Manchester City played out a tough lesson to Arsenal as they took the points in an entertaining Premier League clash.
Pep Guardiola’s men played with real purpose and looked dangerous on the ball, but it was their press that strangled the life out of their opponents and set up a stable foundation for victory.
Arsene Wenger opted for stability in his lineup. A surprise call was to drop Alexandre Lacazette and name Alexis in the sole striker spot, with three men in midfield. Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka had the task of quelling the runs of DeBruyne, Silva and Sane, but the gamble was to backfire.
The first minutes were pretty well balanced as both came close to opening the scoring, only for the final ball to let each of them down. It didn’t take long for City to hit top gear though.
The 19th minute to be precise.
DeBruyne’s shot from outside the box was well saved by cech but the ball eventually found the Belgian again and he arrowed in a low shot into the far corner to give the home side the lead.
City were unrelenting and refused to let us into the game. We were battling hard, but Coquelin seemed to be dropping into defence and wires were being crossed. We were winning the ball but we were unable to retain it in the final third. Every time we attacked, City would hound us and then break at speed.
City broke through on three or four occasions, but a combination of desperate defending, some unfound passes across the box and Petr Cech kept the scoreline at 1-0.
Raheem Sterling came closest to doubling the score, but instead of shooting in a great position, he opted to pass and missed his intended teammate. Then, we had a chance to level at the best time, just before the interval.
Aaron Ramsey was found in the box. He checked back and hammered a shot but Ederson parried it away. The whistle blew and we went into the break a goal down and bewildered at our opponent’s strength.
We were battling well and were competitive, but the gap between where we want to be and where we actually are was exposed by brutal City. It took only five minutes for City to get their second goal. Raheem Sterling got the right side of Nacho Monreal and both were running into the box, shoulder to shoulder. Sterling went down easily, but in this present day version of our game, these decisions are being given and Michael Oliver didn’t hesitate to award the spot-kick. Sergio Aguero stepped up and scored, 2-0.
Wenger made an early change. On the 55th minute he hooked Coquelin. The decision to stifle City had not worked, so Lacazette came on in his stead. Back to our favoured formation, and we started to work a lot better.
Ten minutes later, we had a lifeline. Aaron Ramsey found Lacazette and the Frenchman ran onto the ball and fired through Ederson’s legs.
The match went one way and the next, with promising situations for both teams ending prematurely. It could’ve gone either way, but City always looked a little sharper, a little more capable than we did in attack.
It showed, as substitute Gabriel Jesus took advantage of a poor offside decision to slot home from close range. Replays suggested that both DeBruyne and Jesus were offside, but there was no flag and they reestablished their two goal cushion.
From there, we made subs and huffed and puffed, but in truth, City ran out deserved winners. It is a sad indictment of our side that we were outplayed in the style we used to be the best at. Now, we must concentrate on top4 and cup runs because on this evidence, we are miles away from being the best.
City were quicker and made better decisions. We are not a million miles away but we are not where we should be.
After this game there can be no doubt about that.