Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City: Premier League – 21/02/2021

Despite Arsenal’s recent upsurge in form, it was of no surprise that Arsenal fans still entered their match against Champions-elect Manchester City with a feeling of apprehension.

Given the re-introduction of the Europa League, fatigue has started to creep in and Arsenal and their players seem unlikely to be able to cope with both a Premier League and European run-in at the same time.

It therefore seemed a somewhat bizarre turn of events to see Mikel Arteta name a damn-near full-strength side for the visit of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Kieran Tierney returned to the side after a prelonged period of absence and Mohamed Elneny stepped in alongside Nicolas Pépé.

Arsenal could not have gotten off to a worse start. No sooner had the whistle blown to kick the game off that Manchester City began to attack with gusto and it was no surprise that after two minutes, City found themselves ahead through a Raheem Sterling header.

Bukayo Saka tracks João Cancelo.

It was a hammer-blow for Mikel Arteta and his side. Not only were they coming up against arguably the best attacking outfit in the land, but also one of the sturdiest defences in the league as well.

However, Sterling’s goal had looked like a premature opening of the floodgates for a cavalcade of City attacks, an onslaught that would leave Arsenal begging for the final whistle before half-time, but it proved to be nothing more than a signifier of an anti-climax.

Barely either team created much throughout the game, though Arsenal found themselves in some fairly advanced positions, with Nicolas Pépé rattling the side-netting.

When the final-whistle blew, it seemed to be a disappointing result for both managers. Guardiola will feel that he could have easily had three or four in the opening fifteen minutes alone and Arteta will be questioning how Arsenal failed to pull one. back, especially given that City seemed to regularly secede possession to Arsenal so often.

Raheem Sterling rises highest to score the game’s only goal.

Despite the defeat, Arsenal couldn’t be too upset with what they had seen. It was always a tall ask to beat Manchester City, especially a Manchester City team as good as this one. The return of Rob Holding had looked to be a poor decision on Arteta’s part in the beginning when he failed to beat the tiny figure of Raheem Sterling in the air, but the defender recovered well from the goal and turned in a fairly impressive performance alongside Pablo Marí.

The performance of Bukayo Saka is so often a high point for Arsenal regardless of the result, and Sunday was no exception. The youngster gave it his all and looked to cause City some real issues, creating chances, attacking with intent and opening up space for Kieran Tierney on the left-hand side.

Arsenal will take some comforts from the defeat and will hope that their performance in Athens on Thursday against Benfica is a more profitable return.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
16.) Rob Holding (concussion: David Luiz 82′)
22.) Pablo Marí
  3.) Kieran Tierney
25.) Mohamed Elneny (Ceballos 86′)
34.) Granit Xhaka
19.) Nicolas Pépé
11.) Martin Ødegaard (Lacazette 73′)
  7.) Bukayo Saka
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)

Arsenal subs:
33.) Maty Ryan
23.) David Luiz
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
17.) Cédric Soares
  8.) Dani Ceballos
12.) Willian
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Manchester City team:
33.) Ederson
27.) João Cancelo
  3.) Rúben Dias
  5.) John Stones
11.) Oleksandr Zinchenko
25.) Fernandinho
  8.) İlkay Gündoğan (c)
20.) Bernardo Silva
26.) Riyad Mahrez
17.) Kevin De Bruyne (Gabriel Jesus 63′)
  7.) Raheem Sterling

Manchester City subs:
13.) Zack Steffen
14.) America Laporte
  2.) Kyle Walker
22.) Benjamin Mendy
16.) Rodri
47.) Phil Foden
21.) Ferran Torres
  9.) Gabriel Jesus
10.) Sergio Agüero

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