A Wednesday evening saw the top two teams in the English Premier League, Manchester City and Arsenal, takes on each other at the Emirates Stadium. Citizens were three points adrift league leader Gunners prior to the game, which means a win for the former will allow them to leapfrog the latter in the Premier League title race; Anything less than that will ensure Mikel Arteta’s side continue to reign supreme.
This clash came when Arsenal was at its most vulnerable in the entire season, having already lost twice and drawn once in their last three matches in all competitions, including a loss to their opponent last night in the FA Cup Fourth Round tie. On the other hand, its visitors had been impressive in recent times, winning four of their last five games during the process.
Tomiyasu’s Awful Backpass
The 40-year-old former Manchester City assistant manager made two changes to his side, by bringing in new winter signing Jorginho for his full debut and replacing Ben White with Takehiro Tomiyasu. Nevertheless, it was one of his alterations who committed a silly error leading to the first goal last evening. The 24-year-old Tomiyasu was tracked down by City’s Jack Grealish in the 24th minute, forcing the right-back to play a backpass to his goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. Kevin De Bruyne intercepted the loose pass and capitalised on the Japanese’s error to open the score line for his team; It was only his first goal in 17 matches for club and country.
A quarter-hour later, Arsenal’s young striker Eddie Nketiah received a beautiful pass from Granit Xhaka and fired it towards the goal. His shot appeared to have almost crossed the line, but as he was fouled by Ederson during the process, referee Anthony Taylor decided to award Gunners a penalty, in which Buyako Saka converted from the spot. The 1-1 score line remained till the second 45 minutes of the game.
A Second-Half Double from City
Manchester City had a penalty shout in the 58th minute when its in-form Norwegian forward Erling Haaland was fouled in the penalty box, before the video assistant referee (VAR) ruled Haaland offside prior to the illegal play. The visitors had to wait until the 72nd minute to regain their lead, when a series of pinpoint passes connected together to allow Grealish to score only his ninth goal for City since making his lucrative move to wear the sky blue jersey. The attack started when Bernardo Silva intercepted a pass and sent it to the charging Haaland, before the latter squaring it to İlkay Gündoğan, who flicked it for the England winger to regain City’s lead.
The feisty Citizens pressed for a third and did so ten minutes after their second goal of the evening, when Haaland netted his 26th goal in this season’s Premier League. Gündoğan was again involved in City’s brilliant offence, as his pass freed De Bruyne around the near post on the right and the Belgium midfielder passed it for his talisman to score his 32nd goal in 30 appearances in all competitions for his new club. The 3-1 win allowed City to edge past Arsenal on goal difference to lead in the Premier League table for the first time since November last year.
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First League Loss at the Emirates This Season
Arsenal does have a game in hand and any point(s) gained from the additional match will allow them to return to the first position of the Premier League, but it will not be easy as the team has not won any matches since the victory over Manchester United more than three weeks ago. It is also worth noting that the defeat against Manchester City at home is the first time Gunners had lost a league game at the Emirates this season, and Mikel Arteta remains winless against his former employer, having lost all of his six Premier League meetings against the team from the Blue Half of Manchester as a manager.
Speaking of the game during the post-match conference, Arteta admitted that his team was punished for its errors, stating that “We lost it, it was an incredible battle against two teams and we had them – but we gave them the goals. We had them in big moments, but in the big moments they were better than us. We were really imprecise, we put ourselves in trouble, in certain areas of the pitch we overplayed and we got punished.” As for the match-winning manager and Arteta’s former master, Pep Guardiola was not hiding his jubilance over City’s victory. His response read “In the end, we have good quality players and we have to get it out of every player and we did today. We have to play a little bit more like this sometimes and that is what we did today”.
Both teams will meet again for the return league fixture at the Etihad Stadium two months from now.