It is a third consecutive domestic defeat for the reigning Premier League champions, as Arsenal emerged as 1-0 victors over Manchester City courtesy of a late Gabriel Martinelli winner.
A difficult afternoon at the Emirates Stadium ended bitterly for the Blues, as Martinelli injected a late dagger into the hearts of Manchester City, after a deflected effort left Ederson with no chance between the sticks.
City started the game on the front foot, ultimately controlling proceedings from the first whistle, taming the crowd while dictating play, carving out a couple of early chances in the process.
The first chance of the afternoon came from a Manchester City corner, as Phil Foden’s glided cross met the head of Josko Gvardiol, who’s effort was cleared off the line after beating David Raya between the sticks. The ball was immediately back in the Arsenal box, where Erling Haaland glanced a header back into the mixer finding Nathan Ake, who couldn’t convert from 10 yards out, firing his shot over.
It was an opening 20 minutes of a champion high standard, as the blues found comfort on tricky soil, before an arguably game-changing incident awoke the Arsenal faithful.
Mateo Kovacic needlessly tackled Martin Odegaard, scraping down the ankle of the Norwegian. Thankfully for the Croatian midfielder, a swift VAR check deemed the tackle not sufficient to be a red card, as Kovacic saw yellow.
However, moments later the midfielder would repeat his foolishness this time on Declan Rice. Uproar from the Arsenal bench and crowd was waved away by Michael Oliver, who was unmoved and adamant in his decision not to dismiss Kovacic following the two incidents.
After being given a complete lifeline from the referee, it was clear that the Croatian had to be more careful with his approach, effectively nullifying him from any defensive duties required, as he was unable to make any sort of tackle.
It was a 25 minute period of dominance from Manchester City prior to the incidents, but after the Emirates awoke, so too did the Arsenal players, as the home side grew into the game immediately.
As the clock dragged on and changes were made, it seemed like both sides were somewhat content with a point under the circumstances, as City’s labouring possession wasn’t any threat to the Arsenal goal.
However, the threat of the home side was there, as Manchester City would soon discover in fatal circumstances, as Thomas Partey lofted a ball towards Ederson’s penalty area.
Kai Havertz controlled the ball under a challenge from two Manchester City players, before laying the ball off to the edge of the box, where substitute Gabriel Martinelli struck the ball, hitting the face of Nathan Ake and deflecting past a helpless Ederson.
City could not manage to overturn the scoreline and left London empty-handed, as Arsenal staked a huge three points, earning their first victory over the blues since 2015 in the Premier League.
With that being said, here are five things we learned from Sunday’s disappointing away defeat to Arsenal!
A game-changing incident from Mateo Kovacic
After a couple of naughty tackles in the first half, Mateo Kovacic was extremely fortunate to stay on the pitch at the Emirates, but the two needless fouls still became ultimately costly for Manchester City in the end.
With the idea of being an innocuous challenge away from a dismissal in his mind, Kovacic became unable to make any kind of tackle following the controversy, largely nullifying his presence on the field.
Arsenal may have felt aggrieved at the decision to keep it 11 vs 11, but the home side was given a huge boost after the tackles, as City were forced to change their approach which eventually ended up becoming costly for the champions.
Can we talk about Rodri?
Despite denial from Pep Guardiola about the impact of Rodri on Manchester City’s third consecutive domestic defeat, the patterns were clear to see that the champions heavily felt the loss of the Spaniard in the centre of the pitch.
In a role that was filled in by Bernardo Silva on Sunday, the blues missed their ever-reliable Rodri to sweep up play where needed, evidenced by the two bookings from out of position Portugal international and Mateo Kovacic.
Following the international break there will be a return to action for Rodri who has now completed his suspension, as Manchester City host Brighton at the Etihad after the upcoming break from club football.
Domestic difficulties on the road
It was a third consecutive domestic away defeat for Manchester City at Arsenal, following the respective 1-0 and 2-1 defeats to Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers over the last 11 days.
Whether it highlights the impact of a City team without Rodri or a question of mentality playing away from home, the fact remain that City must keep their focus and return to the standards set in previous years.
Manchester City suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time since 2018, which emphasises the magnitude of the standard the players have set over the last five years.
A timely return for John Stones
Despite the disappointment at the Emirates Stadium, one positive that can be took from the affair is the return of John Stones, who replaced Rico Lewis after 68 minutes.
Should the international break go according to plan, Manchester City will return with a fully fit squad with the exception of long-term absentee Kevin De Bruyne, who remains out with a hamstring injury.
Given the impact of Stones on Manchester City’s unprecedented success last season, the return of the Englishman will be a huge boost to Pep Guardiola, as the Treble winners look to turn their slight blip of a fortnight around.
A cause for concern or a bump in the road?
Three consecutive domestic defeats doesn’t look good on any record, but when you’re looking at the calibre of Manchester City, it’s even more alarming. Should we be worried, or is the ship sailing fine?
Well, the question of mentality was always going to be a factor after such a historic season last time out, but after an explosive start to the campaign, the questions swiftly went away before reappearing recently.
City have shown on a number of occasions that they have earnt their flowers. Overcoming an eight-point deficit and winning by five points doesn’t happen if you don’t have the mentality, as Pep Guardiola will remind his players as they look to bounce back from this minor set back in the season.
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