Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal: Pulsating clash swings City’s way as offense explodes (video)

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A dominant attacking display from Manchester City saw them brush aside Premier League leaders Arsenal 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium, as the Citizens are now just three points behind the Gunners after a pulsating clash.

City took the lead through Sergio Aguero’s stunning first half volley, but Theo Walcott equalized soon after for Arsenal. Before the break City regained the lead when Alvaro Negredo finished off a superb team move to make it 2-1. After the interval City extended their lead when Fernandinho curled home a beauty but Walcott pulled Arsenal back into the game with a stunner of his own moments later.

City went 4-2 up as David Silva smashed home from close range and then Fernandinho added his second to make it 5-2. Arsenal grabbed a consolation through Per Mertesacker but City had the last say as Yaya Toure scored a penalty as the Citizens momentarily move into second spot in the PL.

With the win, Manuel Pellegrini’s men are just three points Arsenal as the Gunners lead at the summit is reduced after City’s explosive offensive display. The Citizen’s have now scored 35 goals in their eight home games so far and have won all eight as they sent out a message to the rest of the PL.

Manchester City dominated the early stages as they poured forward to try and go ahead early but Arsenal held firm and gradually grew in confidence as the first half wore on.

And it was the Gunners who had the first big chance of the game, as Walcott got free down the right and found Jack Wilshere unmarked at the back post in the 11th minute but the England international horribly skewed his volley and Olivier Giroud couldn’t direct his header goal wards in the ensuing melee.

Moments later Aguero gave City the lead as he acrobatically finished at the back post after a flick on from Martin Demechelis after a corner was swung in. Aguero peeled off away from his marker and volleyed home in style to put City 1-0 up after 13 minutes as the Citizens’ bright-start was rewarded. The goal marked the Argentine’s 15th goal in his last 14, and his 19th goal in 20 games this season.

City were playing with a real swagger and confidence and in the 19th minute central defender Vincent Kompany strolled forward and played in Negredo who smashed an effort just wide of the near post as the Citizens’ pushed for a second.

Wave after wave of City attack continued to come in on Arsenal’s goal as the Gunners struggled to get out of their own half. But in the 31st minute they were back on level terms as Yaya Toure was caught in possession and Arsenal pounced to make it 1-1.

Mesut Ozil was found on the edge of the box and he waited to play in Walcott who side-footed his effort goal wards and Demechelis got a slight touch on it as the ball hit the back of the net and there has to be question marks about Costel Pantilimon’s positioning in goal for City.

A fantastic end to the first half ensued as Negredo was played in and ‘the beast’ curled his left-footed effort wide of the far corner as City looked to hit back straight-away.

source: AP
Walcott curled in a beauty for his and Arsenal’s second goal of the match.

Eventually they did go back in front, as Negredo put City 2-1 up when Toure and Pablo Zabaleta combined superbly to set the Spanish striker up for a easy tap-in in the 39th minute. Laurent Koscielny was injured for Arsenal as he tried to stop Negredo from scoring and was replaced by Thomas Vermaelen.

In the second half City lost their in-form striker Aguero within a few minutes of the restart as the Argentine forward injured his calf and was replaced by Jesus Navas with City switching to a 4-5-1 formation. Moments later City were 3-1 up as the Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho curled home his first goal in the league for City in the 50h minute.

Arsenal attacked straight-away as Wilshere’s ball found Giroud at the back post but the Frenchman blazed over from close-range. As the Gunners pushed to get back into the game Zabaleta looked to have handled a through ball which stopped Walcott from going clean through but referee Martin Atkinson waved away the calls for a PK.

Walcott made it 3-2 in the 63rd minute as he curled home a beauty to score his second goal in his first game since returning from injury. The England winger cut in from the left and put his effort right into the top corner to give the Gunners hope of a stunning comeback.

But two minutes later Silva restored City’s two-goal advantage as he powerfully swept home a cross from the right as the game took yet another twist to put the Citizens 4-2 ahead.

