left and without breaking stride he clipped over Runarsson. Had VAR been in operation it would have been ruled out for offside, but that was scant consolation for Arteta who pursed his lips on the sidelines. (1-3)
Any hopes of a comeback were extinguished with 17 minutes remaining as Laporte headed home a Foden cross while Mustafi waved for an imaginary offside. (1-4)
Smith Rowe and Balogun came off the bench to inject a bit of energy and Pepe had a couple of half-decent efforts but otherwise, it was the same drab, one-dimensional football that we’ve been fed far too often since the start of the season.