Result: Arsenal 1 – 2 Manchester City
Competition: Premier League
Date: 1 January 2022
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Holding, Cedric, Tavares, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Lokonga, Smith Rowe
Arsenal lost 1-2 to Manchester City at home due to a late goal from Rodri and contentious refereeing decisions. Saka put the Gunners ahead in the first half but City levelled through a controversial penalty in th second half.
Gabriel was also unfairly sent off for a second yellow but the home side defended well. Unfortunately, Rodri snuck in a goal deep into stoppage time to take all three points for th visitors.
Arsenal may have lost the match but left the pitch with their heads held high as this was one of their best performances against a top team in years.
Arsenal started the game with their most in-form team and players. The settled midfield and forward positions remained the same from the previous game against Norwich.
Ramsdale kept his place in goal and Tomiyasu returned at right back after recovering from Covid-19.
The biggest absence from the game was manager Mikel Arteta who was recovering at home from his second bout of Covid-19. His assistant, Albert Stuivenberg, took his place on the bench.
Man City was a big test for this resurgent Arsenal team and for the first 10 minutes, the home side matched the boys in blue very well.
We started with a structured defensive formation, cutting out City’s passing lanes and only looked to press when the ball reached the halfway line. Sterling tested Arsenal with his dangerous jinking runs but the likes of Tomiyasu, Partey and White were often in place to crowd out the tricky English winger.
Arsenal had their own tricky Englishman in the form of Saka who often took on Ake down the right.
Man City had a couple of good chances within the opening minutes with Jesus going close from a corner but Arsenal had a decent shout for a penalty on the 9th minute during a daring counter attack.
Ramsdale drove the ball into the left wing area and Martinelli took down the pass expertly mid-air. He shifted the ball towards Lacazette who put Odegaard through down the right. Ederson stuck a leg out and seemed to catch Odegaard’s foot, especially from some angles during VAR replays. Unfortunately, it only earned Arsenal a corner.
By mid-point of the first half, Manchester City started dominating possession but Arsenal stood firm with Partey exceptional in winning the ball and redistributing it to his teammates.
30 minutes in, Arsenal’s composure was rewarded with a goal. Ben White intercepted the ball and started a counter attack with lovely exchanges in midfield. Odegaard moved it to the left to an onrushing Tierney. The left back slid the ball into the centre of the penalty box towards a couple of Arsenal’s forwards.
In the end, it was Saka who stepped forward to strike the ball into the bottom corner to send Arsenal fans into delirium. 1-0 Arsenal
The Gunners continued to counter well with Martinelli terrorising the City defence with a curled effort which went just wide and a sensational dribble from the half way line into the left channel deep in the penalty box only for the ball to slip inches past the far post.
It was an excellent first half from Arsenal who were often outplayed by Manchester City in recent years.
Arsenal began the second half the same way they ended, looking purposeful in defence while attacking quickly when they won the ball. It was Martinelli again who threatened immediately but was wiped off the ground by Rodri with a horrendous tackle outside the box. Shocking that it wasn’t even called for a foul.
A refereeing decision was at the centre of the game on 50 minutes due to a dive by Bernardo Silva. The midfielder made a jinking dribble into the penalty box and looked set to fall while there was a slight tug by Xhaka.
The referee waved it off intiially but with slow motion replays, the tug looked incriminating and the penalty was finally given. Xhaka was given a yellow and so was Gabriel for protesting. 1-1 City
Arsenal almost got ahead immediately when Dias headed back to an onrushing Ederson. The ball looped past Ederson and looked to be trickling into the net if not for Ake’s goal-line clearance. The ball fell to Martinelli’s feet but he could only shank it wide.
A big turning point happened just moments later as Ederson made a long pass into Jesus in the centre circle. Gabriel was just behind him as his compatriot spun and turned away from the defender. Jesus’ fall was theatrical at best but it was enough to convince the ref that Gabriel deserved a second yellow. A farcical decision.
Lacazette and Saka were duly replaced by Smith Rowe and Elneny accordingly as Arsenal held on and defended deep to hold onto the result.
It was a testament to Arsenal’s quality that despite being down a man for most of the half, they hung on for the draw and were competitive throughout. But it was not to be as City stole a win deep into stoppage time. Rodri pounced onto a weak clearance and tapped in from the six yard box to disbelieve from the home team and crowd. 1-2 Man City
Much of the criticism of Arsenal has been their poor performances in the big games but despite the loss today, the performance was a major step forward in the growth of this young team.
The Gunners should be proud of themselves. Continue playing like this, and they will compete strongly for fourth place.