Late on the game opened up and City almost extended their lead as Navas went clean through, rounded Szczesny in Arsenal’s goal but put his effort into the side-netting instead of slotting home. It didn’t matter though because City scored again thanks to a cool finish from Fernandinho for his second PL goal of the season but Mertesacker pulled a goal back in stoppage time with a header. But Toure rounded it all off from the penalty spot in the 94th minute to make it 6-3.

City are now within touching distance of top spot.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Nasri, Silva (Milner, 70), Aguero (Jesus Navas 48), Negredo

Goals: Aguero (14), Negredo (39), Fernandinho (50 & 87), Silva (66), Toure (90)

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Vermaelen, 41), Monreal, Flamini (Gnabry, 70), Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott, Giroud (Bendtner, 75)

Goals: Walcott (31 & 63), Mertesacker (90)

Could Iniesta succeed at Manchester City

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It appears more likely with each passing day that Andres Iniesta will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

The general feeling around Iniesta’s future is that he’ll either follow former teammate Xavi Hernandez to a club in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, or follow Javier Mascherano to a club in China.

But according to reports in Spain, Iniesta has received a request from a manager who is inextricably linked with his career.

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Per Diario AS, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has reached out to Iniesta to try and gauge the 33-year old’s interest in coming to England. It’s a surprising move, considering Iniesta has appeared to have lost a step, and while his skill on the ball is still world class, he hasn’t played as big of a role for Barcelona this season as in years past.

But the big question for Iniesta – as hard as it is to believe we’re asking this – is where he’d fit into the side, and who he’d push out.

If Guardiola sees Iniesta as part of his best XI, and Iniesta played his usual position on the left side of a midfield trio or at left wing, that would see either David Silva or Leroy Sane losing their spot in the team. That’s hard to see, considering how big of an impact those players had.

Sane has scored nine goals and dished out 12 assists in the Premier League while Silva has a nearly-identical stat line, with nine goals and 11 assists in league play.

However, if Guardiola, who played a very small squad this season, wants to have a world-class player to bring off the bench some games or spot start in the UEFA Champions League, he couldn’t do much better than signing Iniesta.

After being given time to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League, there’s no reason why, even at his advanced age, Iniesta can’t make a big impact in 25-30 games for Man City in the future. You can imagine the Spanish maestro setting up 10 to 15 goals and scoring a few himself as he plays for another title-winning side.

Of course, Iniesta likely won’t earn as much money with Man City as he would in the Arab world or in China, so he has a big decision to make coming up.

Iniesta won three La Liga titles, two Copas Del Rey, two UEFA Champions League and two FIFA Club World Cup titles under Guardiola as Barcelona shined as the best club in the world during that era. Iniesta also made UEFA’s Team of the Year all four years.

Perhaps reuniting with Guardiola can bring the best out of Iniesta once again.

Report: Man United to target Rose, other full backs this summer

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Jose Mourinho has identified perhaps the most underrated position on the pitch as a place he needs to upgrade his squad this summer.

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According to a report from The Guardian, the Manchester United manager is looking to sign Tottenham wing back Danny Rose and potentially another full back in the summer transfer window. With Luke Shaw likely to leave the club, Mourinho is left with incumbents left back Ashley Young and right back Antonio Valencia, both on the wrong side of 30-years old and both converted wingers playing out-of-position.

Mourinho last December decried crosstown rivals Man City for spending more than $140 million to sign wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker last summer. Though Mendy missed most of the season with a torn ACL, Walker and fellow outside back Danilo helped give Man City’s attack another dimension out wide, as the wing backs in the 3-4-3 or Man City’s 4-1-4-1 with Fernandinho dropping back into the centerback pairing become ever more important.

Rose has had a contentious last 18-months or so at Tottenham and could be looking to leave this summer. But it will likely take a bid north of $75 million, around what it cost Man City to sign Walker last summer, to buy Rose out of his Tottenham contract.

Matteo Darmian meanwhile, another potential outside back for Man United, could also be departing the club this summer, as Man United looks to replenish its side.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

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But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.