Result: Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal
Competition: FA Cup
Date: 27 January 2023
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Arsenal: Turner, Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Vieira, Trossard, Saka, Nketiah
Subs: Ramsdale, White, Zinchenko, Saliba, Kiwior, Lokonga, Odegaard, Marquinhos, Martinelli
Manchester City sealed a place in the FA Cup fourth round with a 1-0 win over Arsenal sealed in the second half of a cagey encounter courtesy of Nathan Ake’s deft finish.
Mikel Arteta made six changes from the side that started against Manchester United, giving chances to players who’ve predominantly gained most of their minutes in the Europa League. Most of the changes were at the back; Matt Turner replaced Aaron Ramsdale in goal, while Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding took over from Ben White, Oleksandr Zinchenko and William Saliba respectively. Further up the pitch, Fabio Vieira was charged with filling Martin Odegaard’s boots and Leandro Trossard, making his first start, offered an outlet on the left in place of Gabriel Martinelli. In contrast, City made only two changes from the side that beat Wolves at the weekend.
The first half centred around two key battles at opposite ends of the pitch. From the outset, Erling Haaland and Rob Holding were involved in a physical tussle that tested the patience of referee Paul Tierney while Leandro Trossard went head-to-head with Rico Lewis and gave the City right-back a torrid time.
Arsenal had the better chances, all of which involved our new Belgian, while City had half chances and looked more composed on the ball.
Trossard laid down an early marker with a dart into the box that ended with a cross for Tomiyasu who hammered at keeper Ortega. He would later drive outside Lewis and fire off an effort that the keeper did well to parry away with a strong hand. A third impressive dribble ended with a cross to Nketiah at the near post but the striker couldn’t deflect his effort on target.
All the while, Haaland prowled around on the halfway line looking menacing. Holding, charged with marking him, didn’t look comfortable at any point. He was lucky to escape a booking for a shirt tug inside the first minute – somehow referee Paul Tierney gave the decision our way – and also got the benefit of the doubt when an arm in the back of Haaland’s neck poleaxed the Norwegian and left him requiring treatment.
While you can understand why Holding wanted to stay tight to his man, there was an air of inevitability that he’d end up in the book. It came to pass four minutes before the break after another blatant shirt pull.
City dominated possession throughout – they ended the half with 58% possession – but Arsenal, after some early nerves, looked defensively compact and organised. De Bruyne had the home side’s best chance, manufacturing himself a yard of space on the edge of the box before curling just wide of Turner’s far post.
Arteta did the sensible thing at the break and switched out Holding for Saliba. He also sent on Lokonga to give Partey a breather.
The midfielder’s first noticeable contribution was losing the ball in the middle of the pitch allowing City to break. Saliba and Tomiyasu rescued the situation as De Bruyne looked for Haaland.
There was an injury scare for Turner after he landed awkwardly after punching clear a cross. After receiving treatment, City immediately put him to the test, De Bruyne firing in a low ball from the right that the American again did well to clear.
Guardiola blinked next, changing up his right flank by taking off Lewis and Mahrez and sending on Walker and Alvarez. The Argentine partnered Haaland up top giving the City shape an air of 4-4-2.
The game was still on a knife edge at the hour mark but after Vieira had shanked an audacious volley wide, the home side finally found a cutting edge.
It started with Alvarez crashing a low drive against the post from range and after the ball was retrieved by Grealish, Ake found the net with a low effort that was bent around Saliba and just inside the post. Credit where it’s due, It was a tidy finish from the defender.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 27, 2023
Arteta responded immediately by sending on Martinelli and Zinchenko for Trossard and Tierney. There was a sudden sense of urgency and Nketiah was inches from tapping home only for Laporte to deflect a Xhaka cross out of his path for a corner.
The manager’s final throw of the dice saw Odegaard replace Saka and signalled a prolonged period of Arsenal probing that predominantly focused down Martinelli’s left. The Brazilian buzzed around forcing his way through gaps and trying little cutbacks but didn’t quite find a killer pass.
A late goal would have secured a replay at the Emirates but City kept the Gunners at bay and sealed their place in the fourth round. Arteta will take heart from the performance; there’s much to build on ahead of two encounters in the league.