Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City: A stella City performance leaves Gunners chasing shadows
Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) jumps to head home the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 21, 2021. (Photo by Julian Finney / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JULIAN FINNEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite the loss, Arsenal fans can take heart in the nature of the defeat and how all of Mikel Arteta’s men battled the table toppers. Unlike some of the humiliating defeats to Manchester City over past seasons in the Premier league, This Arsenal side put up a fight and didn’t hide away from their opponent. 

Story of the match.

The first half painted a miserable picture for Arsenal as City dominated the ball and took an early lead through Raheem SterlingThe Gunners defenders switched off and allowed the 26Y/O Englishman a free header in the box which he took with an impressive finish into the side netting. In the early moments of the game, City sprayed cross field balls into the wide areas of the pitch. Riyad Mahrez specifically took advantage of the space caused by these passes and the 30Y/O Algerian international caused Arsenal left back Kieran Tierneyall sorts of problems. 

The Gunners did however grow into the game for the final 15 minutes of the second half and, began to utilise Tierney and Bukayo Saka Down their left-hand side. Saka found Tierney on multiple occasions and played the Scotsman into useful positions from which he could put balls into the box. Mikel Arteta’s men pushed City back with 5 minutes till half time and Arsenal managed to get loan signing Martin Odegard on the ball in more dangerous positions.  

The second half was a completely different story for Arsenal and the game appeared more evenly matched. Arteta’s side maintained more possession of the ball and pushed some of their wide players into more advanced positions however, City’s back line didn’t budge with The Gunners not even registering a shot on target in the second period. 

The Centre back pairing of John Stones and Ruben Diaz provided an impenetrable wall that Arsenal’s attackers couldn’t break through. Possession sat with Granit Xhaka and Mo Elneny in the middle of the field and, due to the strength of City’s spine and midfield, all of the passes went to Arsenal’s wide areas where the likes of Saka and Nicholas Pepe simply could not find the end product to create a chance of quality for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. 

Impressive recovery after shaky start:

Within the first 25 minutes of the tie, City schooled a shell-shocked Arsenal and left The Gunners chasing shadows. The Cityzens dominated the midfield, and it was one way traffic with the emphasis on Bernd Leno’sGoal. City had chances to add to their victory but in key moments, Lapses in concentration let Pep Guardiola’s side down. Arsenal did do well to get a foothold in the tie and nullify the relentless City attacks. The second half saw a much more evenly matched game with Arsenal maintaining possession of the football for much longer periods. With this possession however, a lack of chances were created and, this will need to change in future games if The Gunners have any ambitions to climb the Premier League table. 

Arsenal’s Star Performer:

Kieran Tierney provided Arsenal’s attacking threat down the left-hand side of the Emirates pitch alongside youngster Bukayo Saka. The Gunners struggled to penetrate the City defence throughout the duration of the 90 minutes but when they did get forwards, the left-hand side is where the chance of goals looked most likely. Saka combined with the Scotsman on multiple occasions in the left third of the pitch putting his teammate in dangerous positions to put balls into the box.

Tierney’s crosses into the box were the closest Arteta’s men got to Ederson’s goal and going into Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League clash with Benfica, Arteta will have to ensure many more chances are created for The Gunners front men.

Looking ahead: 

Arsenal face a trip to Athens to carry out the “Home leg” of this Europa League knockout round played at neutral venues. The game will be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium where Mikel Arteta will hope to qualify for the next round of the competition. Despite the fixture being played at Olympiacos’ stadium, Arsenal will hope that memories of last season’s shock early exit to the Greek side do not reoccur on this occasion. The Gunners take an away goal advantage into this game with the first leg being resolved in an underwhelming   1-1 draw.