Result: Manchester City 5-0 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 28 August 2021
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Cedric, Chambers, Holding, Kolasinac, Tierney, Xhaka, Smith Rowe, Saka, Odegaard, Aubameyang
Subs: Ramsdale, Okonkwo, Tavares, Mari, Maitland-Niles, Lokonga, Elneny, Martinelli, Lacazette
Manchester City coasted to a 5-0 win over 10-men Arsenal as Mikel Arteta’s terrible start to the season continued at the Etihad.
Goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres put the reigning champions in a commanding position within 12 minutes before Gabriel Jesus extended the lead after Granit Xhaka was given a straight red for a reckless challenge. Rodri and Ferran Torres added to City’s lead after the break as the torment continued.
Three games, three defeats, nine goals conceded and none scored. We’re bottom of the table. Arsenal supporters knew it was going to be a tough start to the new season and it’s playing out as many of us feared.
Sead Kolasinac, rather than Pablo Mari, got the nod to play alongside Rob Holding and Calum Chambers as Mikel Arteta opted for a three-man back-line. Cedric and Kieran Tierney provided the width. Granit Xhaka was tasked with anchoring the midfield on his own – Sambi and Mo Elneny started on the bench – with Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard providing the creativity behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Amongst the subs, Gabriel Martinelli and Alex Lacazette provided additional fire power. Nicolas Pepe missed out due to illness but the boss made clear it was not Covid-related.
It’s no secret that fan expectations were desperately low coming into this game but it’s still fucking annoying when players wearing Arsenal shirts are made to look like a pub team. This was us at our worst.
Terrible defending, confusing tactics and ill-discipline were the ingredients for an absolutely shambolic opening 45 minutes. City barely had to break a sweat for their 3-0 lead.
We buzzed around in the opening five minutes looking like we might cause the Blues a headache but sure enough with their first attack, the home side broke our brittle resistance.
Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus exchanged passes on the right flank and when the ball was floated to the back post, Ilkay Gundogan stole in behind Calum Chambers to head past Leno from close range. It was a ridiculously weak goal to concede. (1-0)
Gundogan, who seemed to have a force field around him that meant Arsenal players weren’t allowed within five feet, nearly doubled the lead with a header two minutes later. It sounds crazy saying our heads had gone inside 10 minutes, but they had. We were all over the place.
Xhaka gave away a cheap free-kick on 12 minutes and we were so focused on maintaining a line in the box, we barely blinked when the ball was played short. Bernardo Silva, unchallenged, clipped a cross into the box, Cedric tried to head it with his leg, the ball bobbled to the back post and Torres tapped home. In the middle of the box, Chambers was left in a heap by a jab in the face by Laporte but VAR ignored the contact and the goal stood. (2-0)
The game was gone and the players knew it. In situations like this, you want to see a bit of fight, just not the type that leads to red cards. Of course, Xhaka went full Xhaka, jumping into a two-footed challenge on Cancelo that left referee Martin Atkinson with little choice but to send him off. Contact was minimal but he was reckless. It was a hot-headed, gutless challenge and one that left his teammates in even deeper shit.
City just toyed with Arsenal for the rest of the half. Edersen, who nearly dropped a clanger with a back pass that Smith Rowe came close to diverting into the net, played a number of unchallenged passes straight through the lines that immediately had us on the back foot. A ball to Torres a couple of minutes before the break allowed the Spaniard to charge forward, he found Grealish who made a mockery of Chambers and a pullback was converted by Jesus. (3-0)
Elneny’s introduction for Saka was obviously an exercise in damage limitation. It didn’t work. Leno did well to stop Bernardo Silva but the German was picking the ball out of his net not long after as Rodri curled home from outside the box after a prolonged spell of home side possession. (4-0)
More shots peppered our goal. Holding blocked a Zinchenko effort and stopped sub Sterling. In the five minutes past the hour-mark, Arsenal had 3% possession. That’s not a typo. We might as well have had 11 scarecrows on the pitch. As it turned out, we didn’t manage an attempt on target all game.
Sterling’s personal mission to pile on the misery continued. Leno stopped a header from the England international and then stood rooted as the winger’s curler whipped past the post. The German came out on top again as they went one-on-one.
Despite Leno’s best efforts, City did add to their lead. Torres’ headed home his second of the afternoon with six minutes remaining as he connected with a beautiful Mahrez cross. (5-0)
Arsenal’s squad will now head off for the Interlull before regrouping for a home fixture with Norwich on 11 September. The football world will enjoy their two weeks poking fun at us for being relegation fodder.