An anxious and cagey afternoon at the Emirates eventually went the way of Arsenal as they defeated Manchester City 1-0 in the battle of last season’s top two.
Manchester City started the quicker of the sides; early chances from a corner saw Josko Gvardiol’s effort cleared off the line before Nathan Ake skied a clear opportunity which should have seen his side lead within five minutes.
The game didn’t particularly settle in either team’s favour thereafter, although Julian Alvarez almost caught David Raya lacking in the Arsenal goal, getting a toe to the Spaniard’s clearance but not quite managing to divert it into the net.
Having struggled somewhat to assert themselves in an attacking sense, the hosts reminded their visitors of the threat they can pose when Eddie Nketiah fired just wide from the edge of the box.
City seemed to lose their cool somewhat at the half-hour mark and almost lost a man, Mateo Kovacic narrowly avoiding a red card after a VAR check on his kick into Martin Odegaard’s ankle.
The Croatian was booked for that altercation and was lucky not to be shown a second yellow not long after for a similar challenge on Declan Rice, perhaps only saved by the fact it was in a deep area of the Arsenal half.
The second period started with renewed vigour from a Gunners teamed buoyed by the return of Gabriel Martinelli from injury, with the Brazilian exerting early pressure on the City goal.
The game never got going in the second 45 minutes and there were very few highlights to speak of, with most observers probably agreeing that a draw would have been the fair result.
However, Lady Luck’s shine deserted Manchester City right at the end, as Gabriel Martinelli’s effort cannoned off the face of Nathan Ake and past Ederson.
The defeat will be damaging and painful to the Blues, but they know from experience that the Premier League title race has barely even begun, and that when they hit their stride, it will spell trouble for the rest of the division.
Ederson – 6
In contrast to his opposite number in the Arsenal goal, Ederson remained cool and composed throughout, passing accurately. He was given no chance for the goal.
Kyle Walker – 7
Rarely faced a direct threat from Jesus or Nketiah on the right. Martinelli proved a more willing opponent, but the captain held his own.
Ruben Dias – 7
One minimal piece of first-half fluster aside, he organised the City defence with composure and kept it safe in possession.
Nathan Ake – 7.5
Put his early miss behind him and bossed the backline, playing out well under heavy pressure helping Gvardiol defend the left flank. So unlucky to have the goal deflect in off him.
Josko Gvardiol – 7.5 (MOTM)
Showed his ability to pick a precise pass and to carry the ball forward too, whilst maintaining his defensive concentration.
Mateo Kovacic – 4.5
Any other considerations in his performance are dwarfed by the obvious; he was walking a tightrope with his first foul alone, never mind with that second challenge for which he ought to have been sent off.
Bernardo Silva – 6.5
Will have been grateful not to have too much defensive action in his holding midfield role, instead spending most of his time contributing effectively to City’s possession play.
Rico Lewis – 6
Struggled a little to get on the ball when in advanced areas, although found some joy when dropping deep to drive up the pitch with it.
Julian Alvarez – 5
Put simply, he could not find a consistent role in the game. The right-wing didn’t seem to suit him, and his lack of influence led to his withdrawal.
Erling Haaland – 6.5
Made a meal of his early hold-up attempts, before settling into it and trapping every ball that came his way. No chances to speak of.
Phil Foden – 6
Drifted inside from the left fairly effectively, although didn’t seem altogether willing to track back defensively.
John Stones – 6
Slotted in as a midfielder and looked confident and sharp in his first appearance in months.
Matheus Nunes – 6
Gave some drive and impetus in the middle.
Jeremy Doku – 5.5
Did his bit to help defensively, but continued a slightly worrying trend of hitting his crosses straight at the first man.
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