Manchester City continued their impressive run in the League by beating Arsenal three goals to one at the Etihad. They have won 10 matches and drawn just one. It is a creditable achievement by any yardstick.
A predictable defeat. Arsene Wenger set up to frustrate. But, at the end of it all, Manchester City were just too good. Is this a game to crucify Arsenal for their defensive naivety and midfield vulnerabilities? I’m not sure. They are certainly issues that must be rectified moving forward. But City are the best team in the Premier League. They might be the best team in the world. Sometimes, you just have to accept that fact.
The game started in an intriguing fashion. Arsenal were intelligent in their defending, pressing when they had an opportunity to do so, and disciplined and regimented when they were forced to drop a little deeper. But such is the quality of this City team, especially on the counter-attack, that chances were created at both ends.
Sergio Aguero lashed a shot wide of the near-post after being released by a nice Kevin de Bruyne reverse pass, who was at the heart of everything good from a City point of view, while Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both had openings at the other end that they couldn’t quite take advantage of. The best chance of the initial stanzas of play came to Raheem Sterling. As Leroy Sane was unleashed down the left flank, a low square pass across the six-yard box was just out of reach of the steaming Sterling, who did receive a nudge in the back from Sead Kolasinac for his troubles.
And as City grew more comfortable in possession, Arsenal dropped deeper and deeper. It would be their downfall. Kevin de Bruyne, who moments ago had a long-range effort tipped around the post by Petr Cech, played a neat one-two with Fernandinho, set himself from the angle, and lashed a left-footed strike into the far post, powering through the hand of Cech, who could do little to repel the effort.
After the goal, the game settled down a little. City dominated possession; Arsenal sat deep. The Gunners, though, did ride their look at times. Several flashed crosses from wide areas were unconverted — Raheem Sterling pulled back, rather than darting to the back post where David Silva placed the square pass; Laurent Koscielny did well to avoid an own goal after sliding in to block a cross from the opposite flank –, while Francis Coquelin, Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac all had to make strong challenges, or fouls, to stem City’s fast-flowing attacks.
Arsenal did, however, end the half in the ascendancy. They stroked the ball around nicely in and out of the midfield areas, pushing City backwards. And they closed the half with their best chance of the game up until that point. Alexis Sanchez was fed with a long, lofted through ball through the middle. He held off the challenge of John Stones, before feeding Aaron Ramsey whose shot, after standing the recovering Stones up in the area, was strongly parried clear by Edison, who did well to get down low to his left so sharply. It was a sign that chances could be created. This game was far from over. That would not be true for long.
It took City just four minutes to add to their lead. Sead Kolasinac, who was maddeningly playing deeper than the rest of his defence, tried to play the offside trap as Raheem Sterling darted in behind him from the right flank. Nacho Monreal was subsequently forced into action, and as he attempted to recover, he bundled into Sterling, who cleverly ensured that his body position was such that for Monreal to get to the ball, he had to go through the City winger. Michael Oliver duly pointed to the spot, and Sergio Aguero, as he always does, converted. Game. Over.
Or perhaps not. Wenger shuffled his pack, bringing Alexandre Lacazette on for Francis Coquelin and shifting to a back-four, and asked his players to play in a braver fashion, holding a higher line and pressing the ball high up the pitch. While City were able to engineer openings on the counter, it was a decision that would bring a lifeline for the Gunners. As Aaron Ramsey broke forward from midfield, exposing the City defence, Alexandre Lacazette peeled off to the right, after being fed in by the slid through ball, took one touch to set himself and fired through the legs of Ederson. It’s funny what happens when you play your best players.
The hope, though, did not last long. As City pressed forward to kill the game, with a little gift from the linesman, they were rewarded for their dominance. As David Silva drifted forward in the inside right channel, ultimately ending up in a clearly offside position, when he received the ball and saw the Arsenal defenders, foolishly, had stopped playing, he simply laid on a pass for Gabriel Jesus who finished nicely. It was a clear mistake from the referees. But the naivety of the Arsenal defenders to simply stop playing was criminal. At any level, that is simply unacceptable. At Premier League level, it shows the innocence and ignorance of this team.
The final 20 minutes of the game were played in a rather subdued fashion. Wenger threw on Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud. But very little came of it. Arsenal knew they had lost; City knew they had won.
This was not a close game. Although there was a period in the second half that perhaps hinted at an Arsenal revival, that time never came. Some will blame the referees. Perhaps fairly. But, in all honesty, this was a deserved loss. City are, quite simply, a very, very good football team, one that is far superior to this current Arsenal outfit.
Culled from Paininthearsenal.