Manchester City needed a win to bounce back from a shock defeat away to Newcastle, and they wasted no time at all in putting Arsenal to the sword at the Etihad.
Sergio Aguero converted the first of what would be a hat-trick of close-range finishes, 48 seconds from kickoff. Arsenal rallied back to equalise through Laurent Koscielny, 10 minutes later, when a physical mismatch between the markers and the marked proved to be City’s undoing.
Arsenal gradually grew into the game, but did not really threaten Ederson’s goal too much. Meanwhile at the other end, De Bruyne and co peppered Leno’s net with shot after shot after shot, with Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling attaining immense joy from running at Sead Kolasinac and Stephen Lichtsteiner respectively.
An eccentric team selection from Guardiola proved to be a very inspired one indeed as Ilkay Gundogan was the catalyst of a truly breath-taking move, chipping the ball over the Arsenal babackline first time, as Raheem Sterling timed his run and his cut-back across goal to absolute perfection, allowing Kun Aguero to slot home from close range to restore City’s lead.
If the first half was shaky from Arsenal, the second half was worse. City’s players seemed extremely motivated and determined to make an example out of Arsenal, as De Bruyne and David Silva pulled the strings from midfield once more. The visiting wing back pairing still had no solutions to the unrelenting presence of Bernardo and Sterling, who well and truly hemmed in the Arsenal defence with attack after attack.
A Sergio Aguero third put the game beyond doubt for City, who outclassed Arsenal 13 attempts to none in the second half. It was an exemplary performance by Guardiola’s men, but unfortunately yet another dismal away outing for Emery’s side.
Laporte at left back
Aymeric Laporte excelled yet again at left back, adding an assist to his name tonight. With City’s LB concerns never truly dying away, Laporte has provided two very solid outings against high profile opponents at the position (Liverpool and now Arsenal).
With Vincent Kompany’s future reportedly up in the air, and De Ligt looking very high on City’s priorities, could Guardiola reinvent his best centre half, as possibly the club’s long term solution to a position that has provided some challenging times recently?
Clear transfer requirements
Despite Mustafi and Koscielny’s efforts at repelling wave after wave of Manchester City attacks, Bernd Leno was forced into making nine saves. With Hector Bellerin, Sokratis and Rob Holding all facing time on the treatment table, it is clear where Arsenal need to reinvest in the summer.
Some durability at the back will go a long way in rectifying their presently shocking record against the “Big 6” on the road. Winless in 24, conceding 53 (More than twice the amount scored during that time period).
March – Defining for Arsenal
Arsenal do not face any top-six side in their last eight matches of the season, with a comfortable run-in compensating for a torrid current schedule. That being said, they still have an away trip to Tottenham Hotspur, a week before they welcome direct top-four rivals Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium.
The first week of March could prove to be the most important spell of their season, as two victories would make them firm favourites to pip United to that coveted last UCL berth, for United are yet to play the return fixtures against Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.
The Ozil Conundrum
Mesut Ozil once more failed to get any game time in an important game for Arsenal this season, more stunning when you consider the fact that Arsenal were crying out for someone who could retain possession and help transition from defence to attack. For a player who Arsenal chose over Alexis Sanchez to hand a bumper new deal to stay at the club, Unai Emery seems to have little faith in Ozil’s ability to suit his system.
It would not be surprising in the least to see a dragged out transfer saga in the summer. That being said, Emery could use the funds that a potential sale would raise to address more pressing issues in his squad, as the wing backs’ display tonight shed light on.
With this victory, City move within two points of Liverpool, who travel to West Ham for Monday Night Football. The Sky Blues will be hoping their former manager does them a favour, and restricts the runaway leaders to a point or even less.